How to Extract Maximum Value From Your Opponents in No-Limit Hold’em Poker

During the last few years that I have played poker competitively, I have observed how many amateur poker players make fatal mistakes when sizing their bets in no-limit hold’em. No-limit hold’em carries a dynamic that enables you to bet as many chips as you want during any betting round. Your main goal in no-limit hold’em is to win ALL of your opponents chips. This can be achieved in a variety of different ways, but today’s article will focus on something that many players struggle with, value betting for maximum value.

The Value Bet

Tom Durrrr Dwan Poker Player

Durrrr may look silly, but his poker game speaks for itself.

The term “value bet” refers to making a bet when you assume your hand is stronger than your opponent(s). You have decided you have the best hand, now you need to decide how to extract value (money) from your holding. Deciding how much to bet in different situations is a fine art, something that takes a disgusting amount of time to truly master. The best way to build your value betting skills is to observe how professionals bet when they know they have the best hand. The following video demonstrates just that:

Tom “Durrrr” Dwan is one of the best in the world because he knows how much to bet against certain opponents with specific hand strengths. Durrrr bets the flop here to build a pot so if he hits his hand, he can win as many chips as possible. The 5th diamond on the turn gives Durrrr the virtual nuts in his mind, now he has to figure how to get as many chips from Phil Laak. Because Durrrr knows, that Phil Laak knows, that Durrrr plays super-aggressively, Durrrr puts out an over-bet on the river to make his bet appear as a bluff. Phil can’t find a fold, and pays off Durrrr in a big way.

This is the perfect example for displaying how a hyper-aggressive playing style is the most profitable style in the long-run if you know exactly what you are doing. Because Dwan “splashes around” a lot in a lot of different pots, he is almost never given credit for an actual hand. When Tom hits his hands, he gets payed off more often because no one believes he has anything when he bets. If you play tight and passive in poker, you are an open book, and extremely exploitable to stronger opponents at your table.

phil galfond poker value bets

Phil Galfond is a master at razor thin value bets.

Making Correct Value Bets

You hit your monster hand. Feels great, but how are you going to get paid? What is your plan for the entire hand? Have you explored every angle and possibility of what your opponent thinks you might hold? How good is your opponent? What history do you have personally with this specific opponent? Is this opponent on “Tilt”?

For such a simple game to learn, poker takes a lifetime and more to master. There are an infinite amount of variables you must explore in each specific hand if you want to be the best in the world. Failure to recognize a certain variable results in losing value. We are trying to extract maximum value to achieve maximum profit for our poker business model.

How Much Should We Bet?

As much as you think your opponent will call. If you think he will call off his entire stack, bet all-in. If you think he will only call a 1/2 pot sized bet, bet 1/2 pot. If you bet too much and he folds, you lose value. If you bet too little and he calls anyway, you still lose value. Failure to extract maximum value from your hand is known as a leak, and needs to be plugged if you want to improve your game, and your bankroll.

If you are scared to bet a certain amount because you might lose, don’t pursue poker as a competitive endeavor. We play poker with chips, not money. Each chip has a monetary value, but at the table, the monetary value is effectively irrelevant. If the chips “feel like money” to you, you will not be playing your A+ game, and will certainly miss spots for key value bets.

Not properly value betting is the same as losing money. On the contrary, not losing money is the same as winning money (folding when you need to fold). You might win the hand, but did you win as much as possible? Most players don’t learn from the pots they win because they won and are happy. You shouldn’t be happy if you win, but miss value. Getting dealt monster hands is rare, so you need to focus on winning as many chips as possible when you get one.

thin value bet poker

Smart players mix their bluffing bet sizes with their value bet sizes to confuse opponents into making mistakes.

Stack Sizes

In my opinion, one of the most important factors of a specific poker hand is how many chips each person has in front of them. For this example, we will take a standard 2/5 NL game with effective stack sizes of 200bb (big-blinds). Most cash games top their buy-in at 100bb, but some casinos and online games allow for deep stack play (200bb+) which ultimately benefits experienced players in the long-run.

