Value betting is how many good poker players make their real money. A value bet takes place when you extract as much money as possible from your opponent in a hand when you know that you are holding better cards. With value betting, you attempt to determine how much you opponent is willing to put in the pot based on your bet versus their hand. It takes some time to learn, but value betting is a key part of intermediate and advanced poker strategy.
The most important factor in making good value bets is the ability to get other players involved in hands that you know you can win. Identifying and targeting these players is something that takes a lot of practice, but you’d be amazed how much of it seems to come naturally with some experience. Even though a lot of value betting just comes out of practice, there are still some things that you can do to help you bet more strategically, even if you’re not quite “there” when it comes to reading your opponents.
Let’s use an example from a game I recently played. I was holding KcQc in late position while playing $1/$2 no limit Texas Hold ‘Em and the player before me limped in. I opted to raise up the betting to $8 and everyone else folded, except for the original raiser, who called. The flop went in: 2dQhKs and my opponent checked. I bet $20 and my opponent called.
What was my opponent holding? Well, I took into consideration the fact that he just limped in before the flop, called my raise and then called my bet on the flop. AK is probably not the answer: he would have raised right off the bat. It was more likely that he was holding KT or KJ for the top pair or was working a straight draw with JT. Of course, there was also the possibility that he was holding a pair of twos and how had a set.
I dismissed the last possibility with the turn because the card that hit (Th) led to him checking, not raising. The board now read 2dQhKsTh. When I bet, he called. If he’d had a set at this point, he would definitely have bet or check-raised on the turn after seeing my actions.
With the river of 9s, the board now read 2dQhKsTh9s and there was a pot of $129. This meant that I had two pair. If he thought that I was a bad player, he might have checked with the straight on the river to be able to check-raise, but if he viewed me as a good player, he wouldn’t do that because I would fold to a check-raise. Instead, he would bet out the straight.
I thought for a moment and then put down a $40 bet, effectively calling him out. He folded and it turned out he was holding KT, giving him two pair. We chatted for a second after the fact and he actually thought I had the J, giving me a straight, which was the point of my exercise.
Take some time at free and low-stakes games to really perfect your value betting technique.