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Bad Reasons… for Betting

November 27, 2020
by Pete Clarke

In this series we debunk all of the bad reason for doing things. As a professional coach, I find myself wading through seas of bad reasons for actions every day and explaining why they don’t work. It is much easier to see the right reasons for making a play when you have cleared out all of the garbage thoughts which tempt you towards a line.

In essence, all of the bad reasons we will be looking at in this series fail to encapsulate why your EV (expected value) might increase or decrease by taking a certain line. They usually stem from something that is psychologically appealing but logically flawed. Often there is no comparison between one option and the others. A line is chosen based on one shallow reason and the alternatives are largely ignored.

Today we cover bad reasons for betting. Some of these have popped up in other places in the school, in articles by me and others, but here they are all in one place.

For Information

Betting ‘for information’ is a flawed idea because it doesn’t get you much information at all. If you bet one third of the pot with QQ on AK3r ‘for information’ and Villain calls you have not found out what he has. Players are supposed to call with a king here, an ace, some underpairs, some 3x, and some floats like QJ, QT, and JT. On the turn, you still have no idea which part of your opponent’s range he holds, but that’s irrelevant as there is almost no reason to bet again against any of these hands since you are either way ahead or crushed. The information you gained on the flop is vague – all you really ruled out was total trash and how exactly does that help your expected value?

Another reason why betting for information is flawed is that you have already paid for to find out what you found out. One line that does make sense is checking for information vs. transparent players as you can investigate for free whether you should be investing money against their range by waiting for them to filter it in a face up manner. If you go ahead and bet the flop big with the QQ on AK3, you are making a mistake. Your bet will get called exclusively by better hands. Congratulations, you have just paid to nearly always be losing!

Betting for information is like going into a store and offering to pay to find out the price of something.

To Avoid Uncomfortable Spots

Students hate having to face big river bets.

‘If I check behind on the turn, he’ll bluff me lots and I’ll have to fold the best hand.’

But if he’s bluffing you lots, then maybe you should encourage this by checking and then calling the bluff. This is how we make money in poker – getting our opponent to invest money with a worse hand than ours.

Another place where this bad reason pops up is in the big blind.

‘I don’t like calling the big blind as I have to play out of position so I just always 3-Bet these hands.’

This has absolutely everything to do with your preference and is far from a definitive criterion on which to judge your EV. Sure, it’s better when you’re in position but that doesn’t make an out of position situation automatically bad to call.

Students who are always trying to bet to streamline the hand in a way they’re comfortable with are neglecting the vital comparison between one line and the alternatives. They will randomly make lower EV choices in order to ward off feelings of discomfort which are usually nothing to do with profit.

To Represent Something

‘I bet the river to represent that King that fell.’

If you already had second pair, then betting the river will only make someone fold a worse hand. Sure, someone might decide that you may well have hit the king on the river, and this might be a contributing factor to his folding. But he is only folding a worse hand than second pair.

If you’re going to bluff, make sure that you are folding out enough better hands for the price you’re laying yourself that betting is a better proposition than checking. Throwing money into the pot because you want someone to believe you have a certain hand is in no way an assessment of whether bluffing is high EV, let alone higher EV than checking – your relevant alternative.

The other problem with ‘representing’ things is that your opponent does not have to even consider what you are trying to make him think you have. If he is in a combative mood, he might not care. Or he might just be a sophisticated player who understands that sometimes you will have what you are representing and sometimes you won’t. This makes the whole idea of representing completely redundant.

To Keep the Initiative

The initiative is not a thing. There is no magical momentum in poker that throws money towards the player who bet last. Players who raised pre-flop frequently bet many flops because they have a stronger range than their opponent and their opponent must fold a lot as a result. This gains protection of equity and forces Villain to often fold a share of the pot. This makes money. You win this money because it is apparent that your range is stronger than his not because of who physically invested chips. There are many times when pre-flop raisers have a range disadvantage and need to do a lot of checking.

Some players think that by checking they are suddenly making themselves frail and vulnerable. This only happens if they fail to protect their checking range. Just check back and call a bet with that weak top pair from time to time. It makes far more money from your opponent’s weak hands than betting does.

Because I’m the Pre-Flop Raiser

It is not always correct to c-bet. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. If ‘being the raiser’ was a reason to bet, we would just always c-bet – case closed. But we don’t. There are countless articles and video series on c-betting so there’s probably a bit more to it than that.


Now that we’ve swept away the trash, check out the article for the good reasons to bet.

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