Betting only when you want to be called

We have saved the most important concept in this chapter for last.1 Just because you think you have the best hand on the end doesn't mean you should bet. You should only bet on the end if you'll have the best hand most of the time when you're called. For instance, suppose you have

'Here in the second edition, that's not quite true. This is the second most important concept, and it's the penultimate subsection. You can guess what's coming next.

and when the 3 A falls on the river, the board looks like

You had bet on the flop and turn because you feared that your opponent was on a diamond flush draw. Now if you bet, one of two things will happen. If your opponent missed a flush draw he will throw his hand away. Otherwise, he had an ace with a better kicker (or better hand) and is checking and calling. In this situation, you will only be called if you are beaten, so you simply check your hand down.

Note that we are not talking about bluffing here. A bluff is a bet when you are fairly sure you don't have the best hand. In this case, you think you may well have the best hand, but you cannot bet it. Of course, if you think you can make some better hands fold, it may be to your advantage to bet. However, in low-limit hold'em games, this is rarely the case. If you think there's a fair chance that you have the best hand, then few of your opponents will be willing to fold a better hand.

In cases such as the above, you should be prepared to call a bet if you have to act first and check. Many of your opponents would continue betting your hand in this situation, and they assume you will too. Often when you "check and call here, you will have the best hand.

A similar argument applies to raising on the river. If you are pretty sure you have the best hand, then of course you would raise. However, you must ask yourself if an opponent will call your raise with a hand worse than yours. If not, then you should not raise. Also, you have to consider the chance that you'll be reraised. This further reduces the number of hands with which you should raise on the river.

This concept is extremely powerful and many poker players do not understand it. If you can spot these situations and play them correctly, you will save a lot of money over the course of your poker career.

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