Getting the most amount of money from your opponents on your winning hands should always be your goal as a successful poker player. The key is to maximize the value of your strong hands. There are ways to go about doing this, but the main one is to bet and raise when you believe that your hand is the strongest. If your opponents are not contributing money into the pot, you will not be gaining value on your winning hand.
A common mistake made by beginner Texas Hold’ Em players is to try being crafty when holding a strong hand by checking and calling instead of betting and raising so as not to lose money if they should bet and opponents fold. The rookies try to lure opponents in and string them along. However, the end result is actually missing out on opportunities to bet and build bigger pots. Slowplaying usually gets less money into the pot, as well as affording other players the opportunity to make their drawing hands. By not betting and raising when you have the best hand, you are failing to maximize the potential value of your hand, thereby reducing profits.
Let’s look at an example. You are in late position with pocket 5′s and a middle position player raises four times the big blind pre-flop. You call the raise and all the other players fold. The flop of 9-5-A has your opponent betting 3/4 the size of the pot. Holding trip 5′s, there are many players who believe the best play here would be to hide the strength of your hand by just calling the bet and setting up your opponent for a raise in future betting rounds. However, this is an excellent opportunity to get additional dollars into the pot and jacking up the stakes for the duration of the hand. There is no need to be cagey and fear that your table rival will fold. After all, if he won’t call your raise on the flop, how can you be sure that he will be calling your raises after the turn and the river? You should be making a value bet and raising post-flop.
Many players think that they will lose value if they bet or raise too much and lose their opponents to a fold. But the truth is, if you can’t obtain more money from other players with a strong hand in a choice spot, then you more than likely won’t be getting much more money from those players anyway. This is a key principle of maximizing value. Raise and get your opponents to put more money in the pot and don’t be scared of other players folding because you probably won’t be extracting money from them in future rounds either if they don’t call after the flop.
It doesn’t upset me to raise with a strong hand and see my opponent muck his cards. Its better to try and make lots of money by raising, instead of checking and hoping that misrepresenting my hand will get him to believe that he has me beat. The only way to maximize value is to bet and get more money into the pot. Checking will only result in missed opportunities to increase the pot.
Making value bets on the river is also crucial to maximizing profits. Some players who know they have the best hand after the river card will only make a small bet on the premise that its better to get some money from your rival than nothing at all from a player who folds. However, this again is backward logic that goes against the grain of maximizing value. You’re also better off making a normal size bet at the showdown stage rather than a meager bet in hopes of enticing a call out of your opponent. Sure, there will be times that players will fold on the river and you will extract no more cash from your opponents. But the times that they do call your normal or larger-sized bets will certainly make up for the times you get nothing from a player who was perhaps chasing a drawing hand and didn’t catch and ends up folding. You will win more over the long haul with larger bets on the river card, even if your opponents call the bets less often.
Maximizing your hands’ value means betting and raising and getting your opponents to call and get more money in the center of the table. Your focus should be on long term profits instead of being tricky and slowplaying. Its way better to see your table rivals fold the majority of the time and for you to win big on occasion, rather than winning only small pots on each strong hand that you are dealt.
When you have a strong hand and an opportunity to raise and increase the pot, you should definitely do so. Your goal is to win the most money, not the most pots. Don’t be discouraged if your opponent folds to your monster hand. You have to attempt to gain the most value from your strong hands, and that means betting and raising when you have the best of it.