Value Betting

Cry Me A River
Value betting
There are only a half-dozen reasons why we bet:

Value – Villain will call with worse hands.
Protection – To make it incorrect for villain to chase draws. Bluff – Villain will fold hands that beat us.
Semi-Bluff – Our hand has equity, however we’d be happy just to win the pot now.
Information – Villain’s reaction tells us where we are. Deception – Merge your range, yo. Shania loves you.

VPBSID – Say it with me, VPBSID. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? Now that you have an easy, memorable acronym, you’ll never forget!

The post will deal primarily with betting for value. This is a
key component of play in the micros. Being effective with your value bets is incredibly important against loose passive players (calling stations). The kinds of players that are very common in micro stakes.

What is a value bet?

A value bet is any bet where you expect to be called mostly by worse hands and the value gained from worse hands calling exceeds the loss incurred when you actually don’t have the best hand or you’re otherwise forced to fold before showdown.

When value betting with less than a monster, we often can’t call a raise. So when we value bet we do not want to see a raise. And when he does call we don’t want him to have a better hand. If he has a better hand then betting is just costing us money and we shouldn’t be betting.

We need to be enough ahead of his calling range to make up for the times he raises. If we’re in a situation where he’s going to raise our bet a lot (ie; an aggressive player, a board where he either has the nuts or air) then we have to be way ahead of his calling range in order to make betting profitable. When value betting, we don’t want to have to bet/fold very often.

When you value bet, you want your opponent to call. And when he does call you want it to be with a worse hand. If he doesn’t usually have a worse hand or if he’s not going to be able to call with a worse hand, you can’t bet.

Value betting and especially value betting thin often involves TPNK and middle pair type hands. Betting big hands, 2pairs, sets, straights, flushes is usually an easy decision. The
ones we really have to think about are the more marginal hands. Especially against stations who will call with anything. Sometimes things get tricky with sets on coordinated boards, low straights or small flushes. But the majority of these situations are one pair hands.

Hand Reading

The fundamental theorem of poker states:
Quote:
If you can read hands you can overcome the disadvantage of incomplete information. If you are able to deduce your opponent’s hand, you gain a tremendous advantage.

In order value bet effectively, you need to be good at hand reading. This also involves being able to evaluate board texture.

You may remember this scene from Rounders (yeah, I’m referencing Rounders, it’s called pandering. Deal with it!)

Yes, this is a typical Hollywood setup, and there’s some real BS (representing trips by checking? WTF?) but at it’s core you need to be like Mike.

You need to be able to put people on ranges and ideally hands. Eventually you should be doing this automatically for every hand.

What’s more, putting your opponent on a range isn’t enough. If you’re going to valuetown people you need to also put them
on calling ranges.

If you can’t do this, you are going to spew. You’re going to miss bets a better player would make. And you’re going to be turning hands into bluffs when you should just be taking showdowns.

You need to practice. You need to learn the common patterns used by the various types of players. If you want to be a good player you need to be able to routinely put people on hands.

This is one of the fundamental skills in poker. You can get away with auto-betting in the micros, especially the nano-stakes where everyone is so bad it doesn’t matter. However, if you can’t hand read it’s going to catch up to you and you’re going to suffer as you try to climb out of the micros and you can’t just feast on donks all day while avoiding the other decent players.

Know your enemy

Value betting, especially thin value bets, are most useful against calling stations and other players who call too much (ie; TAGs who aren’t very good).

Value bets are not very useful against LAGs. LAGs don’t call down very much. They bet and raise when they have a hand (and when they don’t). The way to beat LAGs is to trap and sometimes call down a little light. Avoid value betting LAGs – They’re just going to raise you and then you’re screwed.

Against TAGs and good sLAGs you will want to use a combination of value betting and trapping along with other weapons in your arsenal (ie; bluffing).

Use position

Position is important in value betting because position is an important tool in hand reading. When we are able to act after our opponent we are much more able to judge when he doesn’t have a strong hand. When it is checked to us unless he’s slowplaying or intending to check/raise it usually means his hand doesn’t have a lot of value.

