Poker Strategy - 5/8 - How to Bet

This is the fifth part of an eight-part guide to the basics of poker strategy. If you have already read this tutorial, then you can access the sixth part here. If you missed the previous part, "Playability", then you'll find it here.

How to Bet

Texas Hold'em poker is a fun and thrilling game to play, plus it comes with one incredible bonus - if you play efficiently, then you can make some serious money by doing so. You make this money by betting of course, and there are three basic ways in which you can bet:

  • The value bet - you gain chips by obtaining the maximum value for your hand
  • The bluff bet - you make bets that make people think you have a strong hand so they fold
  • The dead money bet - you make bets to force your opponents to fold a weaker hand with outs against you

I'll go over each of these different kinds of bet in turn:

The Value Bet

If you chip in with a value bet, you're trying to make players who have a worse hand than yours call so they stay in the hand. If you succeed, then there will be more money for you in the pot to win when it comes to the showdown.

For example, if you have K♣Q♣ and the flop comes out K8♠2 then you're in a very strong position. You're hoping that your opponents have gone into the flop with pocket cards such as KJ♠ or a pair of queens - the kind of hand it's hard to fold. On these occasions you can make a value bet in order to try and make your opponent call.

If you bet with K♠Q against J9♠ and the flop is K5♠4♣ then you can't make a value bet as your opponent should fold rather than call.

The Bluff Bet

If you try a bluff bet then you're making a bet to try and make an opponent with better cards fold.

For example - you have T♣9♣ and your opponent has 88♠, and the flop comes out AJ5♣, then you can make a bluff bet to trying an convince your opponent you either have AA or JJ. The only way your opponent can "beat" you is really by completing a set on the turn or the river, so any decent-sized bet should convince him to fold even though your hand is not very good at all.

A good situation for a bluff bet is where the flop holds either a king or an ace and your opponent calls your raise. You assume then that he has decent-enough cards to stay in the hand, but you also assume he will fold if the flop contains unconnected and unsuited cards. If you are the first to act, then you can persuade other players that you made your draw or otherwise greatly improved your hand on the flop.

The Dead Money Bet

A Dead Money Bet is one where you make a bet simply to win the pot, hence making the other players fold. The term "Dead Money" is used to describe money that's already in the pot. At the start of a hand of Texas Hold'em poker or Omaha Poker this is the sum of the blinds. More dead money is shoved into the pot as players make bets.

Say you had 77 and raised before the flop. All your opponents folded aside from one who called your raise. Perhaps he has 9♣8♣ and the flop came out AQ5♠. You can't make a value bet as there's the risk that your opponent has an ace or a queen. You really can't bluff as your opponents might be holding a pair of diamonds. The only option left is to make a dead money bet in an attempt to force your opponent to surrender his outs and you cash in on the dead chips.

The Bets in Practice

Your pocket cards are KQ♠ and the flop is K32♣. If you assume that you opponent has KJ, KT or K9 either suited or off-suit or QJ off-suit, then you are currently in the lead, so you can make a value bet to draw as much value from your KQ as you can. If you assume your opponent has QJ or QT suited then you cannot make a value bet as your opponent will (or at least should) fold. If your opponent has AA, AK, 33 or 22 then you are behind.

Bets in practice


KJ, KT or K9 represents 24 card combinations where you are ahead (as there are two kings, and four jacks, tens and nines unaccounted for = (2x4)+(2x4)+(2x4)=24). QJ off-suit adds another 8 to make 32.

QJs and QTs represents 6 card combinations where your opponent will fold.

AA (6), AK (8), 33 (3) and 22 (3) represents 20 combinations where you are behind.

If you make these assumptions, then out of the 50 possible hands your opponent is most likely to have, you are ahead in 32 of them, so you should make a value bet.

As for a bluff bet, if you make the same assumptions as above, then out of the fifty hands your opponent may have, only six of them would make him fold, therefore a bluff bet is not advisable.

These three main types of bet cover all of the possible reasons to make a bet when playing poker. All bets are either one of these bets or some combination of them. The most important thing when betting in poker is to protect a good hand and to draw as much value from it as you can by way of your opponents' chips. The more community cards that come along, the greater the chance there is of one of your fellow table-dwellers hitting their outs. If you make the correct bets to protect your hand, then your opponents should fold or call and lose chips by betting when they have a weaker hand.

This concludes the fifth lesson in an eight-part series on the basics of poker strategy. To view the next article, click here.

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