Skip to content


Q&A: Value Betting and Beginner Skill Building | Episode 127


Sky Matsuhashi

on March 27, 2017

I answer two listener questions about better value betting and how a beginner should build their poker skills.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Q1: Hand Reading (1:40)

Question from Jacob:

Well to answer your first question I think that I need help with value betting. I recently realized that I don't extract max value from my opponents unless they are a fish or a maniac.


In episode #282, I talked about profitable table and seat selection.  This is so important because of that last thing you said; it’s way easier to make money from the fish and maniacs.  They’re the ones who play too many hands.  They get to the flop with weak ranges, and they’re willing to either call off or donk off their stack far too often.

We need to target the fish and maniacs because the regs don’t pay.

That does NOT mean we can’t get value out of them, it’s just going to take a bit more thought.

When it comes to value betting, you’re hoping your opponent either calls or raises with lesser hands.  You don’t want folds, but you want to charge the draws enough to make their draw unprofitable.

The first thing to do is put your opponent on a likely range and assess how well that range connects with the board.  That skill is essential to value betting.  The more 2nd best hands and draws in their range, the more likely you’ll get paid off.  If they only have the nuts or air, you’re much less likely to make money.

Now that you have their range in mind, and you know you beat most of that range, it’s time to “Consider before you click.”  You need to ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • How likely will this opponent pay me off?
    • If the answer is not too likely, because they’re too nitty or there just aren’t many good hands in the range, you might have to skip the value bet or bet smaller to entice a call.
  • What hands can the opponent call with that I beat?
    • The answer to this is important for two reasons. 1) it shows that you’re actively thinking and if you can’t come up with any logical hands, then you shouldn’t be value betting.  2) if there are still more streets to play, then you can figure out how future cards might affect the situation
  • What might the opponent raise with that I beat?
    • You need to be ready to face the raise before you click that button. If you bet and then don’t know what to do after the opponent jams on you, then you’ve made a tactical error.  A good value bet plan will know how to deal with the raise.

Bet Sizing

The next thing is to tailor the bet sizing to achieve your goal of making money.

In general you want your sizing to not telegraph the strength of your hand.  Don’t develop a pattern of ½ pot bets = bluffs and ¾ pot bets = value.  You’ve got to be able to mix it up, and I try to do this by tailoring my bet sizing to my opponent and what I want out of the hand.

If I feel they’re less likely to call when I’m going for value, I’ll bet ½ pot.  I also make this bet sizing when I’m bluffing and they’re likely to fold.  If I feel like they’re calling no matter what and I’m going for value, I’ll size it up to ¾ pot or even more, and I might do this as well with bluffs vs people who don’t like to fold.

A general bet sizing rule to follow is bigger bets get folds, and smaller bets get calls and raises.

Here are two great YT resources I learned a lot from:

Join me for 28 Days of Poker Study as I celebrate the release of my new book: How To Study Poker Volume 1.  I'll share with you everything I study and every technique I use during my challenge starting on April 2nd.  Click here to learn more and to join.

Q2: Beginner Skill Building (8:30)

Question from Tyler: 

Since I am an absolute beginner, I decided to put together, based on your podcasts and the book my 5 year, 3 year, 2 year, 1 year and 6 month plans to succeed in this game. It's generic for now, because I don't know what I don't know exists in the world of poker, which I'm using your podcasts to learn. Also, feel free to tell me if these goals are realistic or if they are out of place.

Gus then went through his various time-frame goals and they were just too drawn out.  I think that instead of achieving his goals in 5 years, he could do it within 2 years, especially when he later told me he’s got two hours to study every day and still play poker.


You can gain most of the skills and confidence you need within a year or two at the most, especially if you're studying 2 hours per day.  All of the quantifiable skills you mentioned (later in the email) like understanding outs and odds, understanding and making cbets/3bets etc., those can be learned with a very short time frame with hard work and repetition on your part.

I think if you start studying on your own following my list of Poker’s Minimum Effective Doses you'll improve quickly.  Following the list will build the skills you need in the most sensible order.  Don't move on to the next until you fully grasp the first well enough to teach it to others.

I recommend starting with MED #1 and creating your open, cold calling and 3betting ranges, then work your way up from there.  As you follow along with the podcasts and show notes, you should also be looking for other sources of pre-flop range information like videos in YouTube, forum posts and articles written by coaches/pros.  Take what I'm saying and supplement it with your own studies into the subject.

You'll also want to get involved in a study group.  You might be able to hook up with some people in the FB group.  Or if you join a training site like TPE or Red Chip Poker, then you can meet people in the forums.

It will take plenty of time to move up in stakes until you get to really high stakes, but you can gain the skills necessary much quicker, and as you move up you'll gain even more skills.

Challenge (11:20)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Make sure you aren’t telegraphing the strength of your hand with your bet sizing. Filter your PT4 database for cbets between 50 and 60% pot, then count the number of value bets vs bluff bets. Do the same for 60% to 70% pot-sized bets. Then follow that up with 70% to 100% pot-sized bets. Do you see a pattern? Are there more bluffs than value in the smaller sizing, and more value than bluffs in the bigger sizing? If so, you’re telegraphing the strength of your hand with your sizing. Fix this.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Up Next…

In podcast #128, I'll discuss 5 ways that you can get beyond desperation tilt as well as guidelines for stealing more MTT blinds.

Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.


Sky Matsuhashi

Don’t Miss Out!

Get expert tips and strategies straight to your inbox each week!