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Poker Life: Can Your Hand Beat a Value Bet?

Thu, Feb 9, 8:53am by Poker Guru

You often hear poker players say things like ‘I put you on ace king’, and isn’t it wonderful when you successfully call out your opponent’s hand before folding. ‘You have a pair of nines and I am going to fold’ and then your opponent reluctantly shows exactly that hand. That is a great feeling. Or maybe he shows a pair of eights and tells you that you were close.

This may indicate that you should put your opponent on a hand, and base your decision on that. Actually, I think that is exactly what many weak players do. Of course you and I do not do that, we put our opponents on ranges of hands. A typical range can look something like this: Ace-Jack or better, a medium pair or a bluff. It is important to remember that the bluff should almost always be part of the range. You may not think he is bluffing now but he will be bluffing sometimes. Ideally you should also set percentage figures, e.g. 60% Ace-Jack or better, 25% medium pair and 15% bluff.

When professional players spend minutes on a decision they are first deciding on the range of their opponent, and then doing the math. When the decision is close, that is going to take some time.

You should also think about your own range, i.e. what you think your opponents think that you are holding? Against a weak player your range might be a specific hand, very often Ace-King, and if your read is right it makes things a lot easier. You would still put him on a range but you do not have to ‘multiply’ that with the range that your opponent is putting you on.

I have kept watching Doug Polk’s Youtube channel and he keeps coming back to the range your opponent is putting you on. His general advice is that if your hand is at the strong end of your range, you should call/raise, and if your hand is at the weak end of your range, you should fold. Please note that your hand will sometimes be stronger than your range—your actions on previous rounds may not make sense for the hand you are holding. If your opponent then bets into you, use this to your advantage and call/raise. You might even win against a value bet!

That is going to be this week’s piece of advice: If your hand is strong enough to beat a value bet, you should call. I am not saying that you need to beat all value bets, but some.


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