Reasons For Betting
Reasons To Bet > Betting To Win Dead Money
Q. Why do we bet in poker?
A. Because we expect those bets to be profitable over the long run.
That’s the sole reason behind betting and raising in Texas Holdem. It really is that simple. However, knowing why a bet can be profitable is the tricky part.
It turns out that there are 2 main reasons for making bets.
- For value.
- As a bluff.
Every profitable bet or raise in poker falls in to either one of these categories. To be able to make successful bets, it’s imperative that you learn to identify which category your bet or raise falls in to.
Don’t worry though, it’s not that hard really.
There is actually a third reason for betting, which is betting to win dead money. Learn these 2 first.
1) Betting for value.
- Why you bet for value.
- You believe you have the best hand and you think your opponent will call with a worse hand.
- You want your opponent to call.
We never actually know if we have the best hand or not, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we have a good reason to believe that we have the best hand when we bet.
Figuring out whether we likely have the better hand or not takes some skill, and that’s a skill that comes with time and practice (see assigning ranges). However, the key point is that we make a profit every time our opponent puts money in to the pot with a worse hand (or a hand with worse equity to be precise).
It doesn’t matter whether our opponent goes on to outdraw us later on in the hand. All that matters is that when we made our bet, our opponent had worse equity and put more money in to the pot.
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Example of betting for value.
Our hand: A K
Opponent’s hand: K Q
Board: K 9 3
Our opponent has a hand with worse equity (14% compared to our 86% equity). If we bet we are betting for value because we are going to make money when a worse hand like KQ calls us.
We will never really know that our opponent has exactly KQ in this situation, but this is an example of why a bet on this flop is a bet for value because we have good reason to believe that we have the best hand and that a weaker hand will call.
We want our opponent to call here because that will make us money. If they were to fold, they would be making a better play from their point of view because they would be saving money. Hence we miss out on making more money.
2) Betting as a bluff.
- Why you bet as a bluff.
- You believe you have the worst hand but you think that you can get your opponent to fold a better hand.
- You want your opponent to fold.
For whatever reason you strongly believe that even though you probably have the worst hand, you can get your opponent to fold. If they go ahead and fold a hand that has more equity than ours, they are making a mistake and we are profiting from that mistake.
Betting as a bluff takes more skill than betting for value because it’s harder to have a good reason to believe that we can get an opponent to fold a better hand. Nonetheless, it’s still a profitable bet to make when done properly.
Example of betting as a bluff.
Our hand: 8 7
Opponent’s hand: T 9
Board: A T 4 K
Our opponent checked the flop and checked the turn. In this situation we are confident that we are unlikely to have the best hand but can get our opponent to fold by betting this turn. Therefore when we bet we are betting as a bluff.
We want to see our opponent fold a better hand than ours (which is a pair in this instance). We do not want to get called, obviously, so this is clearly a bluff.
Reasons for betting based on equity diagram.
- If you think you have more than 50% equity in the hand and you bet, you are betting for value.
- If you think you have less than 50% equity in the hand and you bet, you are betting as a bluff.
Note: This diagram assumes you are up against one player. The same sort of principal applies against multiple opponents in a hand, but the percentages get a little tricky for one diagram.
Always know why you are betting.
Are you betting for value or are you betting as a bluff?
If you can’t confidently answer that question you should not be betting or raising in the first place.
Blindly firing out bets and raises is bad play and will be a tremendous leak in your game until you fix it. Many beginner players lose money because they fire out bets and raises without knowing why they are making the bets in the first place.
Example of not knowing why you are betting.
Our hand: 22
Opponent’s hand: unknown
Board: A 4 8 K 4
It’s been checked back and forth through each betting round to the river It’s checked to us once again on the river and we decide to bet. But why? What are we expecting to achieve by betting here?
- Is it for value? Do we expect a worse hand than ours to call? No.
- Is it as a bluff? Do we expect a better hand to fold? No.
As you can see, there is no compelling reason to bet here, so we’re far better off checking behind rather than risking getting called and losing more money to a better hand.
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Evaluation of the reasons for betting in NL Texas Hold’em.
- If you believe that a worse hand than yours will call you the majority of the time, you are betting for value.
- If you believe that you can get a better hand than yours to fold the majority of the time, you are betting as a bluff.
Before every single bet and raise you make, try your hardest to identify which category your bet is falling in to. If you can’t figure out which, then reconsider making that bet or raise.
Understanding the difference between the different goals when betting is easy. The hard part is using your head to figure out whether your bet is for value or if it’s a bluff. It get’s much easier with practice, so the sooner you start trying to figure it all out the better.
As mentioned earlier in the article, there is a third reason for betting that usually occurs when making continuation bets on the flop. This is where you are betting to win dead money.
Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.