Over-betting has become a more popular trend since players like Durrrr and Isildur1 have shown it to be a way to put immense pressure on your opponents. This play certainly does not need to be relegated to the higher stakes and/or heads-up as it can be extremely effective in any No-Limit game. The key to developing a solid over-betting range is to understand the reasoning behind it.
The main variables that affect your ability to over-bet are your credibility and the way that your opponent approaches the game. Whether you should look to over-bet for value or as a bluff primarily depends on these two factors. Although it is possible to over-bet any street, this play usually only happens on the river and that will be the focus on this article.
Over-betting the river in poker for value
- When electing to over-bet for value it is crucial to understand how your opponent will perceive this action. Over-betting for value can be a great play against the ego-oriented players that fight for every single pot, but not so much against the players that are showdown oriented and obsessed with pot control. The players that try to win every pot are usually highly suspicious of any play that they are not used to facing.
- These aggressive-suspicious players will be prone to making hero-calls in these types of situations. They will try to find any possible reason to call you down, as they are generally afraid of getting bluffed. When put in this situation their logic will usually go something like, “He bet overly big so he probably doesn’t want me to call…therefore I have to look him up!” Or he will think along the lines of, “This is a very polarizing bet and it is too difficult to have a monster hand so I have to call.”
- When you are able to spot one of these players, and believe me there are plenty of them in today’s games, then it is important to consider just how light you can over-bet for value.
Consider a hand like AK on a board of k5228 when this type of opponent flats the flop and turn; an over-bet will be far more profitable than the standard ¾ pot size bet. The reasons that an over-bet is so valuable in this situation is due to the opponents hand range and his likelihood of being able to make a big laydown. After flatting the flop and the turn his hand range will be heavily weighted towards top pair, and it will be extremely difficult for him to have anything that beats AK.
- This type of opponent will typically never be looking to fold a hand as strong as top pair on this board, no matter what bet size you choose. In many cases, an over-bet can actually serve to increase his calling frequency. He could have a hand like 99 that was planning to fold the river, but when faced with an over-bet his suspicious tendencies could make him lean towards a hero-call. Making a bet of ~1.5X the pot on this board texture can really look like you are trying to steal the pot, particularly if you already have an aggressive image.
- This play is especially effective when playing from late position. If you happened to open in early position then even the more suspicious players will tend to give you credit and fold some of his marginal holdings. When in late position this play can even be successful with a hand like KQ due to the villain’s preflop 3betting range. If you know that he would have 3bet AK preflop then KQ becomes almost equally as valuable, the only difference is the chance of a split pot.
- Once you have shown the capability to over-bet for value with a hand as wide as top pair, good kicker then it is extremely important to stay one step ahead of your opponent. He will likely make a note that you over-bet a wide value range, thus making your range less polarized and more valuable.
Over-betting the river as a bluff
- The most effective way to pull off an over-bet bluff is when it is against a player who has already seen you show down a value hand in this situation, especially if it was thinner value. If you can showdown a hand as wide as top pair that you successfully over-bet for value then it becomes extremely difficult for your opponent to call down the next few over-bets. Opponents will be highly likely to make the adjustment of folding to your over-bets in the future, unless they are borderline suicidal.
- Once this dynamic has been established then you can over-bet any board texture that is difficult for the opponent to have something better than top pair. It is now possible to increase the frequency of your double-barrel bluffs, especially on dry board textures. Even in situations where a triple barrel bluff wouldn’t normally be profitable, having the credibility to over-bet bluff the river changes everything.
- In fact, once you have the proper credibility then all of your bluffs on the river should be larger than the size of the pot. This places an immense amount of pressure on your opponents and drastically increases the likelihood that they will fold. Even if they happen to wake up with a hand that merits a call then you can easily go back to over-betting exclusively for value and usually make up for the extra amount that was lost.
- Against players that are obsessed with pot-control and getting to showdown, over-betting should almost be exclusively used as a bluff. These players will be prone to fold all of their marginal hands in this situation and not think twice about it. Therefor this play should only be used as a bluff until you get caught. Once this player sees that you can bluff in this situation he will usually make the mistake of assuming that all of your over-bets are bluffs.
Using your image to your advantage
- When deciphering between an over-bet or a standard bet it is essential to understand your image and how your opponents perceive your game. Are you the type that is consistently playing “small-ball” poker and focusing on pot-control/getting to showdown? If this is the case then should never start out by over-betting for value because this will be very easy to see through. On the other hand, playing this style of poker opens the door for the occasional over-bet bluff that will be extremely profitable.
- Say that you have a flush draw and bet the flop and turn only to get flat called twice and miss on the river. This presents an opportunity to over-bet bluff against competent regulars. If they have never seen something like this out of you before then they will be highly likely to give you tremendous credit and fold almost their entire range. Given that they didn’t raise the flop or turn they would have to have slow playedor hit the river in order to have a monster.Therefore the top of their range will likely be top pair hands, which still cannot profitably call down an over-bet from a player with your image.
- If you can find a spot to bluff that forces your opponent to fold even the top of his range then you will be printing a ton of money and it will be well worth the rare occurrence of running into a slow play or a made hand on the river. On the other hand if you just make a more standard size bluff most players will not get away from their top pair type hands making the extra money spent on an over-bet well worth it. The only reason to over-bet as a bluff is to force players to fold hands that they would not have when faced with a smaller bet.
- However, this logic only prevails when you are playing against a player that is good enough to recognize and adjust to your style of play. When playing against a loose-passive, fishy type of player using your image to your advantage goes out the window – mainly because some players will not even take your image into account and simply act based on his or her hand strength. Against these players it doesn’t matter how tight you play, you should only be looking to over-bet for value. Over-betting for value should always be at the forefront of your mind against players that are not good enough to adjust to your style of play.
- Conversely, if you are the type of player that carries an aggressive image and you are trying to take down pots every time that you get the chance then you need to over-bet for value – at least until you showdown a few made hands. When a player with this image goes for an over-bet on the river it is almost always going to be perceived as a way to steal the pot. This dynamic can make it very easy to squeeze out extra value from your made hands. Even the players that tend towards pot-control will have some sort of inclination to call down an over-bet from this type of player; whether or not they have the gumption to execute is a different story.