Value betting

Dec 7, 2010 7:05 AM

You are playing in a limit game and have caught a monster hand on the turn. Better yet, it’s the nuts. 

There is no way any opponent can hold a better hand. Your goal at this point is to get as many chips into the pot as possible. There are three opponents still in the pot. They all check to you. 

Of course you make the bet – and hope some will call you. You are trying to get as much value from your hand as possible. You have bet for value. Just about anyone who has played any poker is quite aware of this strategy. So you have no real advantage here over your opponents. 

But there are other less obvious ways to value bet. By knowing these, then you gain a big edge over your opponents who are completely unaware of these. No one ever told them. 

Here’s an example. From a late position, you called to see the flop with A-9. You and four opponents are in to see the flop. There are two more diamonds: 

 

 
Kd 8d, 7s 

The Flop: You now have four to the nut flush. That’s nine outs. Any one of the nine remaining diamonds will make your hand. (You also have a draw to a straight and an overcard to the board.              

Let’s not concern ourselves with these possibilities. With nine outs using the 2-4 rule, the card odds are about 2-to-1 against making the nut flush on the turn or on the river. (Actually, the card odds are 1.86-to-1; but our estimate is close enough for our purposes.)  

The big blind bets and is called by the other three opponents -- four bets in all to you. Like most other players, you could simply call and wait to see the turn hoping it’s another diamond. 

If you raise here, you are almost certain that the four opponents who have already made one bet to see the turn, will call your raise. For every dollar “invested” in the pot, you are getting four from your opponents. In other words, you get betting odds (like pot odds) of 4-to-1.

With these betting odds and the card odds of only 2-to-1 against you, probability laws tell us that you will get a positive return on your investment: In the long run, you will make the nut flush one time and miss two times for every three hands like this that you play.

Let’s say you are playing $4-$8 limit. The bet was $4 and you raised another $4. You will lose two times for a loss of $8, while winning once and gaining an additional $4 from each opponent who calls your raise. 

That adds up to $16 (with four opponents calling your raise), a net profit of $8 by raising on the flop after four opponents have already bet. That’s pretty good. 

Whenever the betting odds (or pot odds) in your favor are more than the card odds against you, you have a “positive expectation.” You have not made your hand but the card odds and pot odds strongly favor you. 

Indeed, any time you have a positive expectation, you should consider value betting. Remember, your goal is to win money (chips) not just hands. The more chips you can squeeze out of a winning hand, the better for you. 

Bottom line: Value betting with lots of outs earns you a positive expectation on that bet. Being aware of this fact gives you another edge over your opponents who never considered that strategy. 

Next week: Another way to gain the edge. 

For comments and questions, contact “The Engineer” by e-mail at [email protected]