What is Showdown Value and how can we utilize it?
When a hand isn't good enough to valuebet, but too good to bluff, that's showdown value. In general, since we can't get value, but we don't get many better hands to fold by bluffing, we play these hands passively – trying to check them down, and using some of them as bluff-catchers.
A couple of examples:
We raise a7 on the button in a HU match, and the flop comes down j43. The BB checks to us. On this dry of a flop BB will rarely fold a pair if we bet, and will rarely call with worse. While we might be able to get some value from some worse ace highs and draws, we also open ourselves up to check raise bluffs. Thus this is usually a good spot to check. Since most players are familiar with this concept, this article will focus a bit more on when to deviate from these passive, bluff-catching lines.
There are many situations where a hand may appear to have showdown value, but in reality it rarely does, or where a more profitable line exists than trying to get to showdown. In NLHE and especially in PLO, there are situations where our hand might currently be best very often, but a large portion of our opponent's range will have a lot of equity. In NHLE an example might be j6 on 962 in position in a HU match in a single raised pot. Even though we have a strong second pair, against a random hand we only have 55% equity.
Utilising Showdown Value in PLO and NLHE, Why we should bet:
In PLO, these situations are even more common. Suppose we have qqj6 on kj6. With bottom two pair we currently have the best hand very frequently, but villain has 35% equity with a random hand, and is a favorite with Kxxx. Even Jxxx has more than 40% equity. By betting, we can get some of these hands to fold, and even though most hands that call will have more than 50% equity against us, by bluffing villain off of his equity, we profit.
A closer examination of both of these hands reveals another reason to bet. If we check, how many turn cards are good for us? With J6, we have to be concerned on any heart, and somewhat concerned on any overcard to our 6. No card is completely blank, and there will not be many situations where we will be comfortable calling turn and river bets. Likewise, with QQJ6, we need to worry about any spade, as well as any A, K, Q, J, T or 9. Again it will be very very hard for us to show down facing two bets or even just one. This point is good to remember: it's not showdown value if you cannot get to showdown!
Another problem that can come up with trying to get to showdown with our weak made hands is that our hand will be somewhat obvious to our opponents and they will be able to play very well against us. This is really only of concern against good opponents, since most opponents will attack our range in unbalanced ways, but if they play well or we don't have a solid read on them, spots such as the following will be difficult to navigate:
In a 6max game we 3bet a CO open from the BB with ak the flop comes down q76 and we check. In a HU match, we 3bet 74and the flop comes down k64. In either of these situations a good opponent will valuebet very thinly and bluff very frequently over multiple streets, and will put us in a lot of tough spots.
A final word
One last point regarding this concept is that when we check a board that we would be expected to continuation bet with our air, our hand is going to look weak and made. More generally, it is hard to balance this range by checking strong hands, as doing so weakens our other ranges. So, betting with these hands can be justified especially out of position in order to avoid our opponent reading our hand too well.