When out of position it is much more difficult to judge an opponent’s hand strength. It is also much more difficult to get value since our OOP bets will be perceived as much stronger. A positionally aware player will need a much stronger hand to call us down than when we are betting with position.

Be more inclined to make thin value bets when you have position and you can use the knowledge gained by position to your benefit. Be less inclined to value bet OOP. In particular, if a tight player has already called a bet be wary of continuing to bet into him unless you have a strong hand. You’re just not going to get more than one or two streets of value OOP from a tight player with less than a monster.

Use your image

Your image is very important in putting your opponent’s on a calling range. If you have a loose and/or aggressive image, your opponents will be much more inclined to call you down with their more marginal hands.

If you have a tight and/or passive image, your opponents will tighten up their calling range because they will tend to put you on better hands.

So if you are LAG or sLAG be more inclined to value bet thin. Which leads to a self-fulfilling cycle. The more LAG you are, the more you should value bet. The more you value bet, the more LAG you will appear.

If you are nitty or passive, be less inclined to value bet thing because you’re not going to get calls from weak hands. Consider instead starting to open up your play a little so you can start to get more value from marginal situations.

Bet size can influence calling range

The size of your bet can influence your opponent’s calling range. If your opponent is on the tight side and you think he’s going to fold too much of this range, try a 1/2 pot bet instead of a 3/4 pot bet. On the other hand, if your opponent is a serious station consider maximizing value you by making pot- sized bets all the way. Always remember you want worse hands to call. You’re not trying to force a fold when you value
bet. When you’re value betting and your opponent folds it means you’ve made a mistake. You either made a mistake in their range/calling range or you bet too much and pushed them off their hand.

Don’t turn hands with showdown value into bluffs

If your opponent can’t call you with a worse hand then you’re not value betting. You are bluffing. This is where board texture really becomes important. Most players are not calling multiple streets on A-high boards without an ace. Many players shut down when obvious draws hit unless they were chasing. Most players aren’t calling down on very scary boards (four-flush, four to a straight) without a big hand. Keep this in mind. If the four-flush hits on the river and you don’t have a decent flush you’re not betting for value because your opponent is seldom calling with a worse hand. Bluffing there may be a good idea, but know that you are bluffing, not value betting. You’re often better off checking behind.

Beware of polarized ranges

Be aware of when your opponent’s range is polarized to the extent that he’s almost always either raising (or slowplaying) or folding. You want to value bet (thin) when your opponent’s hand is a bunch of squishy mid-range hands. Not when he either has a monster or air. When he has air, there’s no point in betting you’re not going to get any value. When he has a monster… Well, it should be obvious why you don’t want to be betting into monsters.

Beware of chasers

Many players, especially stations will chase draws. When these draws come in, you need to be able to assess the likelihood you’re still ahead or you’ve just been out-drawn. In many cases you’re no longer ahead of your opponent’s range let alone his calling range. This is particularly true against loose players who are good enough to fold hands like bottom pair but will chase draws. You may still be ahead of the ones who call with any pair but the ones who can fold will have polarized ranges if there aren’t many one pair/overpair type hands that you’re beating since the draw came in.

TAGs and LAGs are much less likely to chase draws without odds. They’ll usually either play these hands aggressively or fold. So you’re often still okay to value bet against these players when draws come in.

Think ahead

If we are value betting thin and getting called is going to get us into trouble on later streets because we’re not prepared to go after multiple streets of value consider checking this street instead of later streets. For example, if we’re going to value bet the flop thin and shut down if called we’re usually better off checking the flop, particularly OOP if we’re just going to give up when called. Especially against tricky opponents. That is, don’t give your opponents the opportunity to float you or call with a weak hand and then take the pot away from you on a later street when you obviously give up.

Part of a well balanced attack

Solid value betting is part of a well balanced attack. Go back to that list of reasons we bet. If your betting range is out of balance, you become easy to read. Easy to play against. If every time you bet it’s a value bet from a tight range then observant players will have an easy time adjusting to you. On the other hand, if you bluff much more than you value bet, people are going to start snapping off your bluffs with ace-high. Don’t become predictable, keep them guessing.

