Have you ever had a sick feeling after you have made a bet or a raise? Like “uh oh I am not good here when this guy calls me.” One of the most simple but often misunderstood concepts in big bet poker is why we bet. To keep it very simple there are two main reasons—1. To get value from worse 2. To get better to fold (as a bluff). Any time you have a hand that is too in between and does not fit into either of these categories it is usually a mistake to bet. There is a third, less important reason to bet that tends to be more applicable in PLO and in NLHE tournaments, which is for equity protection, or “to take the pot down”. But usually in NLHE cash games we bet for value or as a bluff only.
I will give you an example of what I am talking about. Let us say we are playing a $2-$5 NLHE game with $700 effective stacks. We get dealt Q♠ J♠ in the cutoff and open raise to $20. A very nitty, tight, older player flat calls in the small blind and we take the hand headsup. The flop comes out Q♣ 7♦ 3♠. The blind checks, we bet $30 and he calls. The turn is the T♣. The player in the small blind checks again. Let us say that we now bet $100 into the $100 pot. Do you think that this can be interpreted as an overplay? Why are we betting this amount on the turn? If we make the assumption that the player will not fold a queen and will also not call such a large bet with anything but a queen or better do you see how this situation is way ahead way behind? In fact, with our kicker it is basically impossible for us to be good if the small blind does have a queen because if he is playing a reasonable range his holding is going to be AQ, KQ or now QT.
Now the player certainly could have been calling our flop continuation bet a little bit lighter with say a hand like 66 but he is not going to continue on after we basically bomb the turn. So we end up exactly in the situation that we wanted to avoid. Everything worse than our hand folds and only better continues on. The next time you are deciding whether or not to make a bet or raise and thinking about sizing make sure that, when you are not bluffing, you do not get worried when someone calls you. If the call is going to be scary then betting in that situation is probably not the best play.