Other Concepts and Hand Histories

Value Betting

Here are some examples.

Example 1

$3/6 HU, I raise to $18 on the button with A‐9o and my opponent calls. Flop is 7♠‐Q♠‐5♣, check‐check. Turn is 3♥, check‐check. River is 9♠ he checks I bet pot. From the play it’s hard to put me on a hand. If I have a Q I bet the flop or turn. A flush draw bets the flop or turn, which I did not do so I do not have a flush draw. And since the flush draw hit that is scary for the opponent so it’s hard to see me value betting a weak made hand. Also the straight draw 8‐6 will usually semi‐bluff the flop and turn.

Most people will stop the thinking there but it is right for them to continue since it’s quite hard to put me on a hand, but it’s also a weird place for me to bluff. This is because when people bluff there should be a range of hands a person can represent. Here, because it’s hard to put me on a reasonable hand it’s also hard to put me on a bluff because a bluff can’t represent a reasonable hand here. So the opponent has to see through the unusual nature of the play and de‐ cide what I have. One more piece of the puzzle is that they checked on all three streets so I am pretty sure they have something weak.

The problem arises when we have a tough opponent who sees us making thin value bets and then check‐raises the river to combat us – his line is so strange and tricky (checking three times to check‐raise the river) then it’s time to consider just calling him with a fairly weak holding because it looks like he’s bluffing us. Going down this line of thinking is how high stakes HU games become so crazy. It is espe‐ cially tough if opponents check‐raise good hands to us on the river along with bluff check‐raises. From his perspective if he actually had a flush checking the river would be a good play. I checked the flop and the turn so I’m weak. He has to hope I hit something that will bet when he checks to me (that wouldn’t value raise since the flush hit) but could be strong enough to call a check‐raise, or that I bluff the river. It’s also a simple matter of pot control for him – with a flush he doesn’t want to bet and be called (getting just one bet into the pot), he wants to check‐raise and be called (getting two bets into the pot) be‐ cause a flush is such a strong hand he wants to build the pot. Inciden‐ tally, it also would have been a good spot to check‐raise the turn with a flush draw. I checked the flop so I probably don’t have top pair if I’m betting a lot of turns when he checks twice and I’ll have a hard time continuing against a full pot‐sized check‐raise. There is also very little chance I’ll three‐bet all‐in on the turn after checking behind the flop so he doesn’t have to worry about not seeing the river card.

Example 2

$1/$2 eight‐handed, one limper in EP, hero has A‐Q and raises to $9, limper calls. The flop is K♣‐10♠‐5♥ and villain check‐calls a $16 bet. Turn is the 9♣, check‐check, river is the J♣. Villain leads for $15. The pot is $50 and the bet is $15 so this will be a bare queen most of the time – with a flush the villain would probably bet more because his hand is strong. Based on our hand reading A‐Q certainly looks good here. Maybe you’d ask “what worse hands can call me if I raise with A‐Q though?”. Well, maybe a bare queen. It’s a hard call for some‐ one to make with just a pair but if you are better than your oppo‐ nents you can think along these lines: “I play poker with opponents worse than me, so if I’m pretty sure I have the opponent beat, I’ll go ahead and value raise and since he’s a bad player maybe he’ll make a mistake and make a bad call.”

Beyond that we are not that afraid of a reraise. One reason to be afraid of making a bet or raise is because it opens us up to a bluff‐ reraise. Here we aren’t afraid of a bluff reraise because we are very capable of having that flush. That’s what we’re representing with our raise. How can he reraise when we could likely have the nuts? It takes a huge amount of courage (and in this case craziness) to three‐ bet bluff the river. Bluffs happen a lot of the time when you are pretty sure the villain has a weak hand, or are pretty sure the villain does not have the nuts. In this particular case the villain cannot know we don’t have the nuts.

Example 3

$25/$50 HU, we have $5,000 each. Opponent is an okay player and is TAG. He raises to $150 on the button, I reraise to $450 with Q‐Q and he calls. The flop is 2♠‐5♠‐8♣, I bet $700 and he calls. The turn is 7♦ and here I made the mistake of checking. The opponent is TAG which means that he is not the type to float with weak hands on the flop just to try and steal it on the turn. He’s aggressive so if he has a hand he likes he’ll probably just raise the flop, and since he doesn’t show that aggression on the flop it’s unlikely he’ll show it on the turn when I check to him. If I check I shouldn’t expect a bet – the only reason to check is if I put him on a mediocre made hand (which I do) and think that my show of turn strength will be too much for him and he’ll fold, if I check the turn though it can put doubt into his mind about my hand strength, and also then when I bet the river he also knows that’s the last bet he will be facing so it’s easier for him to call and see a showdown.

