Value Betting in Poker

Our comprehensive guide to value betting in poker with definitions, examples, tips, when to place a value bet, and how to play against one.

Value betting is one of the most important skills to master in poker. Being able to value bet the right hands for the right size could be the difference between being a winning player or a breakeven/losing player.

What Is a Value Bet in Poker

A value bet is a bet that you make when you are trying to get a call from a worse hand. This is the opposite of bluffing, where you are betting to try and get a better hand to fold. A value bet can be made on either the flop, turn, or river.

Thin Value Bets

A thin value bet is where you bet a hand for value that only beats a very weak part of your opponent’s range, often for a small size – aiming to get the most value you can from your marginal hand. People often don’t make enough thin value bets as they are worried about getting called by a better hand – which will happen some of the time – but it’s part of the territory when trying to value bet and it’s worth it to try and get the extra value from your opponent.

There’s an old saying that’s important to remember – “If you’re never getting called by better when you value bet, you’re not value betting enough”.

Fat Value Bets

A fat value bet is a value bet that uses a very big sizing, aiming to get the maximum possible from your opponents. These bets are usually made with very strong hands which are almost certain to be the best hand. This is the opposite of a thin value bet where you’re betting small with a relatively weak hand to get called by the worst hands in your opponent’s calling range.

Pot-Sized Bets

A pot-sized bet only relates to the size of the bet you’re making and doesn’t give any information with regards to your hand strength. You can make a pot-sized bet with a bluff or with a value bet. However, a value bet is a hand that is specifically bet to get called by a worse hand, regardless of the size. For more information on different bet types check out our Bet Types page.

How To Value Bet In Poker

Now that we’ve seen what a value bet is, let’s look at how we do it:

Value Bet Size

The size with which you value bet will depend on the strength of your hand. Additionally, it will also depend on the board texture as well as how much equity your range has compared to your opponents.

While it might sound like an exploitable strategy to bet based on the strength of your hand – you have to factor in how your opponent responds to different bet sizes. Most players will fold weaker parts of their range to larger bet sizes and will call a wider portion of their range to small bet sizes.

This means that when we make thin value bets, the size we choose could make the difference between the value bet being profitable and unprofitable.

Value Bet Frequency

The frequency at which you value bet will be determined by the number of hands in your range that beat a large enough portion of your opponent’s range. In a spot where you have a significant range advantage, you will have a large value betting range because you will have many hands that beat enough hands in your opponent’s range. However, in spots where the equities run closer your value betting range will narrow.

The clearest example of this is in 4bet pots where ranges are a lot more narrow and defined so let’s look at an example. In a $1/$2 cash game, hero opens to $6 in the CO, the BTN 3bets to $18, hero 4bets to $45 and the CO calls and the flop comes AK3. Let’s look at the ranges of the two players:

Hero: TT-AA/AK/AQ/AJs/A2s-A5s

Villain: 66-TT/ATs-AQs/87s-KQs/QTs+/KTs+

If we look at the two ranges, hero’s range is predominantly Ax hands and villain’s range only has a handful of Ax combos. This means that the majority of hero’s range can be value bet on the flop so the value bet frequency is going to be very high.

On boards where equities run closer and there isn’t such a disparity in strong hands such as 654 in a BTN vs BB scenario, much less of hero’s range is strong enough to value bet so the value betting frequency goes down.

Value Bet Position

Your position is your power in poker. Being able to act last post-flop is a huge advantage as it forces your opponent to make an action that defines their hand range. Value betting is therefore much easier when you’re in position as you have that extra street of information on your opponent – which could be the difference between a hand being a value bet or not.

You should be making value bets both in position and out of position but you’ll find generally you’ll be checking more when you’re out of position. This is partly to balance your checking range but sometimes you’ll find there is more value in going for a check-raise rather than a value bet – specifically on boards where you will expect your opponent to often bet.

River Value Bets

The river is not only your last opportunity to win any money from your opponents, it’s the point in the hand where the pots are the largest. Therefore being able to appropriately value bet on the river could be the difference between being a winning player or a breakeven/losing player.

By the river, you should have managed to significantly narrow your opponent’s range from preflop to the point where you should have a decent idea of how your hand performs against their range. It’s important to remember that your hand needs to beat enough of your opponent’s calling range for it to be a profitable value bet. There is not a lot of point in betting the river if there’s only one hand in your opponent’s range you beat but you lose to the other 16 hands that call.

On the river, there are also no more possibilities for draws as there are no more cards to come. You need to factor that into your range analysis as your value bet on the turn may have been getting called by some draws which now will not be able to call a river bet, meaning their calling range will become tighter.

Value Betting Examples

Here are two examples of value betting:

Example 1

In this example, Tom Dwan starts the hand by semi-bluffing the flop with his flush draw against Phil Laak’s top pair. When Tom makes his flush on the turn he puts out a decent-sized value bet which Phil calls. When the river is a brick Tom goes for a fat value bet – over 2 times the pot – and Phil pays him off.

