Don't Try To Outthink a Fish, Just Bet Your Hands in Poker

Aug 30 2012 |

Last week we talked about slow playing big hands in poker and why not to do it most of the time. I can't stress the importance of betting your hands, especially at the lower limits. When you start playing tougher opponents, there will be times when slow playing is a must to mix up your play.  Most of you reading this are likely lower limit players as I am. There is no shame in playing these limits and there is always plenty of money to be made at these limits as well.

The mistake most people make at lower limits is over-thinking. Most of the players we make our money from will be level 1 thinkers and not very observant of the other players. If we try to bluff a player who only sees his hand value, and is not seeing what we are representing, our plays won't work. To beat level 1 players, we need only to be thinking at level 2, or 1 step ahead of them.

To conclude this thought, I want to stress again how important it is to just bet your hands. Trying to outthink a fish is like trying to out think a 2-year-old playing hide and seek. It's useless to formulate an elaborate plan when you all need to do is hide behind the closest door and you win every time. The same is true for poker. Fish can't lay down top pair with any kicker, and trying to get them to think about what you think, and then what you want them to think, is just futile.

This hand will once again show why betting a strong hand is never the wrong play.

We are heads up while waiting for other players to join and we get a fish that loves to call and plays rather aggressive. He’s been 3 betting a good bit and making larger than normal open raises from the button. In some cases it will be 7x. A lot of players will sit back and wait for strong hands, but by that time they may have picked up all the small pots and our stack could be blinded away. I always say fight fire with fire and this is a good example.

We get 33 in the big blind and 3 bet to 3x. Normally I would make a 3 bet a bit smaller, but in this case we are pretty deep with roughly 150 big blinds and this player will call with any two most of the time, so making it 3x is perfectly fine.

Bet your hands in poker

We obviously get a call and flop a huge hand. We basically have the nuts here and are looking to extract as much value as we can. We were the pre flop aggressor so it's natural for us to lead right out. When we raise pre flop it's expected that we bet most of the time, so in this case we will not alter from our normal play. It is tempting to check and let the aggressive player bet and then check raise or flat. But, missing a street of value is too risky. Also, we know this player will call with a very wide range of hands so it's always best to lead out. We want to bet enough to start building a large pot. Since we are deeper than normal we can bet a bit on the larger and look to bet big on all streets.

Bet your hands in poker

We bet about 3/4 pot which is fine. I'd prefer a bit larger, say to around $2.00 or so, but this is fine as well. We get called and the turn brings a blank. We should again be looking to get value, as there are plenty of hands that will call. Our opponent could have a straight draw, a 9, a ten or a flush draw. Again, we should bet big. The pot contains $6.00 so we should bet around $5.00.

Before we move on, I want to discuss why betting larger not only gets the most value, but it also serves another purpose. We want to make the pot large enough so that we can jam the river and not have it be an overbet. If we bet small on earlier streets it will be more difficult to get the money in on the river. Even if the bet is pot, it will still be harder to get calls from weaker hands. If the pot is say, $13 and our all in is $5, they will call with a much wider range of hands, since its only $5 to call into a pot of $13. This applies to all hands, not just this scenario. Always be aware of the pot size and what it will take to get the money in when that is your goal. Slow playing will usually not allow you to get all the money in since you will have to bet much larger and it will likely be an overbet to the pot.

We bet $4.20 into a pot of $6, which is fine, but again I prefer it to be a bit larger. We still set ourselves up for an all in river bet nicely so this is no huge issue.

Bet your hands in poker

The river brings a blank basically, and our opponent only has $7 left and the pot is over $14. Our only option is to bet all in and look to get called. A lot of players will check here and hope they bet. This is never a good idea and a bet is a must. You can see we get called down with top pair weak kicker and win a nice pot. Had we checked on any street it's likely they would check as well given their hand strength. It is top pair, but this is a hand that you would prefer to play pot control with and not get too much money in the middle. However, this player doesn't really care about all that and just sees top pair. There is no telling if they would have bet had we checked it to them, but that's a risk we don't want to take.

Bet your hands in poker
Bottom line, bet when you have the goods and look to get paid off. It's never a mistake to bet your hands. In contrast, it can sometimes be a mistake to check and let a street of value go to the wayside.
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