I had someone contact me the other day to ask me about one of my recent posts on betting and the reasons behind it. I thought that I did a pretty good job of explaining it but I will repeat what I said in this post because it is one of the most important fundamentals in poker. You need to have a reason for everything that you do at the poker table. This especially applies when you are going to place money into the middle.
Let’s face it, if we bet or raise then we are risking a percentage of our bankrolls and an even greater percentage of our buy in. So the bottom line is that you had better be sure that you are doing it for a reason. The problem is that these so called “reasons” are not grounded in logic. If you asked a player “why are you betting here” and they answered “because I have the best hand” then what sort of reason is that? If we could turn the cards on their backs and show that hero has 10c-10d on a 10s-6h-2c board while villain has the Jc-9c then betting “because you have the best hand” is simply going to get you your bet back plus the tiny pot.
So betting just because you have the best hand is not a logical way to bet. We are interested as poker players in maximising our value when we have the best hand. If checking leads to getting more value on later streets then we check……it is that simple. If you are afraid of checking and allowing your opponent to hit runner runner on you then you will never maximise your earn rate or come close to it.
Remember that you either bet for value or you bluff……..there are no other reasons. If someone bluffs because they “have the worst hand” then this is just a mirror image of the betting reason when you had the best hand. A bluff is supposed to get your opponent to fold, if there is no chance of that then you are not bluffing. What you are doing in actual fact is tossing money across the table to your opponent. Why not just cut out the middle man and instead of putting that $40 into the pot and then seeing your opponent win it, just simply say “here is $40 for you, find a nice home for it in your stack”.
You do not bluff just because you are weak in the same way that you do not bet merely because you are strong. There have to be reasons behind why you are betting. These reasons are to bet for value (or raise for value) or bluff. As I said earlier, you cannot bet for value if you cannot get called by a worse hand. You also cannot bluff if you cannot get a superior hand to fold or a player to incorrectly fold. If you are faced with a situation where betting for value is wrong and bluffing is wrong then you check……it is that simple. There are only two options in poker if the action is on us and there has been no money placed into the pot as yet, we either bet or check. We simply check if the reasons for betting for value successfully or bluffing successfully are absent.
These reasons are connected to the basic fundamental of poker in that we are either ahead or behind our opponent’s strength. On rare occasions then we can tie with the same hand but a very high percentage of the time we are ahead or behind their hand.