Getting the most out of your winning hands with “Value Targeting”

graphIn this article, I will examine the topic of maximizing value through value targeting.  Value targeting is identifying the hand or set of hands from which you are attempting to get value.  Let’s look at a hand to discuss this topic:

Pokerstars $2.20Level 50/100 + 10

The villain in this hand was tight passive. His line was 15/8/0/0 26 hands.

EP1 EP2 MP1 MP2 MP3 CO Button SB BB
1,395 9,287 2,210 2,399 3,020 14,479 2,860 2,174 4,540
Villain Hero
7♦ 7♥
Preflop (240) 2 folds, villain calls, 5 folds, Hero checks
Flop (340) 7♣ A♥ 4♦ – Hero checks

This is the part of the hand that I want to focus on.  Hero flopped a big hand.  When you flop a big hand you want to grow a big pot.

In this hand, Hero decided to check.  He was attempting to slow play and make his hand look weak, hoping to get some value from the weaker part of the range that the villain may have in this spot.  In my opinion checking this flop is an error.

When you flop a big hand you should attempt to play a big pot.  You do not flop big hands too often in Texas Hold’em.  When you do, you should attempt to play a big pot.  When you want a big pot, you should put the chips in there yourself, don’t expect your opponent to do it for you.

You should set a value target.  When you flop a big hand, you should set a value target.  This is a range of hands you are hoping will pay you off.  The value target should be for the probable second best hand that your opponent can expect to have.  Hands that are just a few notches weaker than your hand.  In this hand, the hands are a few notches weaker include 44, A7, A4, 74s, and finally Ax hands.

Determine how many bets your opponent will pay off with a target hand.  With all of these target hands, we should expect our opponent to possibly pay us off for three streets of value.  The possible exception would be maybe the weaker aces may fold by the river, but we should get two bets out of even the weaker aces.

Ignore the hands not in the value target.  While it is possible that your opponent may have air or maybe something like a middle pair like 88 in this hand, we should ignore these hands for the moment.  When we slow play, what we are doing is attempting to get an opponent with these hands to maybe put a bet in the pot, where we may not get that bet if we play this hand fast.  However, the value that we miss when our opponent has one of the hands in the target range is exponentially larger than the small value we may possibly get with one of these weaker holdings.

You should size the bets for maximum value.  In this hand, taking note of your opponent’s stack is very important.  When you want to play for stacks, two important markers are 10% and 30% of your opponent’s stack.  If on the flop, you can bet 10% of your opponent’s remaining stack, you will be able to get all in without your opponents help if he calls your bets.

On the flop, your opponent’s stack is 2,100.  The pot is 340, so a bet of 210 is about perfect.  If he calls the flop, there will be 760 in the pot, and your opponents stack will be 1,890.  30% of 1,890 is 550.  If he calls that bet, the pot on the river will be 2,990 and his stack will have 1,360 left, making him pot committed for the river shove with showdown value hands.

Therefore, when you flop a big hand, your goal should be to build a big pot.  This reminds me of the old adage, big hands = big pots and small hands = small pots.  Too often, players flop big hands and check, which will result in small pots.  You do not flop big hands very often in Hold’em.  When you do, you should make it your standard plan to build a big pot.  Don’t expect your opponent to do it for you.

To get maximum value, you should target a set of hands.  These are the set of hands just below or a few steps below your hand.  Then ask yourself: how many streets will he call with the hands in the target range.  If the answer is three streets of value, then it is usually an error to slow play.

Joseph Pregler plays regularly in live tournaments on the East Coast and enjoys sharing his wisdom and experience to novice and intermediate players.  You can follow him at 

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