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The Last Bet

Poker Strategy: Value Betting in Texas Holdem Poker

Good poker players make their money through one single thing that they do better than their opponents: value betting. Simply put, a value bet is one in which you extract as much money as possible from your opponent when you know you'll win the eventual showdown. Good value betting is based on determining how much you can trust in your opponent to put in the pot based on their betting history and the way that you're drawing them further into the game. It's not the easiest thing to learn, but it's a cornerstone of advanced poker play.

To make a good value bet, you need to get other players involved in hands that you know that you stand an overwhelming chance of winning. It's a blend of intuition and experience that not every player has, but you might well be surprised at how easily it comes to you. Once you understand that portion of the game, you can use strategic betting to draw other players in and extract the maximum cash value from them.

For example, let's say you're holding KsQs in a late position when you're playing $1/$2 no limit Texas Hold'em. The player before you has limped in; how should you respond? It's a good idea in a scenario like this to raise to $8. This does one of two things: it lets you steal the pot from the other players with an outsized bet like this or it will let you draw another player into value betting. In our example, we'll say that the player that had limped in before has decided to stick through the hand while the rest of the table folded. The flop goes down: 2hQdKc and your opponent checks. You fire back a raise to $20 and they call you.

How can you determine what your opponent's holding in this case? Well, take into consideration the fact that they limped in before the flop and then happily called the preflop raise and the bet on the flop. If they were holding AK, they would have raised right off the bat; it's more likely that they're holding something playable (KT or KJ for the top pair) or that they were working on a straight draw with JT. There's also the chance that they're holding a pair of 2s and are now packing a set.

The turn comes and it's the 10 of Diamonds. Your opponent checks instead of raises, which means that last possibility isn't what's going. With a board of 2hQdKcTd, he checks and calls your bet in response. If he'd had the set, he would have opted to check-raise or bet based on your previous actions.

A river card of 9c meant that the board now reads 2hQdKcTd9c and the pot is an impressive $129. Holding two pair and betting to this point likely means that your opponent has put you on the wrong hand and has opted to bet out the straight that never happened. You've won the hand, all through the power of understanding the game , reading your opponent and reacting.


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