Protection betting is an important skill to master in order to get maximum value from strong made hands in poker. Unlike bluffing, protection betting involves making a bet with a strong holding to protect your hand against worse holdings that may improve to beat you.
Knowing when to bet for protection on future streets enables you to maximize the showdown value of your big hands. Let’s examine how to expertly use protection betting.
Betting Vulnerable Made Hands
You’ll want to consider protection betting when you make strong hands that are vulnerable to being outdrawn. For example, top pair good kicker on wet board textures with flush and straight draws present. Or middle set on coordinated boards with possible straight and two pair combos available.
Since you currently have the best hand, but face potential improvement from opponents, firing protection bets secures value now and charges opponents to continue drawing against you.
Charging Opponents to Draw
Protection betting essentially charges your opponent to continue chasing against you. They have to risk additional money to see future cards, putting more dead money in the pot when they miss.
This ensures you lock up significant value before the draw completes rather than potentially checking and allowing a free turn card that kills your action.
Preventing Opponents from Improving Cheaply
By firing protection bets, you also prevent opponents from seeing cards for cheap and holding you hostage on later streets if they make their hand.
For example, let’s say you have top two pair on a flush draw board and check. If the flush completes on the turn, a savvy opponent will lead out small knowing you have a tough decision with second best top two pair. Protection betting earlier maximizes value against the draw while it’s less likely to have improved.
Balancing your Protection Betting Range
To avoid becoming predictable with protection bets, balance them with made hands you are willing to check and call down with as well. Overusing protection bets telegraphs the strength of your hand.
Mix in some strong check-call ranges so opponents can bluff you once you check. This balanced protection betting approach will boost your win rates.
Consider Total Pot Equity
Before firing protection bets, particularly on wet boards where draws abound, consider your total pot equity relative to the equities of your opponents’ potential holdings and draws.
If you have 30% pot equity but are only risking 20% against various draw combinations, checking and calling may be superior to betting your exact hand equity. Run the math before protecting arbitrarily.
Protecting Against Future Aggression
Another benefit of protection betting is it guards against opponents taking the betting lead on the turn if the board changes.
Betting first allows you to size appropriately whereas getting led into on the turn may force you into a bloated pot with your now vulnerable made hand.
Denying Opponents Equity Realization
Finally, well-timed protection betting denies opponents the ability to realize their equity. They are priced out from seeing additional cards for cheap to actually make hands and beat you.
While protection betting doesn’t build pots like value betting, it intelligently safeguards the showdown value of your strong but vulnerable holdings.