Making a value bet defines a situation where you place a bet – a bet that you hope is called – because you think you have the best hand.
Before you even consider making a value bet, try to determine if the bet will have any value at all. Attempt to put your opponent on a hand that he’d likely call a bet with on the river. To do this, you’ll have to mentally playback the details of the hand. Think about your opponent’s playing tendencies. Is he a calling station? Is he a skilled player? What type of player does he think you are?
Try to figure out what percentage of the time your opponent would call a bet on the river with the worst hand. If the percentage is low, checking would be your best option.
Delve into your memory bank and think about your opponent’s betting history. Is he capable of check-raising on the river? Is he a tricky player?
If your opponent is unlikely to call with the worst hand, but he is capable of check-raising, then betting would be a mistake. On the other hand, if he’s likely to call every bet and would never check-raise on the river, a river bet would probably have substantial value.
Think hard about the type of player you’re facing. Will he check hands that have you beat? Does he play semi-weak on the river? Does he rarely miss a value bet? Does he think you’re a bluffer?
If he senses that you’re bluffing, he may conclude that there’s more value in checking his top pair. He’ll let you bluff and build the pot yourself. If you’ve picked up a pattern that he’s apt to check some of his stronger hands, be wary of making thin value bets against him. That’s exactly what he’s setting you up to do — make a value bet that only holds value for him!
A highly skilled player will pick up on the fact that you’re trying to make a value bet. Betting is extremely dangerous in this situation as it could cause you to actually lose a pot that you would have won had you simply checked. Play cautiously when facing these tricky players. They won’t call your river bet as often as you’d like when they have the worst hand. But remember, they are capable of stealing pots away from you any time they sense your weakness.
It really all comes down to this one question: Is it worth the risk to bet on the river?
The essential issue is whether you need to make a marginal play at all. If you have full command of the table, you can simply wait for higher percentage plays to invest your chips. If the table already lets you get away with highway robbery by allowing you to steal pot after pot, why risk squeezing out a little extra value on the river in a marginal situation? There’s too little to gain and too much too lose.
Chip stacks are another consideration. Don’t put yourself at risk with a value bet when you and your opponent each have a healthy chip stack. Conversely, if you’re playing on a short stack, a value bet could account for a significant portion of your remaining chips. If that’s the case, it’s more important to protect what’s already in the pot. Check it down and avoid a possible check-raise. Hold on to your precious chips, because there’s always the chance that you’ll end up making a value bet with the worst hand.
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