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Confessions of a Player


Why not give that second pair a go?

By: Vicky Coren @ 05:47 (EST) / 1165 / Comment ( 0 )

People lose money by failing to 'value bet' their marginal hands – but it's worth trying against cocky opponents

An idea occurred to me the other day, when I was boredly folding a series of 82, J4, 93 etc in the GUKPT London tournament and letting my mind wander. It was that giving poker advice to a recreational readership, based on playing and watching big international tournaments and super-tough cash games with professionals, is a bit like being an in-house designer for Jigsaw at the Milan fashion shows.

I sit observing all this high-maintenance stuff, impressed by some of it, snorting derisively at some of it, but always thinking, "How can this be translated into something people can actually wear?"

I was thinking specifically about "thin value bets". Casual poker players will, in the main, call or fold with a hand like second pair. They might bet it, but only if the flop or turn's been checked to them, and switch off if they get called. Among pros, however, you will often see second pair (or any pair, sometimes just ace high) being bet on the river – and it isn't a bluff.

There are chips to be collected by doing this. People lose money by failing to "value bet" their marginally-winning hands, just checking gratefully in last position and hoping to be in front. Next time you're tempted to do this, try betting instead.

This is ambitious poker, because it's situation-specific and requires a real feel for the hand. Broadly, though: try it against cocky opponents. Nervous players won't call you with bottom pair or ace high. But confident or flashy players love to make "hero calls". This is especially true if they don't rate you very highly; they'll expect you to bet big hands or bluffs, not second pair. So give it a try, and think of it as a tax on disrespect.

This article first appeared in The Guardian

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