Do not be afraid to value-bet

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Puzzles - By JONATHAN LIT­TLE Tri­bune Con­tent Agency Jonathan Lit­tle is a pro­fes­sional poker player and coach with more than $6 mil­lion in live tour­na­ment earn­ings.

Many recre­ational poker play­ers are deathly afraid to value-bet. This is a huge mis­take that re­sults in them not ex­tract­ing nearly enough value with their stronger made hands.

The fol­low­ing hand clearly il­lus­trates this point.

In a $2-$5 no-limit cash game with $500 ef­fec­tive stacks, a loose, straight­for­ward player called from mid­dle po­si­tion, and our Hero raised to $20 from the but­ton with Js 8s.

I’m fine with this raise, but I would have made it larger, per­haps $25 or $30, to give the limper a chance to fold. When you make it only $15 more, the limper will call nearly ev­ery time. Par­tic­u­larly when you have a mar­ginal hand, you want to give your op­po­nent a chance to con­cede the pot im­me­di­ately.

Only the limper called. The flop came Jd 8d 6d, giv­ing Hero top two pair on a three-flush board. The op­po­nent checked, and Hero bet $15 into a pot of $47.

The op­po­nent ei­ther has a pre­mium made hand, a rea­son­able pair or draw, or noth­ing. Given that the op­po­nent likely has a rea­son­able pair, a draw or noth­ing, Hero should make a siz­able bet to ex­tract value from hands he’s ahead of that have plenty of eq­uity. Bet­ting $15 lets all the junky draws con­tinue in the hand cheaply, which is the last thing Hero wants.

The op­po­nent called. The turn was the Kc. Both play­ers checked.

There are some hands that beat Hero and will never fold, but there are also nu­mer­ous in­fe­rior hands that can con­tinue call­ing, such as strong di­a­monds, top pairs and mid­dle pairs. All of these hands have a de­cent chance to win, mean­ing Hero re­ally needs to ex­tract value from them. Many recre­ational play­ers fear get­ting check-raised in this spot. Against the gen­er­ally straight­for­ward play­ers who pop­u­late $2$5 games, bet­ting with the in­ten­tion of fold­ing to a raise is of­ten the best play.

The river was the 2c.

The op­po­nent checked. Hero bet $25.

While I def­i­nitely like the idea of bet­ting the river with two pair, Hero should have bet larger. When many draws fail to ar­rive (as is the case here), many play­ers will call bets with their strong bluff catch­ers, such as a king or jack. I think a bet of $40 would get called al­most as of­ten as a $25 bet. You ex­tract more value when you bet larger.

The op­po­nent quickly called and proudly tabled his Kd 9s, as­sum­ing that he had won the pot. Hero was just happy that he was not out­drawn.

In this sit­u­a­tion, Hero eas­ily could have ex­tracted a $40 turn bet as well as a $100 river bet. Don’t be con­tent to col­lect a small pot when you have a clear value hand. Most of the time, bet­ting all three streets is the op­ti­mal strat­egy.

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