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A “value bet” is simply one made to get as many chips as possible into the pot.

There are two occasions when a smart poker player will value bet: (1) when he believes he has the best hand – the WINNING! hand; and (2) when the “betting odds” are favorable for him.

In the first case, the player – almost certain that he holds the winning hand – bets or raises rather than checking or just calling a previous bet. If he is in

late position and there has been a bet and one or more calls, his raise usually will be called by the previous bettors who are inclined to protect their previous bet.

In effect, the smart player has doubled the number of chips going into the pot on that round of betting. (Remember, our objective is to win chips – the more the merrier – rather than just win pots.) In a no-limit game, the smart player sizes his raise to encourage calls rather than folds.

That decision requires good judgment: How high a raise can you make before your opponent folds? Much depends on your evaluation of each opponent: Is he loose or tight? Will he think I am trying to bluff him out? In a limit game, you get more value by raising on the turn when the bets are doubled.

The second occasion for value betting is in situations where you have loads of outs but still need to make your hand to be successful at a showdown. An example is when you flop four-to-a-big flush. You have nine outs to make what is almost certain to be the best hand.

Your card odds are less than 2-to-1 against making the flush on the turn or the river. (Better yet would be if you also had a draw to a straight or a pair, giving you even more outs.) For example, consider this rather common situation:

YourHolecards: Ace diamonds, 10 diamonds

The Flop: 7 spades, 9 diamonds, 2 diamonds

Let’s say there is a bet. There are two callers before you and only one other player after. Your raise is almost certain to be called by the three players who just put their chips into the pot. That gets you 31 pot odds on that bet (“betting odds”), whereas your card odds are less than 2-1 against you (actually 1.86-1).

That’s a Positive Expectation bet:

For every chip you invest in the pot on that bet, in the long run you expect a return of more than 1½ chips! And if the player behind you elects to call your raise, that’s icing on your money cake.

After the flop

We are dealing here with probability – what will happen in the long run. It is possible you will not make your hand on the turn or the river. Even so, all is not lost.

Let’s say the turn completely misses your hand and likely didn’t help any of your remaining opponents in the hand. Here’s a great spot for a semi-bluff.

Because you raised on the flop, your opponents respect – perhaps even fear – you. They all check to you. Now you make the bet – using the Esther Bluff tactic, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell. If they all fold, the pot is yours.

Even if an opponent calls, you still have a good chance of making your hand on the river. In the hand shown here, you have nine outs for the nut flush. Using the 4-2 Rule, you can expect to make your hand almost 20% of the time.

But suppose the poker gods don’t smile on you, and the river card fails to help your hand. Your bluff at this point is likely the only way you can still take this pot.

I can assure you that, even in a low-limit game, such a bluff on the river often works. You have so much to gain – and only one more bet to lose. Just be sure to use the Esther Bluff.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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