Poker players who are serious about the game understand the power of value betting. If you’re not familiar with the term but have seen it used in articles such as this, value betting occurs when you extract as much as possible from your opponents by persuading them to continue betting even when you have the better cards. It takes practice, but value betting can take a player from barely profitable to someone making real money at the game.
It can take a lot of trial and error to learn how to get players with weaker hands to spend more money at the table, but the basics of table manipulation are actually fairly easy to understand at a basic level.
Let’s use an example from a game of $2/$4 No Limit Texas Hold’Em. You’re holding AdTh on the button. Two players limp in before you and you call. The flop comes down: 2cTsQd. All of the other players check to you. You decide to bet on the middle pair of tens and plunk down $20 in the $12 pot, jacking things up. First, the big blind folds, and so does the next player, but the last player decides to call. The turn is 3c and you both check. The river is 3s. Your opponent checks again. What do you do in this situation?
Let’s take a second and evaluate what has happened. It’s pretty improbable that you opponent has a Queen. If they did, they would have bet on the river when it came up a 3. A possible holding is KJ: he limped pre-flop and KJ is a hand that a lot of people like to call with before the flop, myself included. You won’t be able to get any more from him on the river if he holds a busted straight, but on the other hand, that holding is not a threat to you either. He could have a ten with a kicker JT, T9 or something like that. He made a call on the flop because you were last to act and he might have thought that you just tried to steal the pot.
In my opinion, you should bet here, but how much? You want your opponent to have a T with a kicker that goes below yours than you. You showed some weakness on the turn, and he might definitely call you with that kind of hand. If you bet too much he will probably fold, so the appropriate amount is about half of the pot. That will likely look like a bluff in the eyes of your opponent, but in reality it is a good value bet because I would fold to a check-raise. Instead, he would bet out the straight.
As you can see, betting in poker is more than just going with the cards you have – it’s about going against the cards that others have and using their weaknesses to your advantage. Remember to play the players, not the cards in cases like this.