One of the biggest mistakes that you see novice and average poker players make is that they do not have sufficient reasons for placing money into the pot by way of betting or raising.
At the lower levels then you tend to have only two reasons for betting or raising. These are for value or to bluff and there are no other reasons. If you have reasons to bet that are different to these then what you are looking at will be a consequence of betting/raising for value or to bluff and not a reason.
Betting For Protection
For example some players bet for what they call “protection”. If you are looking to “protect” something then you must think that your hand is good. If it is ahead then your primary concern should be to extract value.
If it is only marginally ahead then you shouldn’t be overly concerned with “protecting” it. In poker you are always looking to maximise the value in the pots that you win and minimise your losses in the ones that you lose. Another consequence of betting in poker is “probing” or “probe betting”.
Once again these are not reasons to bet but consequences of betting. If you are “probing” with a hand that you think is best then you are either betting or value because you think your hand may be good and can get called by worse or bluffing thinly and making your opponent fold their equity share of the pot.
Betting as a Probe
If you have nothing and you are probing then you are bluffing……it is that simple. In higher stakes poker games then players have multiple reasons for bluffing and value betting that merge together.
For example a player at low-stakes levels when heads up may bet purely to bluff with a hand like K-Q on a board of A-6-3 rainbow.
However at high-stakes levels then a top player may bet both to bluff and for value because more aggressive players would float and even bluff raise their c-bet allowing them to either call or raise and thus extract even more value.
So remember that essentially there are only two reasons to place money into the pot but at higher levels then the better players tend to have both of those reasons merging together.