What is a Value Bet in Poker? – Value Betting Explained

A value bet is the act of making a bet when you believe that you have more equity than your opponent in an attempt to get called. In layman’s terms, it’s a bet you make when you think you have a better hand than your opponent in order to get paid off.

By the time you’ve finished reading our guide, you will understand what a value bet is and how to effectively value bet in poker.

value betting poker

The 3 Main Types of Betting in Poker

There are three main types of betting in poker: value betting, bluffing, and betting for protection. Knowing when and how to use these types of bets is essential.

1. Value Betting

Value betting is probably the most important part of poker. When we have a hand and are certain that we have our opponent beat, our objective is to get paid the maximum amount possible.

If we fail to analyze our opponent correctly, then we could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

In order to effectively value bet, we need to have a solid grasp of our opponent’s hand strength, how we believe our opponent perceives our hand, and whether or not our opponent has the ability to find tough folds.

A value bet is deemed successful when we get our opponent to call, extracting value from our opponent.

A value bet is deemed a failure when we get called or raised by our opponent when they have a better hand than ours or if our opponent folds. When our opponent folds, however, we still win the hand and add to our stack.

Reasons for Value Betting in Poker

  • Having the nuts/a very strong hand.
  • Extract as much value from our opponents as possible.
  • Take advantage of fish/weak players.
  • Equity advantage on the river.

2. Bluffing

Bluffing is a bet that makes our opponent fold what we believe to be a better hand than what we possess.

There are four main types of bluff: continuation bet bluff, a semi-bluff, a zero-equity/stone bluff, and an opportunistic bluff.

💡 Value Bet vs Bluff: What’s the Difference?

Bluffing is an art that takes more skill than a value bet and is, in fact, the complete opposite of a value bet.

A value bet is when we think we have the best hand and can get called by a worse hand. A bluff is when we assume we have the worst hand and are trying to get a better hand to fold.

The art of the value bet is a little more one-dimensional than a bluff. We assume we have the best hand and want to size our bet in order to get our opponent to call with a worse hand and pay us the maximum amount.

A bluff is multi-dimensional in that we have to take a betting line that is believable to our opponent, bet enough to force them out of the hand, and put our opponent on a hand that isn’t strong enough to call us.

3. Betting for Protection

When you bet for protection, you possess a strong but vulnerable hand and need to either force players out of the hand or make them call with unfavorable pot odds.

For example, if you have pocket eights with no diamonds on a 7-6-2 flop with two diamonds, you’re often going to want to make a sizable bet for protection.

We need to extract value from opponents with worse holdings (like a 7) and charge our opponents if they want to chase with straight draws or flush draws.

We can also fold out weak hands that only contain overcards that could beat us on later streets.

Examples of Value Bets

To help you get a better idea of when to make a value bet in poker, we’ve created some scenarios below.

Example 1:

We open AK from under the gun off of 100 big blinds and get called by the player in the big blind.

The flop comes A-K-5 and, while we would bet this flop 100% of the time anyways because it’s a flop that’s so powerful for our range, this is surely a value bet as we have top two pair.

Example 2:

We have AJ in the cutoff off of 100 big blinds and get called by the player in the big blind.

The flop comes J-8-6 and this is an automatic value bet for us after the big blind (assumably) checks to us.

We have top-top (top pair, top kicker) and it’s never a good idea to slowplay when we’re this deep, we have such a strong hand, and the board is so wet.

Example 3:

We get to the river with the stone-cold nuts, let’s say it’s an ace-high flush. In this case, we have the most obvious value bet because we cannot lose.

However, we will have to decide on the bet sizing that we feel will get us paid the most, especially if we are playing super deep-stacked poker.

If the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is around or under 1, most times you can comfortably just go all in.

If we are out of position, then we should consider trapping with a check if we think our opponent is very weak and will bluff-shove.

What to Consider When Value Betting in Poker

If we’re going to play poker, we have to know both why and when to value bet in order to maximize our win-rates and become successful players. Whether you play live or at online casinos, it’s an essential skill that will help build your foundation.

Here are some factors to consider when debating whether the bet you’re about to make is a value bet, a thin value bet, or neither.

  • Is our opponent a fish? – The fishier of a player our opponent is, the more likely it will be that we will be able to get value out of them. These players often fold a lot less and call a lot more, often overvaluing hands such as top pair. This will not be the case with nits.
  • What is our opponent’s range? – Based on all the decisions your opponent has made, you’ll likely be able to put them on some sort of range. You should have an idea of what hands they could have and what hands aren’t realistic. Should they have a lot of flush draws? Are there a lot of Kx and Qx in their range? Does it make sense for them to slowplay the nuts on multiple streets?
  • Will our opponent call with worse? – If our opponent won’t call with anything worse, we won’t have a value bet. For example, if we have pocket aces and the board reads 9-8-7-6 rainbow, it doesn’t exactly make sense to bet as our opponent is unlikely to call a bet with less than two pair.
  • Will our bet size scare off our opponent? – The size of our bet could be the difference between our opponent calling with a worse hand or folding. At lower stakes, most players will continue wider against a small bet while they will only call with their stronger holdings against bigger sizings. It’s important to note whether or not your opponent is a fish.
  • Is it better to check-raise? – Sometimes when we’re out of position against a very aggressive player, it may be more advantageous to check-raise the river with our strong holdings rather than bet. If we know our opponent likely missed a draw or will bluff the river often, we will get more value by letting them bet into us.

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Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert

Blaise is an Expert Gambling Writer and a professional poker player in Brazil. He has played and traveled throughout Latin America for the last four-and-a-half years and recently won his first WSOP Circuit ring! He received his Master's in Sport Management and Sports Analytics from St. John's University. Blaise also holds a Mathematics and Computer Science degree from SUNY Purchase, where he still holds the school's Men's Soccer record for goals in a season. Blaise has worked for Catena Media, OddsSeeker, WSOP, PokerNews, and Poker.Org in various capacities. He has a passion for extensive research and aims to provide accurate…