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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Getting Maximum Value

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Mar 18, 2015

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Roy Cooke
In both limit hold’em and no-limit hold’em, it’s important to maximize your hand’s value. In no-limit hold’em, getting the best value usually requires significantly more judgment and generally makes you assume more risk. It’s great to get three streets of value, but attempting that can also bloat the pot and put you at risk of getting pushed off a marginal hand or getting trapped for your stack. There are situations to attempt it and times not to do so. Correctly judging when to assume those risks can acquire large positive expectation bets, judge it incorrectly, you’re likely to step in deep doo-doo.

I was playing a nine-handed $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game at the Venetian, about $700 deep. There were several knowledge-deficient players to my left who were calling loosely, both preflop and post-flop. I picked up AClub Suit JClub Suit in early position and raised to $15. Two of the loose players, one of them on the button, both of whom played in a “fit or fold” style, called. We took the flop three-handed.

The flop came the JHeart Suit 10Club Suit 8Heart Suit, a draw-heavy board, but one that gave me top-pair nut-kicker against call-prone opponents who played their hands straight-forwardly. I bet $35, looking to see what transpired. Against these two opponents, I didn’t think they would raise without a made hand. So my bet would provide information about the strength of my opponents’ holdings as well as deliver value. The first opponent folded, and Mr. Button, about $400 deep, called. We took the turn heads-up with $120 in the pot.

It came the 4Club Suit, providing me the nut flush draw along with my pair. I read my opponent’s range as mostly either a weaker made hand than mine or a draw. I bet $100, choosing that size because I wanted a call from the pairs and wanted to charge a draw as well. In such cases, I blend the value from the two differing ranges to decide upon a size. Yes, I’d like to charge the draw more to call, and Mr. Button would likely call more with a draw. But I also didn’t want to cause him to fold with his weaker pairs, hands that, if he called, I was a big favorite over.

The river came the 5Diamond Suit, a blank. I thought about my best option. If he was drawing, Mr. Button might fire a bluff and I’d acquire value from that, but he would check all his single pairs that he would likely call with, and he wasn’t someone I felt bluffed much.

I remembered that I had played a hand when I first sat down against his friend sitting next to him and had bet three streets with a draw as a semibluff, blanked, and got caught. I knew Mr. Button watched the hand intently and must have remembered it. Since that hand was fresh in his mind, I thought he might call a bet light since the situation was similar, and the draws had missed.

There was $320 in the pot, and Mr. Button had around $270 left. I thought about betting small to entice a call from a marginal hand. But I felt he would call a large bet almost as frequently as he’d call a moderate one. In his mind, my hand was polarized, either I was on a draw and missed, or I had a strong hand. And with that board texture, with all the draws that missed that were also draws that would likely be in my range, he would have to think a busted draw was a big part of my range.

“All in,” I stated. Mr. Button hemmed and hawed for about 60 seconds and called. I turned over my pair of jacks and he nodded and turned over 10Diamond Suit 9Club Suit.

The hand speaks to two significant concepts, true in both limit and no-limit. First, think about how your opponent is thinking. What has he seen that made an impression or was very recent? Players tend to remember things that are non-standard or fresh in their mind. Whenever I am trying to read my opponents’ thoughts, I attach great value to that concept. Over my poker career, it has won me a lot of pots by calling light or bluffing more optimally, and a lot of bets by either saving or making them. It this case, since I knew he’d seen me previously bluff a missed draw on the river, I knew that thought was in his head, and it allowed me to value-bet the river and make a much larger bet.

Additionally, whenever the board contains a lot of draws that missed, you can bet lighter for value. Your opponent may read part of your range for missed draws that you semi-bluffed, and call you much more liberally as long as he thinks you’ll bluff your missed draws. So when considering a value bet on the river, think about what your opponent thinks your range will contain and if it includes missed draws. Then, adjust your value betting range accordingly. You’ll win a lot more river bets.

I constantly hear players tell me they are willing to pass up value to lower variance or stress, and so on. But, anytime you don’t make the play that provides you maximum value, you have assumed an opportunity lost cost, even if the play still has positive expectation. You gave up equity you could have gained, and over the course of the year, it will cost you. And opponents who do acquire that value will have that edge over you.
So, spend the time in between hands calculating what you think the best play would have been. Don’t just do it on your hands; pick other players’ hands too. Over time, you’ll find your decisions will improve.

And making the best decision is what winning at poker is all about. ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke