Value Betting on Dangerous Boards

If you hold a mediocre value hand on a dangerous board, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what to do.

In a lot of cases you have to balance value betting with exercising pot control. Especially if the board connects well with your opponent's range.

Your opponent's playing tendencies are an important consideration. Against passive opponents, value betting is usually your main priority. But against more aggressive opponents who are capable of (semi-)bluffing, your focus should often be on pot control.


Getting Value on Drawy Boards

If you flop a pair, a dangerous board can sometimes be in your favor. Simply because there are more hands in your opponent's range that he can pay you off with.

This is particularly true if you hold Ax and flop a pair of Aces. That is what happens in the hand discussed in the video below.

If you hold A♣-8 on a flop of A♠-7♣-2 a value bet usually won't get called if your opponent doesn't have an Ace.

On a flop of Q♣-A-T♣, however, there are a lot more hands that your opponent can call a value bet with. There are gutshot straight draws and flush draws that can continue on this board. And pairs are a good possibility too, as Qx and Tx hands are hands that people like to call with.

So in some respects, dangerous boards are actually favorable if you flop a pair of Aces, because the chance of getting paid off is substantially higher than on dry boards.

However, your hand is obviously also weaker, as your opponent will have more hands in his range that he can outdraw you with. This requires a delicate balance between value betting and exercising pot control.

Balancing Value Betting and Pot Control

In the hand above, holding A♣-8 in position on a flop of Q♣-A-T♣, we have two more or less contradicting objectives.

We have to strike the right balance between getting value from our pair of Aces and exercising pot control at the same time. Yes, we may have the best hand right now, but there are plenty of hands in our opponent's range that can outdraw us on later streets, so we don't want to play for a huge pot.

This is where opponent tendencies play an important role.

Passive Opponents

Against passive opponents, value betting is our main priority. If we are in position and our opponent is likely to just check-call with all of his draws, this is a good opportunity to get some value.

Depending on effective stack size and stack to pot ratio, pot control may be important too though. So in that case, don't make your value bets too big so you don't commit yourself to the pot.

Aggressive Opponents

Against aggressive opponents we have to be more cautious and put more emphasis on pot control.

With A♣-8 in position on a flop of Q♣-A-T♣, an aggressive opponent may very well attack our value bets here with a (semi-bluff) check-raise. That will put us in a very tricky spot.

Our opponent may have us beat already with two pair or trips. And if he's check-raising with a draw, he can have plenty of equity to outdraw us on the turn or river. Even if he doesn't have a draw or misses it, he can still put a lot of pressure on us by betting on scary looking turn and river cards.

So against aggressive opponents, we may better elect to check behind here to avoid getting check-raised off our hand. That way, he will also be more inclined to bluff on later streets, because we show weakness by checking.

Value Betting on Dangerous Boards

Drawy boards increase the odds of getting paid off with value hands, especially if you make a pair of Aces.

With a vulnerable value hand, you always have to strike the right balance between value betting and exercising pot control. Apart from hand strength, board texture, and your opponent's perceived range, your opponent's playing tendencies determine which of the two should have priority:

  • Against passive opponents, you can put more emphasis on value betting.
  • Against aggressive opponents, pot control becomes more important.
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