Types of poker bets: value, semi-bluff and bluff bets

Poker bets are the oil that lubricates all the machinery of the game. Thanks to them there is an objective to play for in cash games, and they are an element that allows us to put part of our stack at stake.

That is precisely why it is so important to use common sense and experience when betting. Since training is elementary when talking about poker, we are going to focus in this article on the main types of bets: value, semi-bluff and bluff bets.

Value bets in poker

Value bets, or value bets, are essential for those who seek to earn profits on a continuous and constant basis in poker. But, like any strategic tool, they have to be used well to have the expected effect.

If you are a novice, you will soon realize that just getting to showdown is not enough. By itself, that means nothing. The real reason for getting to the showdown is to squeeze the most out of it and get as much juice as possible in the form of chips. That is why increasing the pot is essential.

The average hands are a great ally in these cases and help to get jackpots if you have known how to bet well. What happens is that with a medium hand the less experienced player may tend to bluff, something that, if you know how to do it well, can be a great option if we believe that the villain has premium cards.

But let's get to the heart of the matter: value bets. A value bet is a bet made to increase the amount of chips you win in a pot. In other words, you increase the value of the pot. Increasing the pot is good if we have a good hand and we want to make the most of the play.

But it has certain peculiarities. For example, it is a bet that is usually only made on the river, when you are sure that the hand is good enough to put those chips in play.

It is a bet that has a positive EV. With it, the player can, besides increasing the pot, increase his equity.

Other data we need to know to make a value bet:

  • We must be almost sure that the opponent has a strong range of hands to call our bet.
  • With a value bet, half of the time the opponent's hand will be lower than ours. But be careful: this must be controlled. If the frequency increases, the strategy must be reviewed because in the long term this means falling into losses.
  • Not all bets on the river are value bets. Betting for the sake of betting has nothing to do with a value bet.

Factors that influence when placing a value bet

In summary, these are the factors that should always be taken into account when placing a value bet:

  • The opponent's hand range. It is essential to know what hands your opponent may have and make sure they are strong enough to call your value bet.
  • The size of the pot. This is the target, and your eyes should be on it. If you see that the pot is yours with your hand and you think it has grown enough, you only have to confirm it at showdown.
  • The preflop game. It is decisive. We always talk about river play in value bets, but we must not forget that preflop actions can be very revealing when deciding whether to make a value bet on the last street or not.
  • The texture of the community cards in dry games. This is because you can find very strong hidden hands, which would ruin your chances of making a value bet.
  • How the opponent bets on the river. The type of bets made by the villain are a good indicator of the game he is playing, which can decide whether or not to make a value bet.
  • The relative strength of our hand. Calculating it will allow us to know how strong our hand is compared to the opponent's, something basic for a value bet to work as we expect.

Semi-bluff and bluff bets in poker

The essence of semi-bluff and bluff bets is the same. The only thing that changes is the subtlety with which we are trying to bluff our opponent.

Bluffs have all the same basis: they are a resource that allows us to reach the river alive with a hand that in reality has nothing to do face to face with at least one of the hands that is still in the game.

Misleading the opponent by making him believe that you have stronger cards than they really are is the key to every bluff, and you can make him believe this by betting a hand that, under normal conditions and with the cards facing each other, you would lose.

With bluff and semi-bluff bets, the objective is the same: to cause the opponent, who has better cards than you, to fold and throw them away. It is a type of betting that can be done before the river to allow you to reach the final street with a strong opponent out of play.

Since bluff bets are bets that are used to make your opponent fold with a better hand than yours, they are 100% based on fold equity, and are closely related to the way your opponent plays. It is important to analyze if the opponent is able to fold with a better hand than yours, because if not, the bluff bet will be completely unsuccessful.

The difference between bluffing and semi bluffing, is that for example in bluffing we will be playing far behind, "bluffing" directly to protect our play from hands that may have up to 90% or more of equity than our hand, to get to throw them away (solid but not conformed projects, low pairs, high pairs with very low kicker). While in the semi bluff, we will be protecting hands in which we are behind, but in a range of 15% or less of equity differential (for example 40% vs 60%, 45% vs 55%), so that even if we were paid in the FLOP, we still have very high chances of improving our hand and even win.

Want to learn more about bluff betting and how it differs from so-called "valuffs"? Take a look at our article focused on this kind of bets:

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