Value betting is the most important thing there is in poker. You may be the best player out there, if you’re not capable of value betting in the correct situations. You will not be able to win as much as others. In fact it is often said that the single thing that defines mid stakes players from micro stakes players is their proper use of value betting. In this COTW I will try to describe what thin value betting is, why you should be value betting as thinly as possible and how to defend against thin value bets.
What is thin value?
Let’s go back to the theory of betting. There’s 2 (main) reasons why you should be betting: to get called by worse hands or to get better hands to fold. Sometimes however when your value betting, better hands will call as well. This is called thin value betting. Your value betting against certain hands in their range while some other (and hopefully fewer) hands in their range will beat your hand.
Why is thin value betting so important?
To go back to the fundamental theorem of poker:
Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose.
Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.
Every time you make a thin value bet and they call incorrectly you profit. Because thin value bets come up so often they have a huge impact on your winrate. This is especially true because thin value bets are often bets on the river where the amount won (or lost) is often the greatest. Just think of all those times you have checked back the river and when you have villain show up with something that might have called another bet. This is probably a huge leak for a lot of micro stakes players. Another big advantage to being able to value bet thinly is that it lets you balance your range for betting the river. If you’re only betting when you are almost certain you have the best hand (or the worst) villains are going to be able to play almost perfectly against you. However if you start making thin value bets people will have a lot harder time playing against you because suddenly they can’t bluff catch as wide as they used to be able to.
How can I learn to thin value bet?
The most important thing you have to learn to be able to value bet thinly is to hand read properly. This of course is no different than normal value betting however thin value betting takes things a step further. Because there will also be hands in villains range that will beat you, you need to be more certain of your read that you’re going to be called by worse hands. For example: having AA on A367J is a very easy value bet that requires little to no hand reading. A2 on A367J requires you to know (or have an indication of) villain’s calling range.
Thin value preflop
Thin value isn’t necessarily a post flop thing. There’s also plenty of times where you will bet preflop for thin value. A good example would be you 3bet AQ against another regular OOP. You expect to get called by a wide range of hands of which you dominate some. Sometimes however villain will also call you with better hands. Thin value post flop comes up a lot when you are isolating weaker opponents. You might isolate someone with K9o preflop for thin value. This means he might call you with weaker hands like 98s but he will also call you with hands that dominate you such as KT. Betting for thin value preflop is one the reasons why isolating is so good. You profit from their mistake of limping and playing too loose preflop with easily dominated hands. For more on this check out the COTW on isolating.
Thin value preflop can also exist when your 3betting (or 4betting) someone. For example if you 3bet an utg raise with KK it can often times be considered for thin value. Villain is unlikely to continue with a lot of hands and part of his continuing range has you crushed. But he will probably also have AK and QQ in his range.
The wetter the board texture the wider the range of hands your villain is going to call with. For example Q9 on J96ss can easily bet for thin value. Q9 on A92 will hardly get called by worse on more than 1 street. This means that you should be more inclined to bet for value with these marginal hands against (passive) opponents on wet boards. This even counts on the river if the draws brick.
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As beluga once said people are more likely to make the mistake of calling too much than the mistake of folding too much. Therefore while the river might look somewhat thin because of all the missed draws. I believe it’s still a bet against this particular villain. Villain is pretty fishy so he can show up with a wide range of hands. Most of the time if villain did have a really strong hand he would have (min)raised the turn with it so his range is mostly medium and low strength hands. When he faces a “small” bet on the river however. A lot of villains will put you on some kind of missed draw that’s trying to get them to fold their draws. A lot of villains will also only look at the pot odds and will not think about the actual hand that you are repping by making a small bet on the river. The more likely villain is to call with worse hands, the more inclined you should be to value bet for thin value.
The smaller you make the bet the less often it needs to work. For example a thin value bet of 1/3 pot only needs to get called by worse 1/4th of the time
Bet size in relation to pot size – % of success needed 4x – 80
2x – 66
1x – 50
0.66x – 39,7 0.5x – 33 0.25x – 20
So as you can see the % of success needed decreases when the betsize decreases. This means that as the bet becomes thinner and thinner we can decrease the betsize and we will need to get value from a smaller % of his range in total. Reducing the bet size also has the added benefit of making opponents more likely to call you with the weakest part of his range. For example some people might hero call ace high if you make the bet small enough.
When the value is too thin
This was one of the first hands i posted after joining 2+2. This is probably what classifies as a spot thats too thin to bet. There’s simply too many hands to have me beat on the river. As you can see however there are still worse hands that ended up calling me though. When the value is razor thin and your unsure on whether to bet or to check behind. In general try to err on the side of betting. People don’t like folding because they won’t see the results and don’t like getting bluffed off hands. Therefore people’s calling ranges are oftentimes wider then you would think.
As with everything in poker. Position makes your decisions alot easier. Being able to see what your opponent does is a big advantage. Not being able to get bluffed off your hand also doesn’t hurt. This also ties into block bets somewhat. Sometimes you might make a small thin value bet while oop both as a blocking bet and to get thin value from your opponent.
Pseudo thin value
Pseudo thin value is when you have the nuts or close to the nuts, but villains range only contains hands for which it is almost impossible to call another bet.
For example: You have 66 on 667QK and you bet both the flop and the turn and he called twice. Here its pretty unlikely villain is going to have any kind of made hand that is able to call your bet. To be able to get called you have to reduce your bet sizing to induce light calls (or raises) from him. If he does have something like 77 that he was slowplaying however he will almost always raise them so against the nutty end of his range you wont lose value if you make a small bet.
This also ties into making really small bluffs. Sometimes when you know villain has a range that consists almost only of missed draws it will be profitable to make a really small bet (10-25% of the pot) to get those to fold, If you have a draw yourself as well with no or low showdown value. Your bet will have a great price because villain only has to fold 1 in 5 or so for it to be profitable but if villains range contains mostly draws he most likely will fold most of his better draws that missed
How to defend against thin value
This ties into hand reading again. You have to be able to identify when your opponent is thin value betting. This can be done either by bet sizing (not the best of tells) or by putting him on a range based on the action leading upto the street. When you have identified that villain is actually thin value betting the easiest defence is to raise. Most villains at the micro stakes are unable to hand read very well therefore when you raise their thin value bet they will almost always fold because a thin value bet is by nature almost always a bet/fold. In fact many of the defenses that work against blocking bets work against thin value bets as well. Be wary however, against thinking opponents you cant just start raising any thin value bet. They will try to balance their range and will try to put you on a range. If you aren’t repping anything you are more likely to get looked up lighter. People aren’t likely to turn their showdown value into a bluff though by raising. If they have some kind of middle pair they are more likely to call because they will assume (incorrectly) that they will have showdown value.
Another type of common defense against thin value betting is actually thinking what villains are trying to achieve with betting. Alot of people see a 1/3 pot and only see the pot odds but against a regular you have to think why they are making that 1/3 pot bet. Do you really think there’s alot of villains out there who are going to make a 1/3 pot bets as a bluff? I see way too many regulars snap off these bets with some kind of middle pair for no reason at all.
Some common thin value spots –Bet/check/bet
When someone takes this line it is almost for thin value. They bet the flop for value because they will cbet with a wide range then they check the turn because they wont be able to get 2 streets out of their hand. Then when you check the river to them they bet because they assume they can get thin value. This is often times the case as well as there are a lot of regulars who don’t think enough about their opponents range. Whenever I take this line i always get looked up by all kinds of middle pairs. This means that against regulars who aren’t good this is a great line for thin value because they snap you off with the dumbest stuff. If you’re playing against someone good however it becomes a very poor line for value. They will see what your trying to achieve. If you had a very strong hand or a bluff you would almost always bet/bet/bet so they will put you on your exact holding. This also has advantages however in that you can start taking this line as a bluff. Taking the bet/check/bet line against good regulars also opens them up to river check/ raises. When you check back the river they will assume you are just giving up on the hand and will try to go for thin value themself most of the time. When you check/raise them it is hard to actually represent a credible hand so they will look you up pretty light.
Bet/check/Bet is almost never the best line against a fish in position. A fish’s calling range is almost always bigger on the turn then it is on the river. The more draws there are on the board the wider their calling range is going to be and thus bet/ bet/check or bet/bet/bet becomes better against them.
When someone doesn’t cbet a board it often means 3 things. They could be slowplaying a big hand altough this doesnt occur too much. They could be giving up on the hand if they dont think they have enough pot + fold equity to make cbetting profitable. Or they have showdown value but they dont think they are going to get called by worse by betting the flop. This is often the case when they do bet the turn. Often times villain will have a hand like QQ on K52 and will be unsure what to on the flop. Therefore they will check. Then when you check back flop they are assuming you have some kind of showdown value hand as well (or are afraid of them not cbetting a super dry board) and will go for thin value.
- Thin value can make up a big part of your winrate
- People have wider calling ranges then you think
- The smaller the bet size the smaller the range you get value from needs to be
- Think about what villain is trying to achieve when he’s betting
- The more villain calls with worse hands, the more you should be inclined to bet for thin value
- The better you are at handreading the easier thin value betting will become