Why are you Betting?

Many people bet whenever they think they have the best hand. But that’s not a sufficient reason to bet. If you think you have the best hand and will get called only by a better hand, then your bet is a loser. Do you understand why? If the only time your bet is called, you lose, it’s a losing proposition, a big losing proposition!

There are three foremost reasons you should bet.

  1. Value Bet: You should bet when you have the best hand and you think there is a better than 50% chance that your opponent will call with a worse hand. I’ve oversimplified this in order for you to easily understand the concept. In actuality you should extend your odds to take into account the odds of being raised, how your bet will influence future action or how many opponents, etc. You should also bet when you know your opponent is drawing even if you’re giving him the correct odds to draw out on you. Making them pay to draw is almost always better than checking. A good value bet is when you are a favorite over your opponent’s calling range and any additional risks you assume are not threatening enough to shift the bet into negative EV.
  2. Bluffing: You should bet when you feel you have the worst hand and there is a greater chance that your opponent will fold his hand than the price the pot is laying him. For example; if on the final card the pot contains $100, you bet $30 with an abysmal hand, and your opponent will fold more than 30% of the time, you’ve made a profitable bluff. When you’re bluffing, you’re hoping to win the pot uncontested.

You’re semi-bluffing when you bet with more cards to come, hoping your opponent folds, but can still win if you hit your hand. An example would be betting a flush draw with one card to come. You can win it immediately, or, if he calls you might make your flush.

A good bluff is when the percentage of your opponent’s total range that is better than your hand, and is also in his folding range, is greater than the odds the pot is offering him to call. Once again, that’s oversimplified, but it’s still a complicated sentence and you should reread it slowly until you understand exactly what it says. Understanding that sentence will greatly increase your bluffing equity.

  1. Betting to deny an opponent equity: You bet with what you think is the best hand and want to deny an opponent his equity. You think your opponent will fold though you may do even better if he calls. But you’ll do better if he folds the hand over giving him a free shot to beat you. An example of this might be betting AK on a flop of 7h-5c-3s when you think your opponent holds QJ. You doubt he’ll call, but betting denies him the equity of catching a queen or a jack. You should bet to deny an opponent’s equity when his folding range still has value and you assume less risk than the risk of giving him a free card.

There are other reasons to bet and many nuances within these three concepts. But it’s important to understand why it is you’re betting and not just blindly tossing in chips on a whim.  So, when you’re contemplating a bet, consider what you are trying to accomplish and ask, “Does the betting strategy fit with the current scenario?”

And if you can justify the bet, don’t be afraid to fire it in!