When we think of getting value in poker most players would assume this is through betting for value. But if we are really thinking through our opponents hand ranges we’d realize there could be some alternative lines that would gain us maximum value rather than just value. Let’s look at some situations where playing creative poker can yield us a significant increase in winrate.
Maximum value is a feature of Expected Value. It basically means gaining the highest Expected Value possible in a given situation. For the math behind Expected Value, we have an awesome very nicely priced new book on this very subject on our resources page. What I want to talk about is value we gain relating to the other possible lines we may have taken. One such line is cbetting is a top pair hand. This will almost certainly be +EV. But vs certain opponents, would a checking line that could induce more bluffs from a wide range be +++EV? Let’s look at various examples of getting value in poker:
Scenario – Hero SB vs Villain BB. Stats: 48/12, Stab 70%, fold to cbet 50%. Effective stacks 80bb.
We have A♥Q♦ and open to 3x. Villain snap calls and the Flop is Q♥5♠2♣. We know he’ll fold half the time stat wise overall and on this board it’s probably still valid. He does however like to stab when checked to. What’s more +EV, betting or checking? You might think we give up a ton of value by not betting and in many cases (like vs loose-passive opponents) you’d be right to get your value while you can.
But what about the times he has A♦J♦ and the Turn is a J, or he holds 9♥8♣ and the Turn is a 6 giving him a gutter. By checking to someone who has a wide range and folds a lot we give him the chance to improve and still be behind. Those hands would have just folded the Flop here. It’s not the end of the world if he checks back since we aren’t afraid of any Turn cards (such as overcards). He also likes to stab when checked to. A check-induce here is win-win.
You check back, he bets half pot and you call. The Turn is the A♠. A great card for you and a good scare card for a big stabber. He bets again but this time full pot. You suspect at this point he is either betting for fat value of bluffing. On such a dry board we give him some more rope and just smooth call. The River is the 7♦ giving us a board of Q♥5♠2♣A♠7♦. You check and he unfortunately checks back. He shows 6♥7♣ for 3rd pair. Had he not rivered some showdown value he may well have bet the River too. Nonetheless we gained quite a few bb’s here by paying attention. Betting is undoubtedly +EV, but checking was +++E V.
Scenario – Hero UTG vs villain BTN. Stats: 33/28, 3bet 18%, fold to cbet 30%, fold turn cbet 25%. Effective stacks 150bb.
We have T♦T♥ and open to 3x, villain calls our open and everyone else folds. The Flop is J♥T♣6♣ and we’ve flopped gin. Being deep and wanting to get stacks in, and having a board that can change quite a lot, we don’t really want this checking through so we don’t’ even care if this aggro player raises us. We cbet and he calls. The Turn is a blank 2♥ and we bet expecting another call. He calls as expected and the River is another 6♥ boating us up.
Which line is more profitable, checking or betting? If you check raise, you only get called off flushes although we do pick up some bluffs. But a bet to induce line may well yield higher EV vs this opponent. It all depends on how much you bet. Vs a thinking LAG like this, a small bet like ¼ pot will almost certainly be seen as a weak and a good LAG will have no problem turning a hand like 88 into a bluff knowing he can’t call profitably vs your range in the fashion you played it. You bet ¼ pot and he double pots it. You shove hoping to get called off a backdoor flush but he tanks and folds for a likely busted ♣ flush, pure air or weak made hand he turned into a bluff.
Betting sizing is key here. A normal sized ¾ bet is undoubtedly +EV, but sizing small vs this opponent was +++E V.
Scenario – Hero SB vs villain CO. Stats: 55/45, fold to cbet 35%. Effective stacks 100bb
We have 99 and 3bet the CO 2x open to 9x, he turbo calls. The Flop is 6♠7♠2♦. We cbet ¾ pot expecting to get floated by overcards and other junky hands. The Turn is K♥. Should we bet or check? Again let’s consider how our opponent is likely to react.
Vs betting – We both have 2/3 of stack left. As bad as he is I can’t see him calling all the way with just overcards. We’ll get called off made hands and possibly draws/gutters but can we get his stack somehow now?
Vs checking – This is a seriously dry board and we know our opponent is not fond of folding. You don’t find much postflop passivity in the 55/45 crowd. Therefore I want him to bet his gutters and overcards. When he does we can check-raise.
We check the Turn looking like we’re all scared and giving up. He stabs half pot and we check-raise all in. he’s now put over half a stack in and is looking at a 150bb pot with 50bb ish to go in. We’ve just committed him with everything but air. He thinks but calls and shows Q♠8♠. He actually has good odds here, but we got him to stack off with a drawing hand which may have given up on a missed River. Bet would work and be +EV, but check-raising here is +++EV.
Getting max value doesn’t necessarily mean juicing the pot yourself. When you have a willing opponent let them do pot building : )