A aggressive move that is break-even is +EV

An aggressive move that is mathematically break-even (ie; A thin value bet where we are equally ahead and behind villain’s range) is actually +EV. When we bet, we give players an opportunity to make a mistake. An opponent may accidentally fold a hand he didn’t mean to (misclick). An opponent may misread the meaning of our aggression, especially if he doesn’t have a good read on us. In addition, aggressive players are much more difficult to play against, to adjust to. Players start wondering if maybe they shouldn’t be folding middle pair and they may start to make some bad calls. Or you may tilt someone as they get fed up with being run over even if we aren’t really being all that aggressive. Whenever you bet, there is a small Shania component. Bets and raises are much harder to read and play against than checks, calls and certainly folds.

What happens when we fail to value bet?

Otherwise known as, “I can’t win because they always suck out on me!”

First, the ideal situation. Three streets of value from a calling station:

Villain is 40/3/0.1 after 80 hands. His preflop limping range is huge. When he check/calls flop his range is something like A2/ A3/A4/A6/A7/A8/AT/AJ/89/9T/56/45/67/78/55/99. AQ/A9/A5 are possible but you have to think even someone this passive is leading a lot of the time.

So we are well ahead of his calling range even though our kicker is marginal.

Full Tilt Poker $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Hold’em – 9 players

MP2: $1.32
CO: $3.78
BTN: $1.66
SB: $0.77
Hero (BB): $2.00 UTG: $2.04 UTG+1: $2.00 UTG+2: $0.71

MP1: $2.32

Final pot: $2.33 – $.12 rake

UTG+1 shows: A2
Hero wins: $2.21 ($1.09 in profit)

According to PokerStove, our equity on the flop is almost 71% but we only win 54.08% of the time:

Board: 5s Ah 9c Dead:

equity win tie pots won pots tied
Hand 0: 70.859% 54.08% 16.78% 4283 1329.00 { As8c } Hand 1: 29.141% 12.36% 16.78% 979 1329.00 { A2s, A2o }

Please read that again – Even though we have a dominating hand and appear to be way ahead, we’re actually only winning 54.08% because we wind up splitting the pot 16.78% of the time. What’s more, the calling station will outdraw us almost 30% of the time!

In a split pot, the worst case scenario is that stacks go in and we lose a full $.10 to the rake. For simplicity sake we’re just going to make this assumption that for any split pot we lose $.10.

54.08% of the time we win $1.09.

16.78% of the time we lose $.10. 29.14% of the time we lose ???.

So how much do we lose?

With TPNK against a calling station we are folding if he ever raises. He’s basically never raising with a worse hand and even when he has a monster he’s not always raising – Either because he’s slowplaying or just because he’s a station.

If he hits his 2pair on the turn and raises this hand costs us $.37.
If he hits his 2pair on the river and raises (or slowplays the turn) this hand costs us $1.12. Whether he raises river or just calls out third barrel doesn’t matter. We lose the hand either way – by folding or at showdown.

So how often are we folding the turn and how often are we folding the river/losing showdown?

When he hits his 2pair, half the time he’s going to hit it on the turn and half the time on the river. However, he’s just calling the turn with 2pair a significant amount of the time. So I’m going to estimate that he raises the turn 25% of the time and we see the river the other 75% of the time.

So when we lose, we lose ($.37x.25+$1.12x.75) $.93.

54.08% of the time we win $1.09. 16.78% of the time we lose $.10. 29.14% of the time we lose $.93.

Our expected value from this hand is ($1.09x.5408- $.10x.1678-$.93x.2914) $.30. On average we will make $.30 on this hand.

Except there’s one thing missing here. That’s when
we both make 2pair. When this happens we’re going to win more than $1.09. But I’m not goign to go down this road because it requires a lot of assumptions about when a station will stack off. So instead just keep in mind that we actually average slightly more than $.30.

So that’s what happens when we keep our foot on the gas and take our opponent on a ride to valuetown.

What happens when we blink?

