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Learn to Bluff (and Value Bet) like the Pros

When I start coaching a new poker player, I’ll often begin with this question: why do we bet in poker? Getting the answer right will make all of the difference. If you’re frequently unsure of what to do post-flop, then the following information is really going to help you.

We can break it down into three simple rules. Any time we choose to bet, it should satisfy one of these rules.

In this poker streaming highlight I go into great detail with specific examples to explain these ideas around when to value bet and when to bluff. Pay attention to the first JJ hand that happens on the upper-left table.

Video Notes

In the illustrative hand, we raise JJ and face a 3-bet from the Small Blind. We call. And an interesting hand ensues.

One interesting question here that Mike considers: how passive most an opponent be such that you start taking the highly exploitative line of folding your entire range vs. their aggression. In this case, we’re facing a post-flop bet-check-bet line (across the three streets). How do we identify these players? What are the most useful statistics?

Or imagine you raise QQ preflop and call a 3-bet. Flop is 222. What kind of player are folding to, when he fires multiple barrels? Most people are probably standardizing their strategy versus everyone and not folding enough versus the more passive players.

Another interesting hand comes up where we have 33 on a T73 flop (two-tone). We face some pressure on the river, but villain is representing such a narrow range we choose to call.

Pro tip: evaluate how much time you’re taking with your decisions. Could you spend more time? Are you spending too much time when it’s not really necessary?

Then the a viewer asks the key question that motivated this highlight: should we bet for information on the turn to find out if we’re ahead. This is in regards to the first JJ hand.

Mike responds that betting for information is RARELY a good idea. Information just isn’t worth that much. The only place that it makes sense is if it’s otherwise a break-even decision (e.g. your opponent is balanced).

Also, with respect to the turn spot, people bet too much there. What worse hands call us?

We bet in poker for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. Bluff: get better to fold (not happening here)
  2. Value bet: get called by a worse hand (maybe TT, but many don’t 3-bet that, and it’s more likely he has QQ-AA even if we discount those hands because sometimes he raises them)
  3. Protection (but if most of your opponents outs are 3 or less, you don’t need to protect)

Mike uses the term “merge point” to describe the situation where neither 1 or 2 are true. If we bet, no better hands fold and no worse hands call. Usually a bad spot to bet but a good spot to induce!

Consider 87 on 755, this would be at merge point, but it is an exception. Now MUCH of our opponents range are 6 “outters”! We gain a great deal of equity by getting him to fold.

Maybe the Problem is Preflop?

It’s possible we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If you’re not using the right pre-flop ranges, it’s entirely possible that no matter what you do post-flop, you’re going to constantly feel like you’re getting coolered or outdrawn.

Check to see if any of these apply to you: the 5 biggest preflop mistakes.

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