McHaffie: MCU lesson 107 / Value betting

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 107: When is value betting profitable?

Value betting is when you have an average hand and you think your opponent is more likely to call than to raise, so you bet. You anticipate that you’ll win the pot and be able to add a few more bucks to your bankroll.

Mike terms a value bet as “a bet made by a knowledgeable player who’s pursuing every penny of profit.” Usually the player believes his hand is likely to be better than his opponents’, therefore he bets.

So, of course, if you get the opportunity to value bet medium-strong hands against opponents you think will call instead of raise, go for it. Take advantage of those times.

Proper times

Mike says that many skilled players fail to make the money that they could by value betting, because they don’t value bet at the proper times. What, there are proper times to value bet? You bet!

The correct time to value bet is when you have a good chip count and you’re king of the hill. That’s right. Your opponents are going to be shaking in their shoes, so they’ll be less likely to challenge you. They probably aren’t going to mete out extra punishment by raising with hands that are slightly better than yours. Remember: You’re intimidating because of your previous success, and this makes them just call instead of maximizing their hands’ value with a raise. You’ll still lose some of these hands, but it won’t cost as much when you do, meaning your aggressive value betting works when you average in the many times you win.

That’s when you can use medium-strong hands to increase your profits — when you have psychological control. Then your opponents are probably going to make aggravated calls instead of raises. Intimidated opponents, when at a disadvantage, will have a tendency to call too frequently. Even if they themselves are holding intermediate hands, they aren’t usually inclined to test the deeper waters with a raise.

Many players make their mistakes trying to value bet at inappropriate times. That’s why value betting isn’t always working for them. During those times that they improperly value bet they are losing money. When is the wrong time?


You don’t want to value bet when you have a low chip count. You’re losing; your opponents aren’t going to be unsettled by you. Instead they are going to be stimulated by the fact that they are lording it over you. You are now insignificant, someone they can toy with.

If you attempt to value bet now it could negatively affect you. They aren’t going to merely call you, but they are going to raise you right out of your money when they have you beat. You don’t want to slink away from the table with your tail between your legs, your pockets empty.


So, Mike says that players need to adjust to situations. If you’re winning, you have an impressive mound of chips, then sure, go ahead and take the advantage of those medium hands and value bet. However, if you’re down, with a meager stack, practice control, don’t give into the temptation to value bet in hopes of picking up extra money. Just check those hands. You can’t hope to increase your stack if your opponents aren’t impressed with you and are instead running over you.

You should be warned that value betting is habit forming if you aren’t careful. If you practice it and succeed it can increase the excitement of the game, falsely building your confidence so that you aren’t selective about when you use it. So, you try it again and again. You are no longer practicing control, and you’re going to put a significant dent in your profits.


You don’t want to value bet deceptive opponents, either. You could be walking into a trap. And you shouldn’t value bet too frequently, your opponents could get wise and rethink their tactics.

Most importantly: Don’t bet for value if you’re losing, only if you’re winning. — DM

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