Say you’re sitting on a poker table. The game is no limit hold-em, you’ve been dealt your hole cards, seen the flop, the turn, now the river comes out, and you’re only too happy to see you’ve got the nuts! Well you can’t just sit there, you have to capitalize on this. The key to being successful in poker is to maximize your winnings while minimizing your losses. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing free poker or real money poker, you should be playing to win.
You’ve got the nuts, you know for a fact you can’t be beat, at worst you’ll split the pot, you have to place a value bet. The only question is – how much do you bet? If you bet too much, the whole table may fold. If you don’t bet enough, you may not get as much as you could have for the hand. So how much do you bet? Well, the answer to that question is not so simple. The situation is different with every hand. You have to consider how many people are in the pot already and how they’ve been playing the hand up to this point.
For example, if you’re sitting on a full table with five people in the pot, (including yourself) but everybody has been limping all the way to the river, any large bet is likely to fold the whole table. In this situation, you are probably best off betting the minimum bet. At least one or two of the people in the pot will likely have a small pair that they just didn’t feel comfortable betting with. They will likely think you are in the same situation as they are and not be willing to lay down a small hand so easily. If you’re lucky, everybody in the pot will call. Unfortunately, in this situation, even with a monster hand, this is probably the most you can hope to gain from it.
On the other hand, if it’s down to you and one other player, and your opponent has been betting aggressively down every street, value betting right off the bat MIGHT be the best move you can make. This depends on the situation also. If you have just made your hand on the river, a nut flush or straight, it will probably be pretty obvious if you’ve been check/calling the whole way and then suddenly come out value betting on the river. Any savvy poker player is going to catch on to this and cut their losses… if they believe you. In this situation, a check/raise is called for. Or, if your opponent has bet first, come over the top with a raise, say about 50% higher than your opponents bet. The check/raise will at very least gain you your opponent’s river bet, and if they’re foolish enough to call, or re-raise, gain you even more. If they bet first, and you raise them 50%, you will leave some question in their mind as to whether you are bluffing or not.
They know you have seen the possibility of the nut flush, (or straight) fall on the river because they saw it too. So they may very well think you are trying to buy the pot and either re-raise you, or smooth call. If they’re an aggressive player, chances are they will push all in to show you they think you are bluffing, in which case, you just doubled your stack. If they’re not such an aggressive player, but have been betting somewhat aggressively down every street, you may want to raise a little more than 50% of their bet if you expect a smooth call, but pushing all in will only scare them off.
The key to value betting is knowing your opponent well enough to be able to make an informed decision on just how much you can get out of them in any situation.