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Value vs Showdown Value

by Casey Jarzabek |  Published: Aug 01, '10

One of the biggest leaks that I’ve observed in poker players, even relatively good and experienced poker players, is understanding when to bet to extract value and when to check because your hand has showdown value. There is a very fine line between the two, and knowing how to walk it could make the difference between winning a tourney and watching from the rail. In this article, I am going to walk you through a few hands that I have played and my thought process behind them. The inspiration for this article comes from a hand I played today at the Niagara falls Casino. It was a cash game, but the same principals apply to tournaments.

I was playing in a $5-$10 cash game and picked up 69hh under the gun. I originally sat with the max, $1000 but had doubled to $2000. My plan was to not fold any suited 2 gappers because my table was pretty fishy and I wanted to play pots. So, I opened UTG to $30. UTG+1 made it $125 and it was flatted by 2 other people so I decide to peel a flop.

The flop came Qs 8h 5h. Not a bad flop at all for my hand so I check. UTG+1, the preflop re-raiser, leads out for $200 and the the other two fellas fold. I make it $425 and he calls. The turn comes the 2h, making my flush. I lead out for $460 and he calls. The river is the Qc. I now decide to check.

While I think there is some value in betting here, if I check he may decide to bluff this pot with the Ah because he thinks it’s the only way he can win it. He does bet the river putting me all in. Of course, I call and win the pot.

Now, the interesting part of this hand is what he was holding: KK with the Kh. This is a perfect example of where a person should check the river because his hand has some showdown value. But the only hands he is getting a call from have KK beat. There is absolutely zero reason to bet the KK here. I guess it’s possible that I pay his river bet off with JJ or TT, but for the amount of times I’m holding these hands and do not release it to this bet makes this a very –EV bet. 95% of the time his river bet is called he will be throwing his KK into the muck. A perfect example of when a hand has showdown value and should be checked as opposed to trying to extract value out of an opponent with a bet.

Let me give you an example of where you can try to extract some value on the river as opposed to checking to get to showdown. In a tournament the blinds are 500/1000 I get into a battle with a big stack. MP opens a pot to 2250 and I have KcQc on the button. We both are about 65BB deep. I flat his raise and we get to the flop heads up.

The flop comes Q42 rainbow. He leads out for 4900 and I make the call. The turn comes a 7. He checks it over to me. I am fairly confident I have the best hand here so I go ahead and fire a bet of 9200. He calls this bet. The river comes a 2 making a pair on the board but no straight or flush was completed. He checks to me.

At this point it’s time to decide if I should bet for value or just go ahead and check and get to showdown. I have to decide what hands he could be holding that would call a bet from me that I beat. I also need to think about what hands he is holding that will call a bet from me that I lose to. I decide that there are just too many hands he could be holding that will call a bet that I beat for me to pass up this value opportunity.

I am pretty sure the only hand he could be holding that beats me is AQ but I discount it because I think he double barrels with this hand. I really don’t think he plays KK or AA this conservatively. So, given all of these dynamics, I think it’s +EV to try and extract some value out of this hand. I think he could pay me with a lesser Q or even a pocket pair JJ or less. I make a bet of 29500. He snap calls and rolls over QJ. A great example of where value was extracted as opposed to just getting to showdown with a hand that definitely has showdown value.

I think this is a part of the game that comes with time and experience. But I think it’s a paramount skill to learn if you want to become a successful tournament poker player. It’s pots like these that just make a huge difference in the progression of a tournament. In addition to this article, Wein did a TPE Theory video on river play that addresses this concept. Work on this dynamic of a tourney and I’m sure you will see a difference in the results of your tournaments.

Casey “bigdogpckt5s” Jarzabek is widely considered to be one of the best online players in the world. The Canadian pro got his start after an accident on the baseball field left him laid up in bed. With nothing else to do, Jarzabek deposited some money online and hasn’t looked back.

In the years since, Jarzabek has racked up over $2.5 million in tournament earnings and spent both 2009 and 2010 as a contender for Card Player Online Player of the Year honors. Jarzabek is also the lead pro at, which features poker training from some of the best minds in the game.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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