Full Tilt Poker $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Hold’em – 9 players

MP2: $1.32
CO: $3.78
BTN: $1.66
SB: $0.77
Hero (BB): $2.00 UTG: $2.04 UTG+1: $2.00 UTG+2: $0.71 MP1: $2.32

Final pot: $.33 rake $.01

UTG+1 shows: A2
Hero wins: $.32 ($.20 in profit)

This is a really simplified case. We’ve assumed that villain checks it through here as well, even when he hits 2pair. Even the worst calling stations will bet there when they river 2pair. They’re also betting their one pair hands sometimes after we check two streets. And of course we will hit out 2pair sometimes too.

Even though villain cooperates by checking it down, we’re still only winning 54.08% of the time. However, because we’ve kept the pot small, I’m going to estimate that we only lose $.05 to a split pot as villain isn’t going to stack off nearly as often. And of course we still lose 29.14% of the time.

54.08% of the time we win $.20. 16.78% of the time we lose $.05. 29.14% of the time we lose $.12.

Our expected value from this hand is ($.20x.5408-$.05x.1678- $.12x.2914) $.06. On average we will make $.06 on this hand.

Again, we’ve basically ignored the effects of 2pair over 2pair. But we’re going to ignore it in all cases because it’s difficult to model accurately (how often do we play for stacks?) and they should (more or less) cancel each other out because they occur just as often in all these cases.

Full Tilt Poker $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Hold’em – 9 players

MP2: $1.32
CO: $3.78
BTN: $1.66
SB: $0.77
Hero (BB): $2.00 UTG: $2.04 UTG+1: $2.00 UTG+2: $0.71 MP1: $2.32

Hero checks, UTG+1 checks Final pot: $.83 rake $.04

UTG+1 shows: A2
Hero wins: $.79 ($.42 in profit)

This is a really simplified case. We’ve assumed that villain checks it through here as well, even when he hits 2pair. Even the worst calling stations will bet there when they river 2pair. They’re also betting their one pair hands sometimes after we check two streets. And of course we will hit out 2pair sometimes too.

Even though villain cooperates by checking it down, we’re still only winning 54.08% of the time. However, because we’ve kept the pot small, I’m going to estimate that we only lose $.07 to a split pot as villain isn’t going to stack off nearly as often. And of course we still lose 29.14% of the time.

54.08% of the time we win $.42. 16.78% of the time we lose $.07. 29.14% of the time we lose $.37.

Our expected value from this hand is ($.42x.5408-$.07x.1678- $.37x.2914) $.11. On average we will make $.11 on this hand.

In summary, our EV in these hands when we: Bet all three streets: $.30
Bet two streets and check it through: $.11
Bet flop and then check it down: $.06

I’ve only analyzed three very simple cases. Obviously this hand is potentially much more complex. ie; when villain raises or bets somewhere after we take our foot off the gas. When we hit our two pair and get more value than checking it through two streets. However, I’m not going to delve into all these sub cases because I think I’ve made my point. That failing to value bet costs a ton of value and turns very profitable hands into marginal earners.

If you can’t win because the calling stations keep outdrawing you, it’s because you’re not making enough from the times they don’t out draw you. You’re actually usually not that big a

favorite over the calling station so you need to squeeze every bit of profit out of them you can when your hands hold up. Otherwise these one pair hands turn into only marginal winners and you will have a hard time staying profitable.

There are some important things you should take away from all of this.

In all three cases, the amount of money we lose when we lose the hand is almost as much as the amount we win when our hand holds up. The real difference is in the frequency of winsversus the loses. We need to take advantage of when we are a favorite because otherwise the difference between winning and losing is not very big.

When we bet two streets instead of one, our EV only (about) doubles. However, when we go from two streets to three streets our EV almost triples. That’s the value of compound interest. That’s why we need to keep hammering these guys. Giving up a street of value is absolutely huge because that third street is by far the most profitable street.

The real key is that the kinds of valuetown hands happen extremely regularly. People like to post about folding KK preflop or folding sets but these situations are relatively uncommon. Marginal one pair hand type situations occur again and again and again. If you are not rigorously exploiting your opponents you are giving up tremendous value over many, many hands. Anyone can bet, bet, bet with a flopped set on a dry board. Anyone can get value from their monsters. It’s being able to capitalize on these very common situations that really distinguishes the marginal winners from the good players.

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