What’s a value bet in poker?

Aug 11, 2009 5:04 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

Getting the most with a good hand

We hear the term a lot, perhaps too much, but what exactly is a "value bet?"

This came up while discussing betting and raising during our Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Sr. Center. The best definition I could find for a "value bet" was in Michael Wiesenberg’s The Official Dictionary of Poker: "Getting paid off for a good hand (by someone who calls); often part of the phrase full value."

In brief, when you hold a hand that you expect will win the pot at the showdown, your goal is to get the maximum amount of money into the pot. You want as much value from your hand as possible. Get all it’s worth … that makes sense.

After all, your goal in playing "WINNING" poker is to win as much money as possible. The more hands you win the better; but the real objective is to win money – the more the better!

So, certainly, you want to get as much "value" as possible from your hand when you deem it a winner: Bet for value!

Value Betting on the Flop or Turn

Usually we think of value betting on the river, after everyone’s final hand has been defined. But we can also bet for value on the flop or on the turn. It’s a fascinating concept. Just use the poker odds to your advantage.

Here’s a common situation: You’re in a $4-$8 limit game and hold four-to the-nut flush on the flop; and there are no pairs – so a full house is not likely a threat to you if/when you make the nut flush. Nor is a draw to a straight flush by an opponent likely at this point.

You are on the button; there is a bet and three callers when the betting reaches you. You don’t have a made hand – not yet at least. With two more cards (the turn and the river) to be dealt on the board, the card odds against catching a fifth heart for your nut flush are 1.86-to-1; let’s round it off to 2-to-1.

Furthermore, with four opponents having already bet on the flop, your "betting odds" are 4-to-1. So, instead of just calling while hoping to make the flush, you should raise. The four opponents who have already bet, almost certainly will call your raise; so you are getting 4-to-1 odds on your raise. That’s a positive expectation.

In the long run, that bet/raise will earn a profit for you. Let’s do a quick calculation: Your raise will bring 4 x $4 = $16 extra chips into the pot – money that would not have been there had you just called to see the turn.

With card odds of 2-to-1 against you, for every time you make the flush and win, you will miss the flush and lose two times. That will cost you an extra 2 x $4 = $8. Hence, the result of that raise on the flop is $16 - $8.00 for a net gain of $8. Looks like a pretty good long-term investment to me. What do you think?

George "The Engineer" Epstein conducts Poker Labs at West Los Angeles College and at the Claude Pepper Sr. Center in Los Angeles. He also teaches poker to people with early-Alzheimer’s. He is the author of two unique books on poker which utilize his engineering expertise – guaranteed to make you a WINNER! He can be contacted at [email protected].

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