It is an art that is difficult to master. The value bet in poker is perhaps the most important skill to develop in order to become a long-term winner. It combines the complexity of hand reading, understanding of opponent and maximizing value.
What is a Value Bet in Poker?
A bet that is designed to get called by a weaker hand. The sizing is irrelevant, it’s purely betting for value, hence value bet. It is usually at the end of the hand on the river. Although it’s technically possible to value bet all in before the river.
Common Value Bet Mistakes
One of the most prevalent errors an inexperienced player will make is check back hands on the river that warrant betting for value. They will check back hands for one of the three reasons listed below.
1)Fear of Being Check-Raised
The river check raise is such an uncommon play and rarely ever done on a bluff that it is not to be feared, to the extent most players afraid. It takes incredible patience for an opponent to make their hand on the river then check raise for value. Few expert players have the discipline and skill to employ this and fewer online. The typical online player will often just bet their nut hand on the river. They do this even if their opponent has bet all the way through, purely because they are worried you will check back.
2) Lacking Conviction
Many players who miss out on value are doing so because they lack conviction in their own ability to know their hand is best and assign a range to their opponent. This is because they don’t have the confidence in their own game or lack experience. Perhaps they have suffered too many bad beats or read some hands poorly and it has affected them. Perhaps they are on tilt. Whatever the reason, they lack the conviction to put in the value bet they rightly should.
3)Wanting a Cheap Showdown
Some players just want to show their hand down. They don’t recognise that they are missing out on lots of value in the long run. They are happy to check back on the river and show the winning hand. This is extremely detrimental to their long-term ROI and profitability as they are costing themselves money. I contend that many of these types of players even know they are checking back the better hand, but do so anyway. Don’t be one of these players.
How Much to Value Bet?
This is the key question you should be asking every time you are considering a value bet on the river. One needs to think what is the most amount of money or chips I can extract from my opponent. This is a complex question. It involves assuming the perfect and maximum amount your opponent will call, given their likely hand range. Ultimately you need to have good hand reading skills to do this. This will come with experience and over time will be second nature to you.
Value Betting Against Regulars
A pot sized bet gives poor pot odds; thus, a strong, experienced player is less inclined to call with a weak hand. Therefore, you you need to offer a good price.
Seasoned regulars have the ability to fold stronger hands so you need to either give them lucrative pot odds or be confident they will call a larger bet through levelling themselves.
Value Betting Against Weak Players
On the contrary, a weak and inexperienced may be happy to call a huge over bet. If you assign a weak player a strong range, they will almost certainly call whatever you bet. So, it makes sense to put in a large bet to get the most.
If your opponent is a stubborn calling station, you can value bet thinly. To protect yourself from value owning yourself, you can value bet like 20-25% of the pot. This will elicit the calls from weaker hands whilst also ensuring you don’t lose more than necessary for the times you’re just beat.
Correctly judging the amount within a few seconds may seem impossible, but it isn’t. Over time you will develop intuition, developed from playing many hands. You can always refer back to hands you played with poker tracking software. If you don’t have one setup, visit our poker resources page for our recommendations.
The importance of appropriate value betting can’t be stressed enough. A winning player needs to understand when and how much in order to extract the most possible. This article has discussed the reasons why people miss out on value and to avoid the common mistakes. To become proficient takes experience, thought and intuition.
Still unsure of your value betting? Why not book in a hand history review session with me and I’ll review your play? The first session is half off ($57.50).
This article was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated.