Value Betting In Online Poker Tournaments

Missing value bets is like lighting money on fire!

By Sam Shan

Many players quite simply do not value bet enough.  This article outlines some key factors to consider when making a value bet in low stakes tournaments (around $20 and under) and will help you implement a sound value betting strategy to your game. The fact of the matter is, value betting is king, forget about all the crazy bluffs you see on TV, it is betting for value that makes you money in poker.

What is a value bet?

A value bet is simply a bet we make when we are ahead of our opponents. When value betting we want our opponent to call and we want to bet the maximum that they will call. Betting the right amount can be as important as knowing when to value bet.

How do we know when to value bet?

For the absolute beginner knowing when to value bet is not always straightforward.  Maybe you are not the most adept at putting your opponent on a hand.  If that’s you, don’t worry, there is still a way you can implement value betting into your game.

A good way to look at it is like this.  If we have the nuts we obviously need to value bet, reason being, we have the best hand 100% of the time and the worst case scenario is we split the pot with the same hand. 

So we can safely value bet when we have the nuts and close to it.  The further away we get from the nuts the less we should be value betting, reason being there are more hands that beat us that will not fold.

This is not perfect strategy but it is a great starting point for beginners who want to start implementing value bets into their game.

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How do I know how much to bet?

Knowing how much to bet is one of those ‘it depends’ situations.  Like most poker decisions they are many factors to consider.  Having a solid read on our opponent is key here.  For example, imagine we get to the river in an online multi table tournament and the pot is 2500.  The board is AsQc4h9s2c and we are holding 4d4s. Our opponent has 3100 behind and we cover.  We have come to the conclusion we have the best hand and decided we want to go ahead and make a value bet.  How much should we bet?

To answer that question we need to put our opponent on a hand. If we put our opponent on a hand like a big ace or two pair, we know they won’t fold for any amount, so we should obviously go ahead and shove to get the maximum value from our hand.

You must understand in low stakes tournaments online, people are playing their cards, they do not have any idea what you have and quite frankly they don’t care… They have AK and there is an ace on the board, they are not folding.

Taking the same example, let’s say we weight our opponents range to weaker made hands, second and third pair type hands like KQ/JJ/9T.  In this situation we still have the best hand.  Should we again go ahead and shove?  Probably not, sure against certain maniacs who have shown they will not fold anything, go ahead and shove, but for the most part with this hand range our opponent would probably fold to a shove.  I would go ahead and bet something smaller, around 1100, leaving our opponents ‘some chips to play with’.  Again the fish in these multi table tournaments are more likely to call a non all in bet with a marginal holding because if they call and are wrong, they are still in the tournament.

A raise can be a value bet to!

A common misconception is that a value bet is only when we are betting into an opponent.  That is not the case, if we are facing a bet from an opponent and believe we have the best hand and they will call a raise, we should go ahead and raise to get more value from a hand.  This too is a value bet and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Value bet more rivers

Over the years playing tournaments I have noticed a lot of mistakes from less experienced players, one of the main ones is people failing to extract value on rivers.  People are scared to bet the river in fear of being raised and then having to fold their hand.  This is a leak.  A big one too.

Think back to key hands you have played on the river and ask yourself how many times you have said something along the lines of ‘Damn, I wish I had bet now, he would of called’.

We have already established that in low stakes tournaments people for the most part play their own cards. Therefore, if we get to the river and they check to us, it is very rare they have a super strong hand as they would have just went ahead and bet it themselves.

Another thing, when they do raise, unless you have the nuts or very close to it, just fold.  Trust me the amount of money we make by value betting rivers will far outweigh the times we bet and then have to fold to a raise.

Tip: If you’re struggling with betting the river then consider this. If you would have called a bet and they check to you, go ahead and bet the river.  Again this is not perfect but it is a great start if you’re struggling with the concept.

Stop lighting money on fire

Going deep and making a run in multi table tournaments is all about chip accumulation and building stacks!  Yes, we can do this by running triple barrel bluffs in raised pots, but oftentimes this will just end up with you being called down with some random top pair hand and sent to the rail.

Never missing a value bet will gain you way more chips with way less risk of ruin.  If you pay attention to your value bets, sizing in particular, you will often find yourself gaining chips at a steady rate and give yourself the best possible chance of making a run in the tournament.

A great way to build up experience in tournaments and boost your bankroll at the same time is to play the 180 player Sit N Goes over at PokerStars - these kick off every few minutes and have a wide range of buy-in levels. Find out more in my 3-part special guide to the 180's here.

More Poker Tournament Focused Articles:

- Poker Tournaments For US Players (Offshore sites are offering bigger and better tournaments nowadays)

- 10 Best Beginner's Tournaments (ideas for where to get yourself some experience)

- Tournament Strategy Main Page (lists over 100 more tournament articles from beginner to advanced).


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