The river comes the A♥, a bad card because it could have hit him, and even if it didn’t it’s a scare card so he’s less likely to call a value bet by me. However, it’s bad to play poker scared, this card could have hit him, but it probably didn’t. Also the opponent knows that I can bluff bet on this card as a scare card. It’s also hard to push this particular opponent out of the pot on bluffs, so to take advantage of that we have to value bet aggressively and lightly against him. So despite the ace it is still a clear value bet. I bet $1,800 and he called with 10‐10.

Example 4

$25/$50 five‐handed, the SB raises to $150 and I have K♦-4♦ in the BB and call. The flop is A♦‐K♠‐5♣, opponent bets $300 and I call. The turn is the 4♣ and he check‐calls $700. The river is the 3♦, he checks. I have two pair but it’s not a two pair with the ace, and there are also four cards to a straight out there. However, these things that on the surface are instinctively scary actually don’t matter. It’s impossible to put my opponent on a two for a straight – the only way of him having it would be if he had A‐2 and that is just one hand. Or he could have hit the three – if he has A‐3 he hit a better two pair but that is just one hand so that isn’t likely either. A lot more likely is that he has A‐6, A‐7, A‐8, A‐9, A‐10, A‐J or A‐Q. It’s also hard for him to put me on a two. The river is therefore a standard value bet for as much as you think the opponent will call, which in this case I felt was $2,000. He called with A‐10. He might also think the river card makes the board more scary so I can’t value bet with my more marginal hands and that I will just bet with my really strong hands (a straight) and everything else will be a bluff.

Example 5

$10/$25 HU, I raise 9‐9 to $75 and he calls. Flop is 6♣‐3♠‐8♠, he checks and I bet $125. Since the cards were lower and it was slightly less likely he hit them, I wanted to compensate and give him the chance of playing with me by betting just a little smaller – $125 in‐ stead of $150. If the hand was Q‐Q and the board was J‐9‐3 I would surely bet full pot of $150 because it’s more likely he has something and I want to build the pot. Also $125 is fine just because both are equally valid and I like to mix it up. He calls.

The turn is the K♣. Since he called the flop it’s impossible to put him on a hand containing a king – he most likely has a pair from the flop, something either connected, or with an ace. Hands like A‐3, A‐6, 6‐7, 7‐8, 8‐9 or 8‐10. It’s unlikely he has K‐3, K‐6 or K‐8o. Its possible he has K‐8s, possible and less likely he has K‐6s and possible but even less likely he has K‐3s. Not only is it a little unlikely he’d play those hands to begin with, but the suited pairs that have a king are all suited, narrowing the possibilities significantly. For instance there are only three combinations of K‐8s he could have but there are 12 combinations of A‐8 he could have.

So we have to assume he does not have a king here, which means he has a draw or a pair. The best way to get more money from those hands is to bet the turn. The reason is because it will be hard for him to put us on a hand. Our bet is either saying we are bluffing or hit the king – supposedly any hand weaker than a pair of kings would stop betting because of the “scary overcard”. There is no point in checking to trap – if he has something like A‐8 he might be scared, but the river card isn’t going to help, it’s only going to scare him more so we have to bet here and hope his suspiciousness gets the best of him.

Example 6

$50/$100 HU, I raise pre‐flop with K‐Jo and my opponent calls. The flop is J♠‐9♠‐3♣, he leads out $450 and I call. The turn is the 6♦, which is a good card. There are many cards that make the turn quite complicated – for example a queen hits all his straight draws, or makes a pair or two pairs for him sometimes, and an ace might make us lose or at least get us less action on our strong hand. A ten hits hands like Q‐K, 9‐10 or J‐10, and an eight hits two pairs and gut‐ shots. Basically, when he led out he probably has hands like Q‐10, K‐ 10, 8‐10 or Q‐8. The reason is that these hand have outs, and they are willing to put money in to see a turn. However, they are not strong enough to check‐call, and check‐raising puts in more money than they want to. On the flop K‐J could raise but here we call.

