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Tony Murtagh

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The G-Spot: Calling for Value
8/17/2007 6:05:23 AM

When thinking about how to extract maximal value from our good hands, our minds usually turn towards aggressive play. We think about the bet amount that will yield the highest possible profits. Against passive opponents, this instinct to bet is usually correct. Against aggressive opponent, it can cost you money.

Don’t Deter Aggressive Opponents

Some opponents pounce on any signs of weakness. Check the turn to them after betting the flop, and they will bet into you. Some of them will call you with absolutely nothing on the flop with the intention of bluffing on the turn or the river–especially when scare cards hit. However, if you continually show aggression, these opponents will fold.

Your aggressive opponents will bet with a much larger range of hands than they will call with. When you have monster hands, trap these opponents for lots of chips by raising the bets you induce from them. When you have good (but vulnerable) hands like top-pair-top-kicker, simply call these opponents down.

Think of Value Betting in Position on the River

To consider why check-calling with good (but vulnerable) hands can sometimes be optimal, let’s think about when to bet in position on the river. When you’re last to act on the river and a single opponent has checked to you, a good value bet is one which will be called by a worse hand more than half of the time. Your opponents’ calling distribution determines the efficacy of a value bet.

Extending this line of thought, to determine how to get the most value out of your hands, simply weigh your opponents’ calling distributions versus their betting distributions. Viewing things through this filter, it becomes clear that:

1.) You get value by playing aggressively against passive opponents because their calling distributions are much wider than their betting distributions
2.) You get value by playing passively against aggressive opponents because their betting distributions are much wider than their calling distributions

Playing passively may result in you having to make some tricky decisions, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about playing the distribution match-ups. Provided that your read on your opponents’ betting and calling distributions are accurate, you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

Everything Is Situational

Of course, you shouldn’t always be aggressive against passive opponents, and you shouldn’t always be passive against aggressive opponents. As long as you realize that “calling for value” is a valid line of play, you’ll be fine. See beyond the tight-aggressive rhetoric from the pundits, and realize that passive play can be just as much of a weapon as aggressive play. The keys, as always, are using the right weapon for the right job and having a logically defined reason for every action you take.

Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker By The Numbers. Visit him online at

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