Ability to value betting thinly is something that separates the great no limit holdem players from the rest of the pack. It is something that is extremely important in limit holdem and in that game the difference between being a winning and a losing player full stop can rest on your ability to eek out extra bets in thin spots. However the fact is that a lot of players struggle to understand what a thin value bet even is.
What do we Mean by ‘Thin Value’?
The best way to define the term is to think about a betting decision where you think you’re barely ahead of your opponents’ range, and think that he will pay you off with a worse hand more times than he will call or raise you with a better hand, such that betting is the play with the highest expected value.
If you have the nuts or close to the nuts, then generally speaking there is going to be a lot of value in betting. If you have Ace high or bottom pair, there’s going to be very little value (in fact almost none) in betting. Value betting thinly is deciding whether or not to bet the range of hands in between these two extremes.
Succesfully betting for thin value requires an understanding of the math involved, as well as a very good feel for the dynamic you have with your opponent. For example, against some opponents you could consider betting a straight when a third suited card falls on the river as thin, but against someone with whom you have a lot of history with, and where an aggressive dynamic exists, you might be able to make a thin value bet with something as weak as second or third pair.
The Advantage of Value-Betting Thinly
One of the benefits to being a player who makes thin value bets is that you become much more difficult to play against. Let’s say your opponent raises under the gun pre-flop and bet all 3 streets on a KsTs4d2dAs board. If he’s a tight player who you know doesn’t value bet thinly at all and he thinks that you play well and solidly, then you can narrow his range to include almost exclusively made flushes. Players who don’t bet thinly will fear how this board has run out, and may even check on the end with QJ (not the Royal Flush obviously!)
When he checks to us on the river and we make a bet, he then has to make a decision about our value betting tendencies when he decides to call. If he perceives us as very tight and someone who doesn’t value bet thin, then he can almost fold his straights on the river when we bet. However, if we have a reputation for going for thin value, then we could even be betting with AK on the river (assuming we didn’t 3-bet it because he’s a tight UTG opener), and folding a straight would be a huge mistake.
To summarize, if our opponents know that we are capable of making thin value bets and are capable of merging our value betting range, then their decisions become much more difficult than the case where a bet from us can be narrowed down to either being a nutted hand or a bluff.
Bluffing Against Players who Don’t Value Bet Thinly on Early Streets.
Take the example where you are on the big blind in a 100bb 6-max cash game and you call a raise from a very straight-forward player who you know doesn’t value bet thinly in the cut-off and you have 8d8s. The pot is heads-up and the flop comes down AsTd5s. You check, and the cut-off checks.
When he checks, he is capping his range and we know that unless he is playing very poorly that he won’t have AA, TT , 55 or AT. A bet from such a player on this flop will mean that he either has a very strong hand like two pair or better, a strong draw, or a complete bluff. When he checks, we can narrow his hand range down to hands with some showdown value that he wanted to control the pot with or didn’t want to get check-raised off, such as a weak Ace or something like TJ.
We can take advantage of the information he has given us about his weak hand-range by either betting the turn and river strongly or check-raising the turn in order to get him to fold his hand with some showdown value that are ahead of us.