Getting More Value


When many players start playing No Limit Hold’em, they feel threatened by how bloated the pots can become. They may underbet in various situations not wanting to invest more, not realizing this sends a signal to their opponents that they are not committed. Alternatively, they may overbet in an early street in an attempt to prevent later streets from happening.

Eventually, most players work out the traditional bet sizes, pre-flop raising ranges, and continuation betting on dry boards. It’s on the turn where the trouble starts. Tournament players are wildly talented at not barreling the turn enough. Giving up on a troublesome street is forgiven in their minds under the guise of “pot control.”

I was reminded of this recently when I saw an example of my student checking a turn incorrectly. In the hand, he was at a nine-handed table and was 50 big blinds deep. A similar stacked player opened UTG to 2X. This player was a little loose and aggressive, opening more than 25% of the hands from early position. For those who don’t know, that’s a good deal of suited two-gappers and unsuited big card combinations.

He 3bet from UTG+1 to 5.2 times the big blind in order to isolate the looser player with his exploitable large opening range. A flat is fine here as well. There is a wide variety of fun post-flop bets and raises available to us if we allow a 25% opening range to brick or somewhat hit a flop. However, a value 3bet is good as well as long as you have some idea of what to do to a 4bet. In this case, the UTG villain had 4bet less than 7% of the time over a large sample. He almost always called. While it’s annoying, you could theoretically 3bet/fold J-J here. There is no evidence he’s getting it in with T-T or worse.

The players behind him folded until another player with 60 big blinds flatted on the button. This player had only played 40-something hands and was running 25/17 in them with a 3bet of 9%. His statistics were starting to resemble a regular player’s, but he was calling much more than he was raising.

UTG flatted his 3bet, getting a good price, and the board came 4s-6s-6h. UTG checked and my student bet 6X, and rightfully so. This is a fortuitous flop for us. If our more calling-style opponent behind us has 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, or T-T, this looks like a good flop for him. In addition, if he flatted some suited connector or suited big card combination, this will occasionally give him a flush draw. Due to the 3bet and cold call pre-flop, he could not be dying to get it in with just a medium flush draw. He’s a little more likely to peel.

The button flatted the continuation bet and UTG folded. The pot was now around 30 big blinds and my student had 38 big blinds left. The turn was the three of clubs.

My student checked. I asked, “Why did you check here?”

He admitted that he should have probably bet, but oftentimes I’ll hear an explanation along the lines of, “Double barreling into a pot that was 3bet pre-flop and cold called? It’s going to be hard for anything to call me. The stacks are getting awkward. I’d rather check and keep the pot small.”

Let me paraphrase what I tell those players: Checking here does not keep the pot small. In fact, it often accomplishes the opposite. It waves a flag that says, “I have a mediocre pair most of the time or A-K that didn’t connect.” Your opponent will fire often, and he will be right to do so. He knows right where you’re at now and that you likely can’t stomach a triple-barrel.

Furthermore, if this guy is wide enough to call pre-flop with flush draw combinations, 8-8, 9-9, and T-T, what makes you think he’ll suddenly come to his senses and fold an overpair?

It’s possible that you fold out a smaller overpair here, but not likely. Even the smallest overpair just picked up a gutshot and is unlikely to leave.

More importantly, you must bet now to get value from flush draws. They’re only going to pay you now. On the river, they’ll either have you beat and you will have lost the entire pot or they will have missed and be calling nothing.

If you bet this turn, you will be getting value from 24 combinations of underpairs. You will also be getting a call from four to seven additional flush draw combinations depending on how many premium suited connectors you think he’s playing or how many you think he’s just calling with on the flop. That is a minimum of 28 combinations.

What beats you? 18 combinations of overpairs, and that’s being generous. What are the chances this player flatted A-A or K-K here? In my experience, most people play K-K fast pre-flop to avoid seeing a flop with an ace. A-A or Q-Q I could see flatting, but it’s not the routine play. You can’t even count a full 18 combinations here.

