The REM Process - Maximize
The final (and arguably most important) step in the REM process is "Maximize". This involves making the optimum play to get the most value from your hand.
Unfortunately, the art of maximizing your profits from every hand you play is out of the scope of one article. However, what I will be able to do is give you some groundwork for making optimum plays at the table.
Maximizing value on a basic level.
On a basic level, optimum play is to get as much money in the middle with the best hand and save your money when you do not.
When you have the hand with the greatest equity you want to get as much money in to the pot as possible. When you don't have good equity in the hand you want to see future cards as cheaply as possible, which generally involves checking and folding.
You want to play as closely as you can to the fundamental theorem of poker to help you maximize your winnings from each hand you play.
The fundamental theorem of poker.
“Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose.”
So if we knew what our opponent was holding at all times, we would be able to make the optimum play on every single betting round. When maximizing value from our hands, we want to try and make the same play that we would make if we could see our opponent's holecards.
That's all well and good, but there is a hell of a lot of middle ground where we will not know if we are ahead of behind in a hand. Therefore, we just have to make the best play we can with the limited information we have from the range and equity sections of the REM process.
Betting and raising.
Whenever you bet or raise, ask yourself this question:
Do I want my opponent to fold or do I want them to call?
Really think about it.
- If you want them to call, you are betting for value.
- If you want them to fold, you are bluffing.
That's all there is to it. If you do not know whether you want your opponent to do either, you should not be betting.
Far too many players make bets with no reasoning behind why they are making them. The chances are that if you do not know why you are betting, a large number of your bets are going to be -EV.
Betting for value.
A super-common example for you. We raise in the CO and the BB calls.
Our hand: A K
Flop: A 9 7
As we all should know, on this flop we should bet out. Why? Because we have good equity against our opponent's range, which is likely to be a weaker ace or lower pocket pair. We are betting for value in the hope that our opponent will call with a weaker ace or a flush draw because we have greater equity in the hand (even if they may have a better hand like 2 pair or a set).
Yep that's right, we actually want our opponent to call with a flush draw. If the pot is $10 and we bet $8, they are getting terrible odds to chase their flush. Therefore, if they call they are making a mistake and we are gaining from this mistake. If they fold on the other hand, they are making the correct play and we gain nothing.
"Betting to protect your hand" is very bad alternate terminology for "betting for value". What are we protecting our hand from? Players calling with bad odds and worse hands? According to the fundamental theorem of poker we want our opponents to call with bad odds and worse hands, as we gain nothing otherwise.
Try your best to get used to the idea of either betting for value or bluffing. "Protecting your hand" is not the right way to explain your bets - "betting for value" is.
Our hand: A Q
Flop: T 2 7
Let's say we raised preflop in the CO and the button calls. Our opponent then bets out 3/4 of the pot on this flop. With our overcards and nut flush draw, we reraise. However, is this reraise for value or as a bluff? In other words, do we want our opponent to call of to fold?
Well, first things first, this all depends on our opponents range. If we figure that our opponent is the type of player to only ever bet out on this sort of flop with top pair or better, our equity in the hand is as follows:
As you can see, we do not have the dominant equity in the hand. So in this situation, by raising we are hoping that our opponent will fold their better hand. Therefore we are bluffing. Simple as that.
Sure, it's technically a semi-bluff because it's not all that bad if our opponent calls this raise, but based on the equity we have right now our raise is a bluff. Hopefully this helps to illustrate the difference between bluffing and betting for value.
Evaluation of "maximize" in the REM process.
I only really covered the north-facing side of the tip of the ice berg in this article. I was going to cover more on maximizing value with checking and calling, but in all honesty I would have just been rehashing some pretty basic strategy to reinforce the same point I put across in the betting and raising section.
Maximizing value in poker is a skill that you will be perfecting for life. A lot of the strategy you read all boils down to making the best decisions possible and getting the most from your hands. As long as you always think about every decision you make, you will continue to improve your game and make optimum plays more frequently.
Poker will always be a game of broken information - one big jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing. We just have to try to put it together and do the best we can with the information we have at hand - and then make the best play we can.
Go back to the overview of The REM Process.
Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.