Value Betting On The River

You hold an Ac-Kh pre-flop in late position. The board checks to you and,as an aggressive player, you make a standard raise. The table folds to the big blind, a loose-passive player, who defends. The flop comes Js-7h-3d. The big blind checks, you bet, the big blind calls. The turn is another brick, the 5c. The big blind checks, you bet and are called again. The river is a Td and once again the big blind checks and you bet around two-thirds of the pot. You are, once again, called. You turn over your unimproved hand and the big blind turns over a 6d-3s revealing bottom pair and he scoops the pot. You think, “Damn, I did it again, bluffing a calling station. You just can’t beat someone who calls bottom pair to showdown.”

Your conclusion that you can’t beat a calling station is simply wrong, although not completely. In small stakes games, many players play far too many hands and see them all the way to the end. It is not unusual to see someone enter a pot with weak holdings and flop bottom or middle pair. Then they call on every street hoping that their opponent is on a bluff. Well, these players can be had. They certainly take away one of your potent weapons in no-limit hold’em, the bluff, but because they are committed to defending their small hand against a bluff they become vulnerable to a completely different line of attack. Many hands that are too weak to bet against tight opponents become much stronger against a player who has lower calling standards and consistently uses the bluff-catching strategy. Simply bet your marginal hands for value on the river.

An Example to Make a Point

You begin with a Kd-9s in late position. The table folds to you and you bet 3x the big blind. You are called by a loose-passive player in the small blind, the big blind folds and you are now heads up against the small blind. The flop comes Jd-6c-4s. The small blind checks and you bet half the pot. The small blind calls. You could put him on a hand like AJ or J6 or J4. He could be holding any jack, any six or any four as well. His call, however, indicates that he likely hit a six or four on the flop. The turn is a 9c putting two clubs on the board. The small blind checks, you bet half the pot and are called. The river is a 2h, no flush and no obvious straights unless the small blind holds a 3-5 which is highly unlikely. Your middle pair has been called on the flop and turn. You can beat any six, any four and you lose to any jack. You also lose to the improbable straight. Your opponent is one who employs a bluff-catching strategy and will raise only with the nuts but will call with any other made hand, even one that is second best. At this point his range of probable hands is really quite limited. Because he never raised you can eliminate his holding a jack, he does not have a set, he could have a broken flush draw with two random clubs in his hand or he could have any six or four unless he bets out on the river. Your marginal pair of nines beats all of that unless he bets on the river. You are reasonably certain that your loose opponent will not call a bet on the river with a four flush. He checks the river. Your correct move against the loose-passive player is to now bet your marginal pair for value. You were called pre-flop, check-called on the flop and turn when you made a standard half the pot sized bet so a continuation bet here is likely to win you this pot. You bet half the pot and are called. You show your pair of nines and your opponent turns over a pair of sixes.

Your value bet will sometimes bet sometimes lose to someone holding an overpair like KK or QQ or even TT and who is fearful of raising without aces. But in the long term your bet for value will earn you significant profit in the long run.

When not to Value Bet

Never bet for value against the loose-passive player without a hand. Bluffing this player is suicide, period. You will be frustrated which is likely to throw you off your game. Don’t do it.

Don’t bet a marginal hand for value against a tight player, whether that player is passive or aggressive. It is likely that your marginal hand is second best and you will lose costing you considerable profits over the long haul.

Don’t bet for value against tricky players. A river check is a better move here.

In all, a bet for value with a marginal hand against a loose-passive player is a blueprint for added profit. Just use it wisely. Never bluff the calling station but you never have to give him too much credit for having a hand either.

About the Author:
Roger Fischel began playing poker with his friends in high school. Seven Card Stud and Five Card Draw were the games of choice back then. Over the years, Roger turned to Texas Hold ‘em as his game of choice. During a long career as a teacher, Roger learned the value of sharing what he knows with others as a way to give back to the community in which he shares, thus, Rags to the River Poker was born. Come visit us today.

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