Many of the lower online poker players that play lower stakes games (and some higher level players for that matter) fail to properly understand why they are placing money into the pot.
In essence then there are only two reasons and if you can remember that then poker and the decision making process suddenly makes a lot more sense.
In poker then you are either one of two things based on your hand strength and the hand strength of your opponent or opponents……you are either ahead or behind and it is that simple.
Betting For Value
If you are ahead and you want to bet then you are essentially betting for value. However to bet for value means being called by a weaker hand! If you cannot get called by a weaker hand then you are not betting for value even if you think you are.
If you do not have the best hand and you bet then you are bluffing….simple. The main question to answer now is if you should be betting for value or bluffing when the time arises.
Remember that to bluff successfully then you need to get your opponents to fold either the best hand or their equity in the pot.
So if you have 6c-4c and the flop is 9d-Jh-Qs and you bet into four opponents from the big blind then it is obvious that you are bluffing and it is also equally obvious that you shouldn’t be doing it with no fall back equity and so many opponents.
Playing The Nuts
Let us look at betting for value by quoting an extreme example. It is folded to you on the button in an online poker NL100 cash game and you have A-A.
You make it 3.5bb to go and the big blind calls you. The flop comes A-7-2 rainbow and the big blind checks. Many players bet for value here and to build a big pot but betting for value can only be correct if weaker hands can call.
If no weaker hands can call then there is no value. When you are not bluffing and are not betting for value then checking becomes the superior option.
It is true that checking allows your opponent to backdoor hands but you cannot look at single bad beats in a vacuum to determine correct poker strategy. As soon as you become aware of why you bet or raise in poker then the game does become a lot simpler to play.