Value Betting in No Limit Hold'em

One of the most profitable plays in No Limit Hold'em is a value bet in the correct situation. Good hands only come around every so often, so you need to extract the maximum amount of value out of every one of your winning hands. A value bet is a perfect tool for extracting value, and as long as you use it correctly it will drastically increase your ROI and hourly wage. This article will discuss what a value bet is, and when the correct times are to value bet.

What is a Value Bet?

A value bet is a bet made when you feel you're ahead in the hand, and attempt size the bet so your opponent will call and pay you off. There are basically two situations where a player would value bet, and we'll go over each one.

The first situation is when you have a very solid hand, and definitely want your opponent to pay you off so you make a medium sized bet to entice them in. The second situation is when you're in a tricky situation on the river, and bet knowing that you would have called a bet by your opponent. It's slightly complicated, but we'll explain it fully.

Value Betting When You're Ahead

Value Betting CartoonThe first and simplest form of a value bet is when you have a solid hand and bet a small enough amount that you're sure your opponent will call and pay you off. The best way to explain this is through an example:

Imagine you're playing $1/$2 NL Hold'em and are dealt AK under the gun. You raise to $8, and one player in late position calls. The flop comes down A94. Since you have top pair top kicker, you're very likely to be ahead at this point, so you should bet out about 1/2 the size of the pot. This is a continuation bet, but is also a value bet because you're extracting max value from your hand.

If the turn is a King, your hand is even stronger now, and you should make another value bet of about 1/2 the size of the pot. These smallish bets let your opponent continue with you in the hand, and hopefully pay you off again on the river. As long as the river is another blank, fire out another bet, this time more like 1/3 of the pot, so you will be paid off again. By making medium sized bets on the flop, turn, and river, you set yourself up to win a very nice pot at the end.

Value Betting in Tricky Spots

Another spot that it makes sense to value bet is on the river when you're not sure where you stand, but think you could be ahead. The best way to explain this is through another example:

Imagine you're at a $1/$2 NL Hold'em table and have KJ in late position. You call the blinds, and the player on the button calls as well. The flop is K109. You bet out to protect your top pair, and he calls. The turn is a 2, so you bet out again, and he calls again. The river brings a J. This makes the final board K1092J, which means any Queen is a straight that will beat your two pair. Even though it's a scary board, you should bet out here, and I'll tell you why.

If you check on the river there are two things that can happen. The first is that he checks as well, and shows down an inferior hand. In this case, you'll win no extra money. The second is that he fires out a medium sized bet, and you have to call with your top two pair. He then shows down the straight, and you lose the medium sized bet.

Now, if you do bet out, there are three things that can happen. The first is that your opponent folds if they have a poor hand. In this case you earn no extra money, and it's the same outcome rather you check or bet.

The second situation is that you bet out, and your opponent calls with a worse two pair, or top pair. In this case you win an extra bet on the end, because if you had checked they would have checked behind.

The third case is that you bet out, and your opponent has the straight and raises. In this case you can simply fold your hand, and lose the medium sized bet.

Ok, so if you we look at each case:

  1. Your opponent has nothing. Regardless if you check or bet, you're still winning the same sized pot.
  2. Your opponent has a decent hand, but not the straight. In this case, if you check, you win nothing extra, but if you bet out, he'll call and show down the worse hand. In this case, betting wins you extra money.
  3. Your opponent has the straight. If you check, they'll bet, and you'll lose a medium sized bet. If you bet, they'll raise, you'll fold, and you lose a medium sized bet. So once again, no difference.

As you can see, in situations #1 and #3 it's a wash regardless if you bet or check, but in situation #2, you actually earn an extra bet on the end. Because of this, you should always fire out in these situations, because it is actually more profitable to bet than it is to check.

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