For this example, we will demonstrate how to extract maximum value from a flopped set. A flopped set is having a pair in your hand, and making three of a kind on the flop. Many players coin this term “set mining”, playing small pocket pairs for cheap pre-flop, hoping to flop a set. Flopping a set is great, but against certain opponents, it can be tricky to extract maximum value.

The Simple Set Mining Example:

Sitting at a 9-handed 2/5 NL full-ring cash game, we are dealt 44 on the button. We have $1,000 in front of us, and so does every other opponent at the table. An opponent in middle position raises to $25, the cutoff calls, and we call on the button, the blinds fold. We see a three-way flop of A48 rainbow. Original raiser continues for $55, cutoff folds, and the action is on us. We have two options, we can either raise right now and give away our hand strength, or we can flat call and hope our opponent continues to bet. We elect to flat call.

Turn brings a 2. Our opponent fires $150. We can now safely assume that this player most likely has an Ace in his hand when he bets again on the turn. We can raise here, and maybe scare him away, or we can flat call again and see a river in position with a big pot in the middle. We elect to flat call.

Ziigmund poker

Ziigmund is certainly known for aggression, and timely value bets.

River brings a K. Original raiser checks to us. Our opponent now has $770 left in his stack(-$25+55+150 from $1000 start). There is a total of $492 in the pot ($25+25+25+2+5+55+55+150+150)  We need to decide how much to value bet to extract maximum value from our opponent’s perceived hand range. We can safely assume our opponent has a weak ace. He bet flop and turn, then shut down on river. He might be trying to see a showdown for cheap with his ace, and we aren’t going to let him with our set. How much should we bet?

If our opponent is a weak fish ATM type player that makes a lot of bad calls with marginal hands, I put out a bet of about $400 If our opponent is tight/solid, I go for about $175-195 to give him good odds to call with any ace in his hand. Betting all-in for $770 is an option, but it is an option that simply won’t get called very often in this spot. Barring our opponent has AK, we won’t get paid off on a majority of his range if we jam all in. He would also probably bet AK on this river. A majority of his range consists of weaker aces, and maybe smaller pocket pairs that simply wont call a bet that big unless they are flat-out terrible at poker.

The only reason to bet all-in here would be if a flush draw came on the flop, and missed the turn and river. Our all-in “might” look like a bluff to certain opponents, but not many will call off their stack in this spot unless they assume you are super crazy.

If I have history with the opponent, and he knows me to be hyper-aggressive, I might go for a bet of about $420-450, hoping this is the time he decides to take a stand against me and “look me up.” This dynamic is only achieved if I have won a lot of pots off of this particular opponent without ever reaching a showdown. He has never seen my cards, so he doesn’t know if I “have it.” If I get that feeling that he is getting fed up, I might take A LOT of time on the river to make a decision to piss him off more. I have at times tanked rivers for 3-4 minutes hoping my opponent thinks about the possibility of me bluffing him off the hand. No poker player wants to be bluffed off a hand.

“Thin” Value Bets

Thin value bets are value bets where you figure you have the best hand, but it is not super strong enough to play for a big pot. You could simply check when checked to on the river, or you could put out a smallish bet to extract additional value from your opponent. If we had AQ in the previous hand as opposed to 44, betting the river would be considered a “thin value bet.” Would you bet AQ on that river? I would. Most players are happy with checking and raking in the pot. This is a terrible mistake because we fail to extract value from any weaker ace. AJ, A10, and even A9 are possible holdings for our opponent, and we have all those crushed. We should bet this hand the same way if we had a set, (we are ahead and we know it and are hoping for a call.)


Think. Think. Think. Analyze each and every opportunity for betting and decide what you are trying to accomplish.Have a plan of attack for building big pots with big hands, and getting paid off. Build an image of an aggressive player so your opponents cant pin you on specific hands. Know when you are beat and have to fold. Know when you are ahead and need to bet for maximum value.

—>>>Additional Poker Strategy


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