What Is a Value Bet: Sizing and Effective Situations

Poker Academy
22 Jun 2024
Holdem Strategy
22 Jun 2024

One of the first terms you'll likely encounter when you start playing poker is "value bet."

A value bet is one of the most fundamental concepts in poker, used by players from beginners to advanced. Let's dive into the details of value betting!

What Is a Value Bet?

A value bet refers to a bet made with a hand stronger than your opponent's, or more specifically, a bet you make when you have more equity than your opponent.

For example, if you hold K♦︎T♦︎ on the board K♠︎Q♣︎8♦︎, and your opponent has A♣︎9♣︎, your bet is a value bet.

But there's a tiny nuance:

A true value bet should not only be bet into a weaker range but also be called by weaker hands.

Therefore, the main goal of value bets is to extract more chips from your opponent's weaker hands.

The Difference Between Value Bets and Bluffs

The opposite concept to value betting is bluffing.

While a value bet aims to get a call from a weaker hand, a bluff aims to make stronger hands to fold.

For example, betting or raising with Q♦︎6♦︎, which is a pure air hand on the board like T♠︎8♥7♠︎4♥T♣︎, against your opponent's A♦︎4♦︎ set, is considered a bluff.

Value betting and bluffing are the cornerstones of any poker strategy.

How to Size a Value Bet?

One of the most challenging aspects of value betting is determining the optimal size of the bet.

While you want to bet enough to extract maximum value, betting too much might make your opponent fold. The goal of a value bet is to extract the maximum amount of chips from weaker hands.

The size of a value bet can vary depending on the board texture. On a dry board, where there’s little risk of your opponent hitting a draw, smaller value bets are often chosen.

The small bet strategy allows you to exploit the pool's tendency to under-defend against under-bets.

Conversely, on wet (draw-heavy) boards, where your made hands are more vulnerable, larger sizings are more common.

It's really important to always assess the situation (i.e., board texture, ranges, player tendencies, etc.) and adjust the bet sizes not only to maximize value but to defend your hand as well.

Key Considerations Before Value Betting

There are many factors to consider when value betting, but the opponent's range and their playing style are crucial.

Is Your Opponent a Fish?

If your opponent is a fish (recreational player), they are more likely to call with too many hands (that's why we call them 'calling staions').

Moreover, fish are typically inelastic to your bet sizes, so you should consider making larger value bets. Sometimes, it can even be okay to overbet by as much as twice the pot or even more.

Don't hesitate to value bet against fish with weak top pairs or even second pairs. You don’t need to hold the nuts like straights or flushes against such opponents.

In summary, if your opponent is a fish, make larger than usual value bets.

For more on exploiting fish, check out the video "Exploring Fish Tendencies in Hand2Note".

Understanding Your Opponent's Range

The composition of your opponent's range heavily influences the size of your value bets. 

For example, if the opponent's range contains a lot of top pairs, and you have a monster like two pairs or better, a large value bet will likely get called.

Conversely, if you have a top pair and your opponent's range is highly polarized, consisting mostly of two pairs+ or nothing, making a value bet may be ineffective. Stronger hands will call, and weaker hands will fold.

Always consider your opponent's range and where you are targeting your value bets.

What is a Thin Value Bet?

A thin value bet is used when you have a marginal hand and you believe the opponent will call often enough with weaker hands.

The purpose of thin value bets is to extract additional/subtle value from your opponent, which can accumulate and make a difference in the long run.

For more details on this topic, check out "How to Earn More Thin Value with Weak Pairs"

Value Bets Examples

How should value bets be executed? Here are two common examples.

Example #1

You raise pre-flop, and the SB calls. You hold 7♠︎7♦︎ — an overpair to the board 4♠︎3♥3♦︎. You likely have the best hand, but how much should you bet?

In this situation, 7♠️7♦️ is certainly strong enough for a value bet, but it is vulnerable to overcards. You don't want your opponent to see cheap the turn and  river cards. Thus, a larger bet (75%-100% of the pot) is advisable.

You should prevent your opponent from realizing their equity.

Bet big enough to discourage them from calling with overcards that might improve.

Example #2

Now, what happens when you have a hand close to the nuts?

Suppose, you have a nearly nut hand like Q♠︎Q♦︎ on the board K♠︎Q♥5♦︎7♣︎5♥. You want to extract as many chips as possible. What size should you bet?

Given the action (your opponent called a pre-flop open-raise, a 25% pot bet on the flop, and a 72% pot bet on the turn), so the opponent likely has at least a middle pair.

With your very strong hand, a large value bet (75-100% of the pot) would be optimal. If you bet too small, you risk missing out on potential value.

When you have a strong hand, such as the nuts, and your opponent likely has a made hand as well, it's advantageous to bet aggressively. This approach tends to be more profitable in the long run compared to any tricky slowplay.

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