Value Betting the River

Value Betting the River river

No limit Texas Hold’em is about maximising your winnings and minimising your loses. That’s all well and good to say but how do you go around doing it? One way to maximise your winnings is to be able to know when to value bet the river and when not to. You will usually find people who don’t value bet enough and people who value bet too much, this is because they probably aren’t  thinking about value betting in fact if you ask most of them the logic behind betting or checking the river most won’t be able to give you an answer.

To find out whether or not you should be value betting a river you should ask yourself; By betting this river am I extracting more value out of the opponent than if I just checked this river? It’s a simple enough question but the answer is very complicated. Let’s go through a few examples to get the thought process.

An Example of when not to value bet

We are heads up with an opponent, for arguments sake we are assuming our opponent is a knowledgeable unknown. The board reads 10h9h8c7dAd , we are on the button with 65 and the player has checked to us.

Should we bet?

At first if you look at our hand strength we are holding a straight some players might think this is a sure fire reason to bet. Let’s stop for a minute and think about what happens when we bet. The only hands he will call with are hands that beat you; he’s not going to call with anything lower than a 10 high straight due to the four card straight being on the board. So if we check behind we are not losing any value and if we bet we are in fact losing value because in the case that the opponent has us beat he is going to call or raise and we lose the bet we’ve put out.

An Example of when to value bet

Now if we look at a second extreme example where a value bet this time is feasible. The board readsAhAcAdKh8d, we are on the button again and we look down at A3.

Should we bet?

Here we are holding the stone cold nuts and if we bet we are gaining value from betting because all hands that our opponent will call us are worse than ours. Realistically he may call us with any 8 or any king and we would gain value if he calls with either of these hands. If we check behind we are losing all the value of him calling with a worst hand than ours, so in this scenario a value bet is strongly recommended.

These two examples are extreme examples of knowing when to value bet but what they do show you is the thought process each player should be going through when thinking whether he should check or bet on the river. The third and final example is a more complex one and will depend on the player:

An example when it’s not so simple:

The board reads 2h3dJc10d7c, preflop there was no raise, there was a bet by your opponent on the flop, the turn was again bet by your opponent and now you’re on the button again looking down at A10 and your opponent has checked the river to you.

Should We Bet?

Now this is completely opponent dependent, if your opponent is very aggressive he’s likely to bet the river with a jack so if he’s checked to you there is probably value in betting because he could call you with a 2 or 3 or even  a worse 10 as we can rule a jack out of his hand range . However if your opponent is very tight it might be much more plausible that he has bet the flop and turn with a jack and then checked to your on the river. If he is tight its much less likely he holds a 2 or a 3 or a 7 and will most likely only call you if he holds a better hand so there is no point in value betting this river thus we would lean toward a check.

This last hand is much more complicated than the last two, the point being that you must pay attention to the tendencies of your opponents in order to be able to make profitable value bets on the river. The bottom line is if you are not paying attention to your opponents playing abilities your win rate is going to suffer. Not all value bets are clear cut and like with any poker play you are going to have to experiment with it and ask advice with the community, but one thing can be said if you aren’t using this thought process on the river you are missing out. 

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One Response to “Value Betting the River”

  1. Dave Pappas says:

    very informative article here