Value betting is how you’ll make most of your money at the tables. This is especially true against recreational players, who tend to be on the over-calling side of the spectrum.
Today I am going to share 3 tips for thin value bets that will help you squeeze every last drop of cash from your opponents.
But first, let’s talk about thin value betting more generally so we’re all on the same page.
What is a thin value bet?
A thin value bet is a bet that, when your opponent calls, you expect to win the pot a little over 50% of the time. In other words, it’s a value bet with a relatively marginal hand.
Let me backup that definition with an example.
$1/$2 Cash Game. $200 Effective Stacks.
You are dealt Q♥ T♥ on the button
6 folds. You raise to $5. sb folds. BB calls.
Flop ($11): T♣ 8♥ 7♠
BB checks. You bet $7. BB calls.
Turn ($25) 4♠
BB checks. You bet $17. BB calls.
River ($59) 3♥
BB checks. You…?
In this spot, you should bet for thin value. As far as sizing goes, you should bet about $40 (two-thirds pot). Let’s talk about why.
On the river, the BB must call down with at least 57% of his range to make himself unexploitable by bluffs. (This number is the BB’s minimum defense frequency in this spot. Learn how to calculate and use MDF here.)
What specific hands are apart of that 57%?
- Two pair or better that didn’t raise an earlier street (T7s, 87s, 65s)
- All top pairs (ATo, KTo, QTo, JTo, T9o, KTs, QTs, T9s, T6s)
- Bluff-catchers that block straights and don’t block many bluffs (86s, 76s, 66)
Against that range, your Q♥ T♥ wins the pot ~56% of the time. Thus, this should be regarded as a thin value bet.
What if they don’t call down with that specific range, you ask? That depends:
- If they call down with fewer hands, your thin value bets will make less money but your bluffs will make more.
- If they call down with more hands, your thin value bets will make more money but your bluffs will make less.
If you have a reliable read on how your opponent will react to a river bet, you can adjust your betting range accordingly–for instance, bluffing more often if they over-fold. Otherwise, simply bet with a balanced and well-considered range and give your opponent the chance to make a mistake.
How much do thin value bets matter?
Below I have calculated the EV difference between betting and checking on the river in the Q♥ T♥ hand. Keep in mind we have 75% equity versus the big blind’s river range and 56% equity versus the big blind’s river calling range.
(I got these numbers from a Flopzilla calculation of this spot. You can see the calculation here or just take my word for it.)
+1.35 big blinds is a notable difference, and missing these thin value bets will definitely have an impact on your win-rate.
Now, let’s dive into the tips.
Tip #1: Value bet much more against calling stations
Against really loose and calling station-type players you need to buckle up, prepare for some variance, and start value betting what would appear to be very thin.
For example, if you saw your opponent call down with a K7s on the T♣ 8♥ 7♠ 4♠ 3♥ board above, then you should start value betting with medium strength hands like 99 and A8s, starting with a bet on the flop followed by barrels on the turn and river.
This type of adjustment is a huge strategic overhaul, especially if you usually check those medium strength hands on the flop.
Since poker is a yin and yang type of game, you will need to drastically shrink your bluffing range because they are going to result in massive losses against this type of player. There’s an old (and incorrect) poker adage that goes “never bluff a fish,” but a more accurate version would be “never bluff a calling station.”
Tip #2: When in doubt, bet
As a general rule, any time you’re unsure if your hand is a thin value bet or not, it’s probably best to just go for the bet.
There are three benefits from doing this:
- You will get to know your opponent faster
You’ll get to see what she snap-calls with, what she tank-calls with, and she might even show you what she folds. All of this is vital information when coming up with a counter-strategy.
- You will build an aggressive image for yourself
When the other players perceive you as aggressive, you can use it to your advantage in the future. You’ll be able to either value bet more thinly or bluff more, depending on how your opponents react to your increased aggression.
- You will build experience
You need to take some risks to become good at poker. Seeing how far you can push your thin value bets will accomplish this. There will be a learning curve, but if you don’t try, you’ll learn much slower.
Tip #3: Value bet thinly when obvious draws have missed
When the board runs out in such a way that a lot of draws have missed, especially the flush draws, you should fire thin value bets much more freely. Most semi-competent opponents will notice that the draws have missed, and so they will call more often and with a wider range.
However, this also means you need to be more selective when bluffing. You should still bluff, though.
Even if a particular bluff is break even or slightly losing, it doesn’t mean it was bad in the grand scheme of things. When you are playing in a small player pool, for instance, the other regulars will notice that you avoid bluffing when the draws miss, and will stop calling your value bets as a result.
So, keep bluffing when draws miss, just be careful not go overboard. The last thing you want to do is over-bluff these spots.
Poker is a complex game, consisting of many gray areas where there isn’t a strictly right or wrong play to make. Therefore, to master the game you need to master the gray areas. Thin value betting is a great place to start.
If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, please drop a comment below!
Until next time, good luck out there, grinders!
Read more from Upswing Poker:
- 10 Cash Game Poker Tips for Dominating the Table
- Learn the right approach for 3-betting in poker
- 8 Proven Strategies for Crushing Micro Stakes Games
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