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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Why Don't They Bet?

Miller Explains The Five Reasons Why Player's Don't Bet Their Hands


Ed MillerThis article focuses on a critical concept adapted from my book, How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold’em.

You check, and your opponent bets. What does he have? He could have a strong hand, a vulnerable hand he wants to protect, a strong draw, a weak draw, or air. Doesn’t give you much to go on, does it?

But reading aggression isn’t hopeless. The key is often to look at the hands your opponents don’t bet.

Most players don’t bet more often than they bet. They bet the flop, get called, and then don’t bet the turn and don’t bet the river. They check the flop and then call (i.e., don’t raise).

To figure out what hands your opponents are betting and raising, it’s often more helpful to look at it a bit backwards. First think of the hands your opponent wouldn’t bet. Players often choose not to bet hands in these categories:

1. Hands they’re giving up on
2. Hands with showdown value
3. Draws they don’t want to get raised off of
4. Hands they’re slowplaying
5. Any other hands they don’t want to lose a lot of money with

I’ll talk briefly about each category.

1. Hands They’re Giving Up On

This one is obvious. Players check and fold when they’re giving up.

2. Hands With Showdown Value

This one is key to effective hand reading. Players often check hands with showdown value. For example, a player raises and two players call. The flop comes Q-8-6 with a flush draw. The callers check, and so does the raiser. The raiser often checks the flop with a hand with some showdown value, like J-J, 9-9, or A-K.

Here’s another example. A player limps, someone raises two off the button, and the player on the button calls. The limper calls also. The flop comes K-5-3 rainbow. The limper checks, the raiser bets half the pot, the button calls, and the big blind folds. The turn is an eight, completing the rainbow. Both players check.

In this example, the player on the button is quite likely to have showdown value. At worst, I would expect A-2 for a gutshot, but more likely a pair. The raiser may also have showdown value with a hand like 10-10 or A-Q.

3. Draws They Don’t Want To Get Raised Off Of

For most poker players, betting a draw, getting check-raised, and being forced to fold before seeing the last card feels like an utter disaster.

In reality, betting and getting raised off a draw is a bad thing, but often the benefits of betting the draw outweigh the risks. Some players see this and bet their draws where it’s sensible, while others allow the fear of missing a big hand to compel them to check.

For example, say someone open-raises from four off the button, a player holding JHeart Suit 10Heart Suit calls from the cutoff, and the small blind calls. The flop comes KHeart Suit 8Heart Suit 6Diamond Suit. The small blind checks, and the raiser checks. I would expect many players to bet their flush draw (and here a bet is nearly mandatory), but some players will check. If you see someone check in this situation, remember it, because it means a future bet is less likely to be a draw.

4. Hands They’re Slowplaying

Players check hands they’re slowplaying. Some players virtually always slowplay big hands on the flop. Against these players, a flop bet means with near certainty that they don’t hold a big hand.

Most players slowplay sometimes and fastplay others. Still, the fact that a player bet early in a hand often reduces the chance that you’re up against a flopped monster hand.

5. Any Other Hands They Don’t Want To Lose A Lot of Money With

Players check when they’re uncertain or scared of losing money. Sometimes players who have been running badly will enter a defensive shell where they stop betting many of the hands they would normally bet. Be on the lookout for players who seem to have gone limp. Aggression from these players usually means a very big hand.

An Example

Whenever your opponents bet or raise, think first about all the hands they likely would not bet for one of these reasons. This will usually allow you to start narrowing down your opponents’ ranges to something you can work with.

Let’s work through an example hand from a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em game with $300 stacks.
Two tight players limp, and you raise to $12 from two off the button. A regular player calls on the button, the blinds fold, and both limpers fold. There’s $31 in the pot and $288 behind.

The flop comes KHeart Suit 10Spade Suit 8Spade Suit. You bet $20, and your opponent calls.

The turn is the 2Club Suit. You check, your opponent bets $40 into the $71 pot, and you call. There’s $151 in the pot and $228 behind.

The river is the 4Club Suit. You check, and your opponent bets $70. What sort of hands is he likely to have?

A regular player calls a preflop raise on the button with a fairly wide range of hands. The flop is very coordinated and hits a large portion of a preflop calling range. Hands that will call the flop include sets and two pair, any king, any ten, any eight, high unimproved pocket pairs like Q-Q, spade draws, straight draws around K-10, and 10-8.
Due to all the available open-ended and gutshot draws, this range is fairly heavy with straight-draw hands.

On the turn you check and call. What does your opponent’s turn bet mean? It could be a set or two pair that your opponent slowplayed on the flop. It could be a king. It could possibly be Q-Q or J-J or a flopped ten or eight, though these hands might check the turn with showdown value. It could be a flush or straight draw (or a combo draw). In other words, your opponent might bet any hand with which he called the flop, though he might instead check the weak pairs with showdown value.

After betting the turn, however, most players would check their weak pairs on the river. If your opponent tries to read hands, he might interpret your turn call to be either a king or a draw. Holding a pair like J-10, he might check the river hoping to beat a busted draw at showdown.

The fact that your opponent chose not to check the river is meaningful. He could have a strong hand. But he could also be bluffing with any of a large number of busted draws. But he likely doesn’t have a middling hand with showdown value like J-J or A-8.

On this river there are more busted draws your opponent could hold than there are big hands. Getting nearly 3-to-1 to call, this is a reasonable situation to try to snap off a bluff.

The keys to finding a bluff-catching call in this situation are the board and the tendency to check once with showdown value. When you understand when your opponent won’t bet, it helps you understand better the hands they do. ♠

Ed’s newest book, The Course: Serious Hold ‘Em Strategy For Smart Players is available now at his website You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the training site



almost 5 years ago

pre flop
tao puts hero on (ed miller) a10 suited
tao puts all limpers trash and sometimes trash
hero cbet
1 limper call
tao puts hero on a10 suited or kq
tao puts villian on sometime trash
hero checks
villian bets
hero calls
tao puts hero on a10 suited
tao puts villian on semi bluff or kx (2_6) or 10x
hero checks
villian bets
tao says hero must call
tao says hero has postive EV
what u say ed miller


almost 5 years ago

tao has spoken


almost 5 years ago

tajo says if hero has A10 suited
tao says EV is postive to the amount of $114.00
tao now ask ed miller (mit math guy) is tao ev number correct