Example 2

In this example, let’s look at a hand that is a clear and obvious value bet.

Preflop

Hero is on the button in a $1/$2 cash game with AK and raises to $6. Our opponent calls in the big blind and we go to the flop.

Flop

The flop comes J85, our opponent checks, hero bets $8 into a $13 pot, and our opponent calls. This is the first value bet hero makes in the hand as they have the absolute nuts and want to get called by their opponent.

Turn

The turn is the 3 and our opponent checks again. Hero still has the nuts in this spot so will be going for another value bet. Our opponent checks and this time hero bets $22 into a $29 pot and our opponent calls again. We’re getting into the territory of a fat value bet here!

River

The river is the J – hero no longer has the nuts as any full house beats us but this is still a great spot for a value bet. Our opponent checks and hero bets $70 into a $74 pot. Our opponent calls and shows QJ and we take down a big pot with our flush.

We were able to win such a big pot by value betting aggressively on every street. Some players might be tempted to bet smaller when the board pairs – scared of getting raised by a full house – but in doing so they will miss out on huge amounts of value from worse hands our opponent has.

Value Betting In Poker: Thin, Fat & Pot-Sized Value Bets
Value Betting In Poker: Thin, Fat & Pot-Sized Value Bets

Value Betting Tips

Even though we now know what a value bet is, it can be hard to know exactly when to use them. Here are some useful tips to help you make your decisions in-game.

Multi-Way Pots vs Heads-Up Pots

Your value betting strategy should change significantly depending on whether the pot is multi-way or heads-up as it’s very different playing against multiple opponents compared to just one.

When you’re playing against more than one opponent your range needs to be tighter as you’re up against twice the combinations of cards and ranges you’re up against in a heads-up pot. The more players there are in a pot the more likely it is that someone has a good hand to be able to call your bet.

Due to this, we need to value bet tighter (because the average hand strength goes up the more players there are in the hand) so some of the thin value bets we would make in heads-up pots become better checks as your opponents are more likely to fold those hands that we’re beating.

Cash Games vs Tournaments

Cash games and tournaments play very differently from each other because of the difference in format. In tournaments, if you lose all of your chips – you’re out (unless you’re in the rebuy/reentry phase of a tournament) which means your chips become a lot more valuable the fewer you have as your tournament life hangs in the balance. 

This means your tournament value betting strategy should tighten up compared to your cash game strategy. As you become shorter stacked, it’s worse for you to lose chips than if you had a big stack so some of your thinnest value bets may become checks. This is because the possibility of losing 1 or 2 of your 10bb stack is worse than the possible gain of 1 or 2 bb with regards to your tournament life.

(Daniel Negreanu Explains Checking vs Value Betting

However, in cash games, if you run out of money you’re able to instantly reload and continue as you were before. Therefore, in cash games, you are incentivized to go after every single edge you can find as there is no extra punishment for losing the hand. We want to value bet as often as we think it’s good – with no tournament-life considerations we want to be getting as much value as possible.

Opponent’s Playing Styles

The way your opponent plays should drastically affect the way you value bet. Depending on your opponent type there can be whole subranges of hands that you would value bet against one opponent but would never be a value bet against another.

Calling Station

Calling Stations are the players you want to value bet against the most. As the name suggests they call way too often so value betting is going to be the only way to make money against them (bluffing is unlikely to work!). Against these players, you’ll be able to increase your sizings and have their calling range stay roughly the same so you’ll find that your thin value bets can be made for a bigger sizing than usual

Nits

Given that nits play a very narrow range of hands and only continue on flops when they hit a big piece, it’s tough to make good value bets against them without very strong hands. Against these players, you’ll want to cut out a lot of your thin value bets as they will likely fold the range that you’re targeting and will only call with better.

LAGs

Playing against loose-aggressive players can be tricky as they put you under a lot of pressure with their aggressive play. When you’re making value bets against these players you need to be prepared for them to raise and have a plan for that. You may decide you want to induce a raise by using a small sizing that looks weak, or, if they’re aggressive enough, just get a good pair and hold on for dear life!

Opponent Bluffing The River If Checked To

There are sometimes where you could have the best hand, but your hand is only beating your opponent’s missed draws and loses to their value hands. In these spots, you have what’s called a bluff catcher.

If you try and value bet, all your opponent’s worse hands (the missed draws with no showdown value) will fold and all their better hands will call. In these situations, it would be better to check and allow your opponent to bluff.

Pros & Cons of Value Betting

Value betting is a very important tool in a poker player’s arsenal, it gives you a way of getting money from your opponents.

There are several benefits to value betting in poker:

  • When we value bet, we get value from hands opponent would check back if we didn’t bet.
  • Players at lower stakes will call bets more often than they should, making value bets more profitable.
  • Constantly making aggressive actions puts your opponent on the back-foot and makes you tougher to play against.

