When To Bet Second Pair For Value

Cristiano sent in this interesting hand and prefaces it by saying:

“Hi, James, how you doing? I would like to submit you an interesting hand I played last night at a $1/$2 table at my local poker club. The table was about to break after a five-hour session. There were three players left, all 250 big blinds deep or more, and I played pretty tight for most of the session and started loosening it up when the table got short-handed.”

In this hand we have jack/seven suited. J♠ 7♠  Again, we’re playing three-handed, so obviously we’re going to loosen up our button standards. Raise to 2-1/2 X, which is pretty small in a live game and I wouldn’t be shocked if this never gets through, but if this is the kind of game where people are opening to smaller sizes and it’s somehow working, I’m not going to complain too much.

Ended up getting called on both spots, again, not super shocked about that. Cristiano says that the big blind is a good tag and he feels that they both think on a similar level. Okay.

I end up going here, flop top pair, which is always fun. Check, check, Hero decides to bet—totally standard so far.

Ends up getting a call, okay. Go here, check, Hero decides to bet and really happy that we’re betting again. Everything looks really, really good so far. This is one of those where I’m just going to bet. If he check raises, it’s going to be a little bit of a vomit feeling in my mouth, but I’m not expecting to get check raised here every single day.

Just get called, which is always fun. Go to the river, check, and Hero decides to bet for $40.

Cristiano major question is, “The bet, in my mind, was in the gray zone, between thin value and a bluff,” and was kind of asking what my thought is on this bet, whether or not I like it, is it good, is it bad? Let’s discuss it for a minute.

Really, at the end of the day, this is one of those situations where the flop was totally standard, the term was totally standard, and the river is the curious part.

A lot of players who have been following my work forever will probably look at this and the first thing they’re going to ask themselves is okay, what does this best accomplish?

If you look at a bet like this, it’s one of those where you’re probably not getting a better hand to fold and you’re probably not getting a tremendous amount of second-best hands to continue and even if he has something like say seven/eight, we chop with that now. Now that we have the king kicker chopping, both of us.

This is one of those where it’s not like fat value by any stretch and we’re not really super bluffing or anything like that, so it’s one of those grey zones, just like you said.

A lot of players get confused here and lot of players will just check and say, “Well, it’s not a fat value bet so I’m just going to check back, be done with it,” and they’re going to win against like busted flush draws and stuff like that and whatever. It is what it is.

Quick video on The 3 Main Reasons for Betting in Poker


Now, I’m going to go the other way with it and say that I love this bet. I think this bet is fantastic, and yes, this bet is not fat value. It’s just not. We’re not getting looked at by like a ton of second-best hands, there just simply aren’t very many second-best hands in here. We’re definitely never folding on a better hand. But that being said, I don’t really think that 5X is in here ever. If the big blind had 5X, I think we would’ve heard from it by now, at least by the turn, simply because why would he take this line with 5X, when like the best thing he’s going to do is be able to check raise the river to like 200 and get a call. He has no chance of getting stacks inside, which is why I don’t think he ever has 5X.

I think he’s going to have some sort of like middling pocket pair sometimes. He’s going to have 7X as well. He’s going to have busted club draws, busted gut shots and all that kind of stuff. I think that’s kind of what we’re going to be looking at in a situation like this.

To be honest, when I bet this river, a lot of that is going to fold. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Think about what happens the other way.

Let’s just say that we checked this behind instead of betting, what do we have to do? We have to show our cards. When he just has like a busted flush draw, he checks, we check behind, we show our cards, we win the pot—awesome. But we give up a lot of information by doing that and we give up a lot of information very cheaply by doing that. Now all of a sudden he kind of has a better idea on what we’re opening from the button, what we’re C-betting with, what we’re turn-betting with, what we’re not betting the river with.

You don’t want to get to the river and only bet if you somehow showed up with like a king or five and then the rest of your range is just bluffs. That’s not very good. You’re either bluffing too much or you’re bluffing too rarely, you don’t really have like a properly thinned out range, you just are like super polarized and it’s just like, okay, what’s your weight? Is it weighted strong or weighted weak?

Learn why you should Stop Showing Your Cards!


I don’t ever want to do that. The games are getting too good for us to play that polarized, to play that black and white. Poker nowadays is getting played closer to the grey zone, much thinner. It’s not as black and white as it used to be.

So all that being said, I love this. If I checked here, I have to show my cards, I give up a lot of information. If I bet and he folds a flush draw, I still leave him guessing, he doesn’t know what I have and that’s a great thing.

You know what? When I bet and he calls me with seven/eight and we end up chopping the pot—whatever. I’m the one that’s putting him in difficult decisions, not the other way around.

I love this bet and yes, I don’t think you’d getting looked up a ton by second-best stuff, but that’s okay. This protects me from the times that I’m betting with air and also sometimes I’m going to be betting here with 5X or king-X. I have this range that’s not just black and white, but also kind of thinned, and I like that.

In this situation, he said that Villain ends up folding and ends up showing pocket sixes, we win the pot. If you can ever get someone to show you their hand like this, just encourage that and say, “Oh, man, that’s such a tough spot for you,” but really just laugh because you just win. You just crush him whenever he’s doing this kind of thing.

All that being said, again, this isn’t really so much about the hand itself, it’s about the river concept of betting a thinner range and not betting so black and white. If you’re constantly focused on only betting with the fattest of value, you’re going to be leaving a lot of money on the table as the game continues to mature because that’s just not where poker is headed.

To hear a great discussion on how not to leave money on the table check out this video on The Red Chip Poker Youtube Channel titled “Pain Thresholds In Poker“with Berkey & Soto

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