The turn is a 6, he checks and we feel great about the hand. So we bet away $1,500. Now on the flop when he bets out and we call our hand looks weak. We could have called with any number of hands, even as light as A‐K, A‐Q, even A‐xo or 7‐8, using the strength of our position. Our range is quite wide, so he calls us since our range is so wide his range also becomes quite wide. On the river an off‐suit ace comes. Now our ranges are both wide, he called us on the turn suspiciously and then an ace comes on the river. An ace is a perfect bluffing card and also most people check mediocre hands behind on ace high boards. So if we bet again he’s going to put us on some‐ thing like A‐J, any sort of two pair, a set, or more likely he’s going to be suspicious we missed a draw.

Now on the turn he check‐called so he probably has a made hand. We called and didn’t raise the flop so we’re probably not very strong. Thus, if he bet the turn with a draw he wouldn’t have to worry about getting raised off it. The check‐call line is of course a typical made hand line and not a draw line because he puts money into the pot on the turn by calling, and he can’t play a draw profitably by just calling (most of the time anyway) so as long as he’s will‐ ing to put money in he might as well bet it. On the river we ask a few questions. What does he have? What does he think we have? Does he call down a lot or does he fold a lot? To answer question one, we don’t know what he has but it is clearly fairly weak so probably not A‐J. A‐9 is a possibility, but just one hand. So we should feel pretty good about K‐J! Question two – he thinks we are either very strong or very weak and people get few strong hands in general. Plus we just called the flop and bet when he checked to us, which is not overpowering strength. Question three – he calls a lot. Therefore we should bet and scoop up that value!

Some people will ask how often he calls us. Of course we don’t know what he has, and maybe he just has pocket sevens and it’s doubtful he’ll call us, but right now we’re sure we’re ahead of him so even if he calls us very infrequently it is still a profitable play. Also, if he check‐ raises the river a lot then things become trickier and we can’t be such heroes with our value bets. For the bet size there is a decision to make too. I could either make it fairly big and close to a pot‐size bet which makes it look more like I’m bluffing. Or I can just try and price him in on a low bet size, which would obviously be a value bet but he might mindlessly call because it’s cheap to. The question is whether the op‐ ponent hand reads and would be suspicious of a bigger bet and actu‐ ally have the courage to call it or whether he’s a poorer player who is bad enough to get priced in to making a call because the bet is a small size. In this case I bet big and he folded.

Example 7

$5/$10 HU, opponent has $415 and is bad. I have Q‐10 and raise to $30 pre‐flop and he calls. Flop is 9♥‐9♣‐10♠ and opponent leads out $60. The decision on what line to take here is basically a pot control decision. Normally with top pair medium strength kicker it is a call on the flop because you don’t want to build the pot too big. In this case, however, we are willing to get all of our money into the pot. The reason is that the opponent leads out on flops enough so our hand is so strong we have to go with it. If he has a better hand than us we lose all our money no matter what. The question is how do we gain more money against draws and worse made hands? The an‐ swer is by raising the flop – if he has a made hand then a lot of scare cards can come and also by raising he might think we have a draw. If he has a draw, he has a lot of outs and there are a lot of types of draws he can have so this info doesn’t really help us and we can’t exploit it that much by calling and waiting for the turn to make a play. So for those reasons we should just raise now. I raised to $190; he called. The turn was a 4♠ and he led out all in for $215 more and I called. He had J‐7 and our hand held.

Example 8

$25/$50 HU, opponent is a tilting maniac. He has $7,500 and I cover. I raise with 10♣‐10♠ to $150 and he reraises to $450, but his range is very wide here. It’s not any two cards but it comprises hands as weak as 8‐9 or A‐5o. This is a very easy three‐bet to $1,300 which he automatically calls. The flop is J♦‐7♦‐9♣, he checks and I check behind. The turn is 6♦. He bets $2,700 on the turn. Given how loose he is pre‐flop, and how aggressive he is, he could have me beat but there is just too much of a chance he is semi‐bluffing, or even betting with nothing because I checked behind on the flop and he is a maniac. Also we have a few outs even if he’s ahead. I raise his last $3,500 and he calls with 8‐9 with no diamond.

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