You might be asking right now, “What about 7-6 suited or A-6 suited?” It’s possible those hands would have raised this flop due to the likelihood of an overpair being in our range. In addition, if those hands are on this turn, that means there are far more combinations of flush draws that you’re getting value from that you didn’t account for before.

Yes, the stacks are awkward here, but you should be betting at least the turn. Most people would agree with at least that after analyzing how many combinations there are of each hand.

That doesn’t mean the hand is somehow suddenly easy to play. The river will leave you with less than a pot-sized bet, even if you bet one-third of the pot on the turn.

My students often take my advice and start barreling more turns, but then they get into a situation like this one. They bet the turn, have a pot-sized bet left, and the river is an overcard to their top pair. They go, “I have no idea what to do here. I’m sick.”

Grinders who are seeing their profits diminish each year feel this instinct and say, “I never want to feel like I put myself in a bad spot.” They begin calling down again, always justifying their calls by saying they let a flush draw bluff off, not realizing all the value they’re losing. Worse yet, many call on the turn and then fold on a number of rivers, having no idea if their opponent is overvaluing a mediocre overpair.

The way to deal with this is to continue betting the turn with the intention of thinking thoroughly through a river. If the river were an offsuit queen or a king, that’s not a bad card for you. What hand combination of his has a king or queen?

In fact, this is a great card for you. It’s more unlikely your opponent has an overpair now and it makes a perfect “bluff” card. An opponent sitting there with 7-7 could justify a river call with the great price they’re getting. They’ll cling onto the idea that you’re jamming your missed flush draw in an attempt to represent an overcard.

If the river were an offsuit ace, it isn’t the worst card either because it’s somewhat likely an ace-high flush draw would have raised the flop. This can be determined by evaluating your opponent’s Flop Aggression Frequency.

The Aggression Frequency can also help you on the river. If it’s very low, you can value bet small, knowing he’ll never turn anything into a bluff when you’ll be getting a great price on his shove. If it’s really high – say 30% or higher – you can check and call. He’ll be bluff betting most missed flush draws and possibly turning mediocre pairs into bluffs.

If it’s any card below a jack that doesn’t complete the flush draw, it allows one underpair to river a full house. However, that hand is now less likely to be in your opponent’s hand. If the river were an eight of clubs, for example, 8-8 has caught up, but now there are only three combinations of 8-8 available to your opponent.

This means there are 18 combinations of underpairs still available, plus perhaps one flush draw combination that backed into top pair. That still outweighs the far more unlikely overpairs. Judging by your opponent’s river tendencies, you can sneak in another value bet here, albeit a very awkward one.

Alex AssassinatoFitzgerald has amassed $3,000,000+ in tournament earnings alone. Alex is an instructor at PocketFives Trainingand can be reached for private lessons at You can also reach him on Twitter @TheAssassinatoand on Facebook at He currently resides in his suburban home in Costa Rica with his fiancé and poodle.


    • Awesome read. This is a problem I have w getting all the value I can when I have the nuts. Have recently learned to make a value bet look like a bluff and this has benefitted me, but for example, say the pot is 1,000 and I have broadway on a rainbow board. Playing again tight/aggressive player whom I know is way better at poker than me. Has caught me bluffing once before when I bet 2/3 of pot. What would u bet?

    • Sharp,insightful and in-depth.I always look forward to reading your articles they are the best on here by a long shot.Bravo and keep them coming.:cool:

    • This part can you clarify this for me?

      The players behind him folded until another player with 60 big blinds flatted on the button. This player had only played 40-something hands and was running 25/17 in them with a 3bet of 9%. His statistics were starting to resemble a regular player’s, but he was calling much more than he was raising.

      You say that player calls more often than he raises, but has 25/17 stats?

    • All of these numbers gave me a headache but your picture was soothing. You look like you would be easy to talk to.

    • You should write a hand analysis book, you break things down very well and make it easy to understand.Nice article

    • Good one, always thinking ahead is always nice, plus looking at different data on each street is great.

    • So it’s not just clickin’ buttons???

      Thanks for the article – good read. Always look forward to reading all of your articles.