Before you make a bet in a poker hand you should always have a clear idea on why you are making it. Some people say there are only two reasons to bet, for value or as a bluff. On the river this is almost always true, but not necessarily earlier in the hand.
Reasons for betting:
- Value betting – you have a hand that you believe is stronger than you opponents and you bet to extract value. In general you don’t mind if he calls – but you need to make sure he is not getting correct odds to do so. We use the term for cases where you bet to protect your equity also – cases where you don’t expect value from a weaker call, but bet to avoid giving a free card. For example with A 3 on a 2 2 3 rainbow flop.
- Bluffing – you have a hand that is probably weaker than your opponents and you bet hoping he will fold now or later in the hand.
- To control odds. For example if you have a drawing hand it can sometimes be profitable to bet a size that gives you correct odds to continue the hand – knowing that if you let your opponent bet, he will most likely bet so big that your odds will be incorrect. Sometimes also applies on the river when you have a decent hand (called blocking bet). This should rarely be used and normally only against opponents that will not understand what’s going on. Note that this is not the same as when you bet with a drawing hand mainly hoping that the opponent will fold – this is a semi-bluff and belongs to the category above.
- To increase pot size. For example you have 67s on the button and a fish has limped. You know he is very bad and can make huge mistakes. So you raise even though he will call most of the time. It is not a bluff since you expect a call. And it is not for value since you don’t expect to have the better hand in average.