However, sometimes value betting may not be the best option and would be worse than checking.

There are some drawbacks to value betting:

  • When we value bet we make it less likely our opponent will bluff with hands that have no showdown value.
  • Sometimes there will be more value in check-raising a spot than betting yourself.
  • Some players may play too tight and overfold vs our bets which will make our value bets unprofitable.

When To Value Bet

Now we know why we should or shouldn’t value bet, let’s look at when we should:

When You Likely Have The Best Hand

This is the most obvious spot to value bet, as when we have the best hand we want to make sure money goes into the pot. Relying on your opponent to put in money is risky depending on the type of player you’re up against so it’s usually better to bet yourself to try and build the pot.

When You Don’t Think Your Opponent Will Bluff When Checked To

One of the reasons we may elect not to value bet is if we think our opponent has a lot of hands they can bluff with. However, if our opponent doesn’t have many hands in their range they need to bluff but still have worse hands they can call with, then it would be more profitable to value bet.

Similarly, if your opponent is a very passive player who rarely bluffs even with hands that should be bluffed then we should be value betting as we can’t rely on our opponent to bluff enough. 

If You Think Your Opponent Will Check Behind All Hands You Beat

If you don’t think your opponent will value bet any worse hands than yourself then you will be missing out on value if you decide not to value bet. You have to decide whether or not they bluff with enough hands to compensate, but in most low-stakes games people don’t bluff enough or value bet enough so to make the most money you should be value betting yourself.

When To Avoid Value Betting

Now, we don’t want to be value betting every time we have the opportunity, there are times when it’s better to check than value bet. Spots where you should avoid value betting are the opposite of the times when you should be value betting:

  • When you are unlikely to have the best hand
  • If you think your opponent has a large range of hands that they will bluff with if you check
  • If you think your opponent will value bet some worse hands than the one you have.

That last one is important. The reason it’s better to check if you think your opponent will value bet worse hands is because when this happens, not only do you win money the times your opponent has those worse value bets but you also beat all of their bluffs. If you’re the one value betting you still win money from the worse value hands but you don’t make any extra money from their bluffs.

How To Play Against a Value Bet

It can be hard to identify when someone is value betting as most players these days are using the same sizings for their bluffs and their value bets. However, there are some players who will still bet bigger with their value hands (especially their strong value hands) and smaller with their weaker hands so it’s worth paying attention to your opponent’s betting patterns to see if this is what they’re doing.

Definition of Value Betting
Definition of Value Betting

If you have a hand that is considering calling a bet, the first thing to do is consider the range of hands that your opponent is betting. The first question you should ask yourself is ‘Do I beat any of my opponent’s value range?’. If the answer is yes then you should at least call, if you can beat a portion of your opponent’s value betting range as well as their bluffs then your call is very likely to be profitable. If your hand is strong enough then you should also consider raising to try and get value from your opponent.

If you don’t beat any of your opponent’s value betting range you have a ‘bluff-catcher’ or a hand that can only beat a bluff. In these scenarios, you want to consider how many hands your opponent has to bet for value with and how many hands they have to bluff with. From there it’s a math calculation – does my opponent have enough bluffs compared to value bets for me to win given the odds I’ve been laid? If they do then you should call and if they don’t then you should fold.

This is why hand reading is a very important skill in poker as it allows you to make those decisions far more accurately.

Value Betting – FAQ

Answers to common questions about value betting in poker:

What is value betting in poker?

Value betting in poker is making a bet that is specifically made to get called by a worse hand from your opponent.

Is value betting profitable in poker?

Definitely! It’s one of the few ways you can gain money from your opponents so if you’re not using value betting as part of your arsenal you’re missing out on a ton of money.

In which position should you value bet in poker?

You can value bet from any position in poker. However, you will find it easier to make value bets when you’re in position as having your opponent act first gives you more information on their range.

What hands should you value bet?

You should value bet any hand that you think will get called by enough worse hands in your opponent’s range. This could be a hand as strong as the nuts or as weak as 3rd or 4th pair.

What hands should you never value bet?

You shouldn’t value bet hands that aren’t going to get called by worse hands or in spots where you think your opponent will bluff a worse hand more than they will call with a worse hand.

Are poker value bets the same as c-bets?

They are not the same but they’re also not mutually exclusive. For example, a c-bet can also be a value bet, however, not all value bets are c-bets.

Is value betting the same as bluffing in poker?

No, in fact, they are polar opposites! Value betting is making a bet specifically to get called by a better hand whereas bluffing is betting specifically to get a better hand to fold.

What does extracting value mean in Texas Hold’em?

Extracting value is another way to describe value betting, usually when you are aiming to get called by one of the weaker hands in your opponent’s range as it’s implied you have to work a little harder to get that value.

Using the knowledge in this article you should now be more prepared to use value betting to gain extra chips from your opponents at the tables.