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I Shouldn’t Have Bet

by Roy Cooke |  Published: May 30, 2012


Roy CookeMaking your wagers have positive value based on the best information currently available is a poker fundamental. Yeah, poker is a game of incomplete information and you will inevitability find yourself putting in money in bad situations. But, as long as you are gathering good information and making correct plays, your bets will have an overall blended positive expectation. Of course, collecting good information and knowing the correct play can get mighty complicated.

The positive or negative expectation of your bets, often stated as earn, is the amount of money either earned or lost on an individual wager based on the current individual situation. This includes all assumptions of risk and, how the play affects all future play as well as the actual price. It’s impossible to quantify exactly, but understanding the concept should improve your poker decisions.

Some bets will have a huge return on investment value, others will have zero, most will fall somewhere in-between. In limit hold’em, the earn on those bets won and saved adds up incrementally over time in a significant way and determines whether you are a long-term winning or losing player. To obtain the most out of your betting strategies you need to effectively read situations and your opponents well, a tough mission for even the most experienced players.

A super-tough Las Vegas pro opened the pot with a raise from early position in a $40-80 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio and was called by three opponents. Holding the JHeart Suit 9Heart Suit in the SB, I called the raise, receiving a good price from the volume pot. Another local pro called the raise in the BB. We took the flop six-handed for $80 apiece, $480 in the pot.

The dealer flopped the 8Heart Suit 7Club Suit 3Heart Suit giving me a jack-high flush draw, a gutshot and two weak overcards. Overcards tend to have limited value in situations like these. With many opponents and a high propensity for an overpair to be out or an opponent’s matching one of your cards with a higher kicker, hitting a medium-sized overcard will often just cause you to pay off a better hand. And either overcard could make someone a straight. Additionally, someone might have flopped a hand bigger than one pair and the flush draw, being only fourth nuts, might not be live. All that said, since it’s not a perfect world, I was happy with the flop.

I checked, not wanting to lead into Mr. Strong-Pro, a likely post-flop raiser, who had raised preflop, and if he raised now would cut off my other opponents. That would reduce my volume and increase the price of my draw. Unfortunately, Mr. Local-Pro sitting immediately to my left led into him, but Mr. Strong-Pro just flat-called the bet, indicating that he didn’t hold an overpair. The remainder of the field called and I check-raised, looking for value on my call.

One of the problems in betting or raising with a draw is that an opponent can raise and put additional pressure on the rest of the field to fold, thereby reducing your volume. In some cases, this one included, you can pick up additional value if there is a chance that you will fold an opponent who blocks some of your wins. In this case, if I folded an opponent with a jack, a nine, or a straight draw where either card would fill their straight, I would pick up additional wins. Such specifics can equitably compensate for the loss of volume, even add value. That said, in this case Mr. Local-Pro and Mr. Strong-Pro flat-called and my other two opponents folded. We took the turn three-handed. It came the 4Spade Suit.

Confident Mr. Strong-Pro had overcards and would fold; I fired again hoping to also fold Mr. Local-Pro and win the pot with a bet. Mr. Local-Pro called and Mr. Strong-Pro mucked.

The river blanked me off, the QDiamond Suit. I bet again and was called. Mr. Local-Pro showed me the 9Spade Suit 8Spade Suit having flopped top pair.

I made an error betting the river. I don’t like when I pull back on a bluff on the river and cost myself a pot, something that had happened earlier in my session. When you make errors that cost you the equity on your bet, it usually costs you a fraction of a bet. Failing to bet when you would have won the pot if you did bet is usually a much more expensive equity loss. That said, sometimes it is unavoidable and still the correct play if your opponent possessed a hand that was a small portion of his range.

But in this situation, I had it fixed in my mind not to make the same error twice. All poker situations are different and require you to read them in depth. In this situation Mr. Local-Pro had to have a solid hand, one he would almost surely call with, particularly since there were draws that missed. The fact that he had led into Mr. Strong-Pro indicated he had a hand and not a draw as he would know, like I did, not to lead a draw into an aggressive player likely to raise and cut off the field. I had misread the situation and cost myself the negative equity value of my bet, which was virtually the entire bet as I couldn’t win if called and the propensity of my opponent to fold was almost nil. It was a dumb bet, one I should have known better than to make.

The error speaks to analyzing every situation independently and not letting fixed mental thoughts dictate the situation erroneously to you. I knew better and got sloppy, which are not things I’m proud to admit, but nonetheless a valuable learning experience to me and hopefully to you.

Consequently, analyze every situation as an independent equation, don’t let yourself get fixated on preset thoughts in situations that are not automatic. You’ll make better decisions and better decisions mean a better win rate. Perhaps the most important lesson to you is to be honest with yourself about your mistakes. The more honest you are the faster you’ll improve! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is You can also find him on Facebook.