A value bet is a bet made in order to extract the most chips from your opponent. Players make value bets when they put their opponent on a beatable hand, and then measure out the maximum bet they think their opponent will call. A successful value bet is heavily reliant on your position at the table.
To be able to make a good value bets you must be able to have a good read on your opponent. If you can’t accurately put your opponent on a range of hands where you have him beat, a value bet won’t work. During every round of betting you should be actively thinking of what cards your opponent could be holding.
Value betting example
Say you are playing $.50/$1 NL Texas Hold’em and are dealt Ah-Qh. A player in early position limps in and the table folds around to you. You make a standard raise of 2.5x the BB to $2.50. The blinds fold, the limper calls and you two go to the flop.
The flop comes: As-Qd-7c. Your opponent checks and you bet out $4 into the $6.50 pot. Your opponent calls. Stop right there!
Now, your opponent has called a good-sized bet from early position. What could he have? It’s highly doubtful he could have A-K since he would have made a pre-flop raise. It’s possible he could be holding A-J or even A-10. Maybe he has K-10, although, he’d have to be a pretty loose player. It’s doubtful that he has A-7 or A-Q, since he probably would have raised after the flop. He could be holding pocket 7s and flopped a set. Let’s continue.
The turn is a 10d. Your opponent checks. You make another big bet, around $10 into a $14.50 pot. Again, your opponent calls. Pocket 7s aren’t out of the question, but with a diamond draw and a straight draw on the board he would most likely bet this hand.
The river is a 2h. Our final board is: As-Qd-7c-10d-2h. Once again, your opponent checks. It’s very unlikely your opponent is holding K-J and wants to check-raise you. If he has a set, he would have raised by now. A-10 or A-J is still a possibility, as is Ace-rag. You should be confident you have your opponent beat in this situation. It’s likely he has a piece of the pot, probably an Ace. You should be asking yourself, “What is the maximum amount I can bet and get him to call?”
The pot is $34.50. There really isn’t a standard value-betting size. You have to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes. Say you are holding A-J. What would you be willing to call?
What do you already know about your opponent? What type of poker player is he? Does he have trouble getting away from top pair? Is he a maniac who would call you down to the river with a gutshot straight draw?
Generally speaking, aim to make a value bet is about 30-50% of the pot. That is a very general recommendation that does not take into account the situation or type of player.
If your opponent is holding A-J, he’d probably call a $12 bet. Many online players will pay you off just to confirm their nagging suspicions.
Poker tracking software is particularly useful in this situation because it can show you an opponent’s aggression factor and the percentage of time they voluntarily put money in the pot.
Value betting vs. slow playing
Newbies and fish tend to fall in love with slow playing. Especially in online poker, slow playing is a quick way to lose all of your money.
Slow playing requires that many things fall into place in order to be the best method of winning chips. That’s why slow playing is so difficult to pull off; not only do you need to have the nuts or be superbly confident in your hand, you have to have an excellent read on your opponent.
In most situations, value betting is your best bet, especially if you don’t have the nuts. Slow playing often involves big river bets and/or a check-raise, which sets off all the alarms. Slow playing can be very telling of your hand, whereas a carefully considered value bet can keep your opponent guessing. In the above example, say you both checked down to the river. It’s highly unlikely you’d be able to get a bigger payoff by on the river with a check-raise considering the size of the pot.
Be cognizant not only about what range of hands your opponent might be holding, but what your opponent thinks of you as well.
For example, in one of my home games I know some guys view me as a tighter player. Because of this, if I am up against them and know I have them beat, I have to size my value bets carefully as to not scare them off. On the other hand, I can also get away with big bluffs on missed straight draws and flushes.
You don’t necessarily need to have a big hand to make a value bet. You might have second or third pair on a board where no one else has shown strength. If you make a good value bet opponents might call you with fourth or even fifth pair. If they were softly playing top pair and you lose, don’t sweat it. You’ve likely gained some information about your opponents and you didn’t lose much money in the process. As long as you use your table position and make solid, situational value bets, you’ll win out in the long run.
Have you ever made a good value bet and got paid off? What was the situation?