How to Make Thin Value Bets in Poker

Have you ever had the experience of holding the best hand at the table but missing out on more value due to a misjudged bet? This often happens because you might not be adept at making thin value bets. Thin value can help you extract more value from the table, especially when playing against who tend to over-call.

How to Make Thin Value Bets in

A thin value bet is a bet made when you expect to win slightly more than 50% of the time when called. In other words, it's a value bet with a relatively marginal hand.

Example Scenario

In a $1/$2 cash game with effective stacks of $200:

  • You are on the button with Q♥ T♥ and to $5. The small blind folds, and the big blind calls.
  • The flop comes T♣ 8♥ 7♠, making the pot $11. The big blind checks, you bet $7, and the big blind calls.
  • The turn is 4♠, making the pot $25. The big blind checks again, you bet $17, and the big blind calls.
  • The river is 3♥, making the pot $59. The big blind checks once more. What should you do?

In this scenario, you should make a thin value bet. A bet of around $40 (about 2/3 of the pot) is appropriate.

To avoid being exploited by bluffs, the big blind should call with at least 57% of their range in this situation (the minimum defense frequency).

So, what does this 57% range include?

  1. Two Pair or Better:
    • T7s, 87s, 65s
  2. All Top Pair Hands:
    • ATo, KTo, QTo, JTo, T9o, QTs, T9s, T6s
  3. Bluff Catchers that Block Straights and Unblock Bluffs:
    • 86s, 76s, 66

Against these ranges, your Q♥ T♥ has about a 57% chance of winning the pot, making it a thin value bet.

Adjusting Your Bet Based on Opponent's Calling Range

  1. If they call with fewer hands: Your thin value bets will earn less, but your bluffs will become more profitable.
  2. If they call with more hands: Your thin value bets will earn more, but your bluffs will earn less.

If you have a reliable read on how your opponent responds to river bets, adjust your betting range accordingly. For example, if they fold frequently, you can bluff more often. Otherwise, bet with a balanced and thoughtful range to give your opponents opportunities to make mistakes.

Tips for Thin Value Betting

  1. Value Bet More Against Calling Stations:
    • When facing players who call too often, be prepared for variance and start value betting with marginal made hands. For example, if you see your opponent call with K7s on a T♣ 8♥ 7♠ 4♠ 3♥ board, start value betting with hands like 99 or A8s.
    • Adjust your range significantly downwards because bluffing these players can lead to substantial losses.
  2. When in Doubt, Bet:
    • If you are unsure whether your hand qualifies as a thin value bet, it's generally better to bet. This approach has three benefits:
      1. Gain More Information: You'll see which hands they call quickly, which they call after thinking, and even which they fold. All this information is valuable for formulating counter-strategies.
      2. Build an Aggressive Image: If others perceive you as aggressive, you can exploit this image in the future. Depending on their reaction, you can make more thin value bets or more bluffs.
      3. Gain Experience: The faster you become adept at making thin value bets, the better. Experience will help you climb the learning curve more quickly.
  3. Thin Value Bet on Missed Draw Boards:
    • When the board runs out in a way that many draws (especially flush draws) miss, you should make thin value bets more freely. Most decent players will notice the missed draws and call with a wider range.
    • This means you need to be more selective with your bluffs. Even if specific bluffs are break-even or slightly losing, bluffing overall is not a bad idea. In smaller circles, other players will notice if you avoid bluffing on missed draws and will stop calling your value bets.

By learning to make effective thin value bets, you can maximize your profits in poker, especially against players prone to over-calling. Remember to adjust based on your opponents' tendencies and continuously refine your strategy through practice and experience.

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