When Not to Bet in Poker

Betting in NL is an art and should take some thought. Ask yourself if you are unsure "Why am I betting"?

Posted Sep 22, 2021


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Many poker players (especially those who play tournaments) have had it drilled into them that aggressive poker is winning poker. While it’s true that aggression is very powerful, especially at lower stakes, what’s most important is knowing when you should be aggressive and why you are applying aggression. In today’s article we’ll be looking at a hand played by a loyal Crush Live Poker listener, who may have applied too much aggression on earlier streets without having a clear reason why.

Let’s take a look at the hand, then we’ll break it down in depth:

Hand Breakdown: $2/$5 No Limit, $2,450 effective stacks

BTN straddles for $10, SB and BB are first to act and limp.

Hero raises to $50 in the HJ with T T .

CO, BTN and SB call, BB folds.

The flop is 8 8 J ($210).

Hero c-bets $75, BTN calls, CO and SB fold.

The turn is the 3 ($360).

Hero bets $200, BTN calls.

The river is the J ($760).

Hero checks, BTN bets $600.

Preflop Dynamics and Analysis:

Our Villain in this hand has straddled on the Button (BTN), meaning that action will begin with the Small Blind (SB) first. Villain is described by Hero as a younger male who has been on his phone most of the session and seems very disinterested in what is going on at the table, even throughout this hand. Most actions he takes in this hand and in previous ones are near instant, so that is important to keep in mind. Hero raises to $50 in the Hijack (HJ) with T T , over limps from SB and BB. Going a little bit bigger here would be okay given the straddle and the limpers, but overall it’s a decent raise size. The CO, BTN and SB all call and we go four ways to the flop.

Flop Analysis:

The flop is 8 8 J ($210) and Hero decides to c-bet $75, a little over 1/3 pot. Right off the bat you might be able to tell that this bet is problematic for a couple of reasons. First off, there is no flush draw on board and we block T9, the primary draw that we could potentially get value from. Secondly, we are multiway and up against three opponents, which means that we really have to tighten our value betting range and pocket tens is borderline too thin to bet for value here. While our hand can definitely benefit from some protection and equity denial, checking and waiting to see what your opponents do is going to be the best play here, most of the time. We can get some information as to where our opponents stand, and we avoid building a pot with a weaker hand that would prefer to get to showdown. Hero bets and only the BTN continues, sending us heads up to a turn.

Turn Analysis:

The turn is an offsuit three, making the board now 8 8 J 3 ($360). Hero bets $200, an almost 2/3 pot bet. Just like on the flop, this bet just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Our Hero said that at the moment he just felt like he should keep applying aggression with a decent hand, but he didn’t have a very clear reason as to why he should want to be aggressive.

A lot of times players have this overly aggressive mentality, and the Hero is by no means an outlier. Lots of players tend to get sucked into this mindset of just trying to take pots down by betting, defaulting almost mindlessly to aggression. If we break down what kind of hands Villain can have here, he probably either has a jack or an eight that Hero is crushed by, or he has a pocket pair lower than Hero’s that should probably just be folding to this turn bet. Unless Villain is a complete calling station, he won’t be continuing with many hands that Hero beats (we even block T9, the most likely draw he would continue), so betting here for this sizing is just simply a mistake. Villain snap calls the $200 instantly, and we’ve got a pretty inflated pot going to the river.

River Analysis:

The river double pairs the board with the jack of clubs, making it 8 8 J 3 J ($760). Finally, Hero slows down and checks, but it’s just a little too late. The player on the BTN looks up from his phone, grabs a pile of green chips and shoves them in the middle almost instantly, for a bet of around $600.

Judging by previous action we can make some assumptions about Villain’s range here. With this snap bet he’s kind of polarizing his range already with his bet pacing, meaning that he likely has a jack or a bluff due to how fast he acted on a river that drastically changed the board texture. In addition to his pacing, it would seem that Villain would be pretty likely to raise trip eights for value on the turn, weighing his range heavily towards either a jack or a bluff. The primary bluffs in this spot are small pocket pairs that are now counterfeited. Hero did end up making the call almost instantly and got shown… pocket nines! Our caller scooped an almost $2,000 pot against all odds (and quite possibly against all logic), but in poker we can learn a ton from both our wins and our losses.


While the Villain in this hand turned out to just be incredibly sticky on the turn with pocket nines, and then decided to snap bluff almost pot on the river, the fact remains that Hero really should not have been betting on the flop and turn. This hand is a prime example of why it’s important to really think about why you are betting and how your bets will affect your opponents' range. Luckily for our Hero everything worked out, but you must know why you’re doing what you’re doing, otherwise you’ll just end up firing away in the dark.

If you enjoyed this breakdown and would like to listen to the full call-in show clip (with our Hero, a very funny and animated guy), you can watch it over on the Crush Live Poker YouTube channel by clicking on the link here.

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