Value betting and bluffing go hand in hand!
When bluffing, you try to make some one believe you are holding a strong hand. When value betting, you try to represent a worse hand than you actually have. While these might sound like the complete opposite of one another, its basically the same principle. When you improve your bluffing skills, your valuebets will become better as well. That is the reason I decided to discuss both terms in one article.
Various people have asked me before "When is the best time to bluff?" To find this out, you first have to think about the worst situations in which to bluff. For example, you have and the flop shows . In what situation will you fold your Aces here? What sort of betting pattern from your opponent would you interpret as enough strength to fold your hand? The answers to those questions are your answers for when to bluff. If you would fold your Aces in that situation, then your opponent might do the same. So before you can get some one to fold his strong hands, you need to find out how you would play yours. If you don't know what an uncomfortable situation is when holding an overpair, then you won't be able to fake this situation for your opponent. You should, however, always make sure that you are bluffing an opponent who is actually capable of folding a strong hand. So this is bluffing when your opponent is being the aggressor.
The smallest example of bluffing when you are being the aggressor is in fact the well known continuation bet. You have and miss the flop. You place a continuation bet and you opponent folds. This is also just bluffing (albeit it with the best hand sometimes). Something a little more advanced is the double barrel bluff. This is when you fire out another bluff on the turn. The triple barrel bluff is therefore, logically, the most advanced play of all, as you fire out another bluff on the river. You should, however, watch out that your opponent isn't just comfortably flatcalling you with a monster, since you're doing all the betting anyway. A big aspect of bluffing is, therefore, having good reads on your opponents.
There is not much point in describing 50 different situations and what would be a good bluff in each. Every situation is different, and in order to bluff successfully in each of them you only need one thing; Reads. You need to know exactly what your opponent is holding for you to make him fold his hand. And, as mentioned before, you should always make sure he actually wants to fold his hand. When playing lower stakes you are hardly (if ever) going to find a player who lays down Aces. Then again, on lower limits there is not really as need to bluff, as players will give you their money anyway. You don't have to mix up your game in order to get paid off. The higher up you go, the more you will need to bluff, as you will have to mix up your game anyway. So don't make the mistake to try and bluff every pot. Think good about what hand you're putting your opponent on and how the board is developing. If a scare card appears (for the hand you think he has) then it's time to bluff. Watch the game through the eyes of your opponent.
The pure purpose of a bluff is to win the money that's in the pot. It is not a measure of who has the biggest balls in pokerland. Only show a bluff if it serves a purpose in the future. For example, you usually play very tight but want to get paid off more. This is a bit of a strange example and should also only be used on higher limits. Apart from that it should be your goal to win more money and not show off all your moves to your opponents.
Value betting basically follows the same principle. Value betting implies that you get the maximum value out of a hand. Everyone knows the situation where you check the river (after betting the flop and turn) with on a -high board and your opponent shows . You could've gotten more out of this hand than you did. Placing another bet on the river here is a typical value bet. You know you have the best hand and want to get some more money into the pot. Many people think that a value bet is always 40-60% of the pot, but this is a big mistake. Sometimes the best value bet is all-in. If you hit your straight on the river with on a X--X- board and you put your opponent on KhQs, an all-in would be the perfect value bet. Although it does work less often, it doesn't have to work all the time as the payoff you get is much larger. If you $100 value bet always gets called by your opponent holding KQ in this situation, then your $1100 all-in only has to work 1 out of 10 times to be profitable. This is an example of an overbet that actually functions as a value bet.
The mistake that many people make is looking at the board. I first understood this when I was in Copenhagen 2 year s ago to play the EPT with Hallinggol and Check_kills. I was watching Hallinggol play and he made a $3000 river bet into a $3500 pot with 77 on a 9-8-8-5-2 board. I say "please fold" and Hallinggol says "wtf, please call, this is a value bet". His opponent called and mucked his hand. What I understood then is that it doesn't matter what the board shows. If the flush hits on the river and you have an overpair but didn't put your opponent on a flush draw but a lower overpair, you can just go ahead and bet. So as with bluffing, it all comes down to reads.
So the first thing you need to do is be sure that you are holding a better hand than your opponent. Then you have to try and figure out the maximum amount he will call with that hand. Don't always go for the easy option and check on the river.
This article is a bit shorter than the other ones. I can't give every example of a good bluff or value bet. It really differs from pot to pot and from limit to limit. The only thing I can describe is the thought process behind it. This way you learn to think about situations yourself and can figure it out yourself rather than just knowing how to play very specific situations. Bluffing and value betting is learned by experience, making mistakes and improving your reads. The correct size of a value bet or the frequency at which you can bluff pots is different for every site and every limit. So pay close attention to situations in which you get bluffed or call a river bet.
I can't teach you how to bluff or value bet on two A4 sheets of paper. My main goal was to start you off in the right direction and get you to think about the right methods. The rest will come with experience.