Playing Aggressively For Value Requires Real Thinking

We’ve been talking a bit about raising for value and how we always need to have a plan in mind when we do so, as opposed to just firing off raises for the heck of it, or because this is how we’ve been told we should play.

pot of gold

Building our pots of gold properly requires good planning

Now aggression of course has two main purposes as we know, which are to look to win more money when we win hands, and to also look to win pots by getting everyone to fold. Often, we will be playing with both in mind, where we may win by taking the pot down or we may win at showdown, and both are at least seen as a benefit.

So I’ve started by looking at the value side of things, and it’s important to give people a good understanding of that first before you move on to the fold equity side, and then finally the hybrid side which takes both elements into account, and therefore is the most complicated of the three.

So we still need to clarify things somewhat with the value side of raising before we can move on to the other two, although everything always starts with looking to think about what we are doing, and this is especially true with value considerations.

Every time we act in poker we need to be doing so with a plan, and the better our plans, the better we will play, and the more we will be able to take advantage of our opponents. Poker should never be an automatic game, and even when we get to the point where much of our play has already been thought out, this needs to be based upon prior good analysis and not just some sort of uncritical response.

Value Analysis Always Addresses Responsive Ranges

Whenever we look to bet or raise, and we do so for value, in other words where we prefer our opponents not fold, then we always want to look to how the situation changes when our opponents indeed do not fold.

This is something that very good players think about, at least to some degree, but overall it’s pretty neglected by most players. It’s extremely fundamental to playing good poker though, and like many of the topics that I address in this series, it is for the most part not really thought of very much.

You may have heard players talk about situations where they are either way ahead or way behind, so when they bet they are only likely to be called or raised in a bad situation. This is an extreme version of this rationale, and it actually applies not just to way ahead or way behind scenarios, but to a lot of much more commonplace ones as well.

As a matter of fact, this analysis is critical to our being able to bet and raise for value at all with any real confidence. If we screw this up, we’re going to be doing some real damage to our game, and if we get this right, or at least more right than we’d be not really paying much attention, then we can really help ourselves.

It’s Not Even Enough To Be The Favorite

We’ve already gone over the fact that in order to make sense of raising for value, we need to be the favorite when we raise. In spite of what amount of money may be in the pot now, what we’re looking to do when we go for value is add to our potential winnings at showdown, and if we’re not the favorite, all we do when we raise is add to our opponent’s potential winnings.

So in spite of how stupid this sounds, it’s a trap that we can easily fall into if we don’t understand what’s really going on, and it’s fair to say that most poker players really don’t, because they aren’t doing much thinking at all here.

Now while we may end up being mistaken and assume sometimes that we are the favorite when we in fact weren’t, there are lots of instances where our best judgments don’t turn out to be accurate, and all we can do then is simply try to make better ones.

However, we at least are making an attempt here to determine when we are more likely to win pots at showdown, and this is way better than just playing blindly and tossing in raises in a much less planned fashion.

So we’re requiring the additional money that we put in to bring us a positive return, and since we’re going for value, we need and want our opponents to play on here for this to all work out for us.

How They React Changes Things A Lot

So therefore, we don’t just need to be the favorite to raise, we need to still be the favorite when the opponent chooses to play on and not fold. This will involve both their calling and their raising, so we need to look at how things would change if they do either of these.

What this really all comes down to is that our determinations of our chances of winning hands is always going to be based upon a certain amount of information, and this information changes and evolves throughout the hand. So how an opponent reacts to a raise is definitely a pretty significant piece of information, and will really define what they may have and what their strategy may be with it.

So what it boils down to is that to raise, we have to be the favorite now, and still be the favorite if called. This is oversimplifying things in a way, as we have to look at both calls and re-raises to do this properly, and there may be more than one opponent in the hand with us, further complicating things.

We want to look to try to keep things fairly simple though and just telling our students that they need to be the favorite if called will make this more understandable to them at this point, and this process is complicated enough for newer players as it is, such that no one even dares teach them such advanced concepts anyway. So that will do for now, and the next step is to give them some fairly simple ideas on how to decide all of this.