I have often read Poker books in the past that have talked about the number of reasons that you have to place money into the pot by either betting or raising. The reasons that I have seen quoted have numbered from half a dozen to as many as twelve depending on who the author is. However the reasons that I have seen haven’t been reasons at all but consequences of taking certain actions.
The fact remains that when you bet or raise in poker then you are either doing so for value or to bluff……..there are no other reasons.
Sophisticated players often merge the two reasons but there are only two. This is because you either have the best hand in any given situation or you don’t. Also your opponent either has a hand that can withstand action or it can’t and the same applies to you. One of the things that you will notice when you play poker is that there are an awful lot of “either/or” type scenarios. If you feel that your hand is not only the best hand but if you bet then your opponent can call then you are betting for value.
If you feel that your opponent is unlikely to be able to call then you are no longer betting for value but just aimlessly betting. Likewise if you feel that you don’t have the best hand, if you bet or raise then you are bluffing. However if you also feel that there is very little chance that your opponent can fold then you are not actually bluffing or at the very least then you are either bluffing badly or with no forethought at all. What actually confuses many novice players is that you can actually have the best hand but you still need to bluff.
This can be seen with the following example. You have Ad-Jc on a 10h-6s-2c board and your opponent has the Ac-9c. Clearly although you have the best hand, the important factor here is that both you and your opponent have weak hands. Your hand of ace jack high is only marginally better than your opponent’s hand of ace ten high. While your hand will win the pot at showdown, the fact of the matter is that both you and your opponent are weak. So if you bet then you are not betting for value for the simple reason that a worse hand will not call.
So if you are not betting for value then you are bluffing even though your hand is better than your opponent’s hand. Your bet is actually signalling to your opponent that you have a hand that is stronger than what you actually hold. Because this is not the case then you are telling a lie to your opponent and that means bluffing. If you can remember that in poker then you are only ever placing money into the pot for two reasons and they are to either bet or raise for value or to bet or raise to bluff.
If you cannot bet or raise for value or to bluff then this leaves you with only one possible option and that is to check. When you look at poker in this way then suddenly the entire game becomes logical and many of the problems that you have been encountering suddenly make a lot more sense. One of the biggest leaks in the games of novice and even intermediate level poker players is that they place money into the pot for either the wrong reasons or for no reason whatsoever which is many times worse.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker