Reasons For Betting In Poker

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In Poker we always want to have a solid reason for making every action. If you fully understand WHY you do X or Y, it makes poker much more profitable and allows you to grow as a player much quicker. Many players have a semblance of an idea why they bet or raise, but you really need to 100% understand the reasons for betting in poker.  Know what your bet accomplishes and if betting is going to be the most +EV play. There are 3 main reasons betting/raising…and this video will explain them all clearly. Same as always, if you prefer reading check out the script below. Enjoy!

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Hello, and welcome to today’s Quick Plays video on why we bet or raise in poker. Understanding the reasons behind betting or raising is one of the most fundamental pieces of information needed for any poker player. In this video I will show you the real reasons for betting or raising, some common misunderstandings, and use some examples to make sense of it all!

There are three main reasons why we bet or raise in poker. First, is betting for value, in that enough worse hands will continue. Second is betting as a bluff, in that enough hands will fold to make our bet profitable. And third is to fold out our opponent’s equity share in a pot.

betting reasons

In general we should focus on the first two, since the majority of our bets should either be value bets or bluffs. For a bet to be for value we need to be ahead of at least 51% of their continuing range. And a good bluff means villain folds more often than the breakeven % given our bluff size. If you aren’t sure what I mean by that, check out our free video on breakeven poker math!

This concept is probably more easy to visualize with an example. So let’s look at some hands…

In this first hand we open from MP with A♥K♥ and get called by the button. We see a heads up flop of A♠8♠5♦ and continuation bet. If we think about WHY we are betting here, this is a bet for value. We expect that when villain gives our bet action we will be ahead of his range. Sure, he won’t fold hands like 88, 55, or A8…but wouldn’t he continue with many worse hands like AQ, 99, 76, and spades? We can expect to be far ahead of his continuing range…and thus this is a classic value bet.

The button calls and the turn is a Q♦. We bet and villain raises. For practice, let’s consider what a raise would accomplish here. If we 3bet this turn, how would villain give us action? One of the biggest misunderstandings newer players have is over-valuing hands like top pair/top kicker. They bet and raise this hand strength constantly JUST because they have top pair/top kicker. But everything we do in poker is relative to our opponent, their ranges, and the board…so your reasoning for doing anything in poker should never be purely based upon your exact hand strength.

nit raise

Assume for a moment that villain would raise this turn only with AQ and slow played 88 and 55. This range may or may not be correct, but we’ll use just use it to simplify the spot. If we were to 3bet this turn would he ever fold a better hand? Probably not. And if we 3bet the turn does he ever continue with a worse hand? Well if we didn’t think he’d raise with a worse hand, he can’t all of the sudden continue with one. So a 3bet isn’t for value because not enough worse hands continue, and it’s not a good bluff since villain won’t ever fold.

Whenever that is the case, it tells you that it’s a bad spot to raise…since the raise doesn’t accomplish anything other than losing you even more money. But what if we change villain’s range slightly and assume he’s raising the turn with AQ, 88, and 55, but also AT, 99, and 98. Now we are ahead of more of his raising range…but is a 3bet going to be good?

Players new to this concept may see that we are crushing some of the hands in his raising range and think “of course I can 3bet for value now!” But remember, it’s only a value re-raise if villain would CONTINUE with enough of those worse hands. If he’d only give our 3bet action with AQ, 88, and 55 and fold all the rest…the 3bet isn’t going to generate postflop value. Rather it would turn our hand into a bluff AND fold out his equity share of the 99, 98, and AT.

In this second hand we face an open-raise from EP, MP calls, and we squeeze from the cutoff with KK. Only MP calls and we see a HU flop of T93 rainbow. He checks and we bet. Now this bet accomplishes two things:

1. It’s for value. Only a few combos of hands beat us (TT, 99, and maybe T9s or 33 if he calls with that preflop). But worse hands like Tx, or JJ can surely continue and maybe 88 or 77 will call a bet. We can certainly expect to be ahead of the majority of many realistic continuing ranges.

2. This also folds out his equity from hands like KQ and AQ. These hands have varying levels of equity against our hand and while we are beating these hands right now, there is a chance they improve and beat us on future streets. Our bet here isn’t for value against these hands since they will likey fold against our bet, but if they will fold then we are denying them their equity share in the pot.

Whenever you make a bet or raise in poker, or if you are even considering making one, you should always know what it’s accomplishing. Are enough worse hands continuing to make a value bet? Are enough hands going to fold given my bluff size? Should I deny my opponent their equity share or will they make sizable mistakes the the large chunk of the time that they don’t improve on their equity? These are the starting questions you should always ask yourself before taking an aggressive action.  This questioning keeps you from turning showdown value hands into bluffs!

And lastly, there are 3 main notes I want to leave you with:

1. It’s much easier to value bet or raise against bad players since they will continue with wider ranges
2. It’s much easier to bluff tight players since they will only continue with stronger ranges and thus fold more often
3. Focus on value and bluffs for your main reasons for betting. Denying villain their equity share can be prudent…but it’s usually not the MAIN reason for making a bet or raise.  Also notice that “betting for protection” was never listed as a main reason for being or raising!

Whether you are a brand new player, or a seasoned poker grinder, you need to understand this fundamental element of poker. Everything we do on the tables should be deliberate and thought out…so every bet or raise we make should be done with purpose and a clear understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. Understand this first…and it will make future play more fun and profitable!

Same as always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know…otherwise good luck and happy grinding!

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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