Do not be afraid to value-bet
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.