For years now the most popular poker game in the world has been the no-limit variation of Texas hold’em. The game has reached such a high level of popularity because it’s so easy to understand and has a level of excitement that works well for television. Even though the nature of the game makes being able to read your opponents a higher priority than stud or Omaha hold’em games, you still need a good technical understanding of the betting to turn a nice profit. Value betting is easily the most misunderstood aspect of the technical part of no-limit hold’em, and so to help you to further develop your game let’s look at the most important things to keep in mind when value betting.
First you have to understand what value betting is and what it means for poker as an economic system. If I have a better hand than you and place a bet that you call, then I have gained, even if you catch a lucky card later in the hand and I lose. The reason is that on average I will profit from your call. This illustrates the true meaning of value betting: to bet with the intention of having worse hands call.
Second it’s important to realize that when we decide to value bet we shouldn’t think about what our opponent has as a single hand. Instead, we should consider the range of hands he could have as a whole and decide if on average our value bet is going to be ahead of the range of hands that he decides to continue playing with. Essentially, we have to estimate all of the hands he could have in a situation and decide if he’s going to be calling our value bet with a worse hand than ours most of the time.
The third and possibly most difficult aspect of value betting to understand for new players is that if you think a value bet is going to be only slightly profitable, it could be best to just check to your opponent. The reason for this is that sometimes, especially if your opponent is aggressive or has a particularly weak range of hands, checking to your opponent can be even more profitable than a value bet. This seems anti-intuitive, but is true because in these types of situations it’s likely your opponent will be willing to put money in the pot with a lot of bluffs instead of the relatively strong range of hands he will call facing a bet. This way he or she will be putting another bet in the pot but with more hands that you beat.
As human beings, we’re naturally curious creatures. That’s why in general we’ll always tend to make more bad calls than we make bad folds in poker because we are hardwired to want to know what our opponent has. This is why the best way to beat the vast majority of players in poker will always be to value bet them a lot.