Poker is a game full of contradictions and competing ideas, and one of the trickiest balancing acts players will have to manage is betting, and walking the tightrope between getting value and bluffing your opponents. In this article I’ll try to outline the three reasons you should be betting your hand, and how you can find some kind of balance between the two.
The three reasons for betting are: To get value from your best hands; to charge players on a draw; and to bluff better hands out of the pot. Below you will find some basics of these three concepts, and I highly recommend you put some serious thought and study-time into this part of your game.
Value-betting is about as simple a concept as you will find; bet your hand when you have a better hand than your opponent. However, knowing when to value-bet and precisely how much you should bet is a bit trickier. Value-betting is one of the hardest parts of the game to master: when to bet, how much to bet, and how to avoid being bluffed.
The less secure you are that you have the best hand means you will want to value-bet less often, and for less money. But there is another reason to avoid going for the jugular too, and this is when you’re not sure your opponent has an overly strong hand.
Unlike value-betting, where your goal is to extract the maximum amount of money from inferior hands, when you are charging players to draw you are trying to give them a reason to call, but make sure they are paying as much as they are willing.
Think of charging for a draw like a negotiation where you can only make a single offer, you want your opponent to either pay the maximum or just walk away. What you don’t want is for your opponent is to haggle with you, lowering your price to where you are only eking out a little bit of profit, essentially giving him the upper hand in the negotiation.
Bluffing is the wild-card in poker. By bluffing a player gives himself a chance to win with the worst hand. Bluffing is what makes poker so different from other strategy games, allowing players to win without having the best hand –imagine a game of backgammon where you are at a huge disadvantage but convince your opponent you are going to win and he should just resign now instead of accepting your double.
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