Lots of players fail to recognize when hands have showdown value.
They consistently flush money down the drain betting and raising when instead they should be taking a showdown line.
When your hand has showdown value your equity comes from getting all the way to showdown and winning.
So making it to showdown (cheaply) should be your number one goal.
What is Showdown Value?
A hand with showdown value is essentially a hand that's not quite strong enough to bet for value but strong enough to expect to win at showdown more often than not.
But like anything in poker, the answer to the question "Which hands have showdown value?" is "It depends."
It depends on the board texture, the action, your opponent, your table image and, well, in short, it depends on everything.
The golden rule of a hand with showdown value is that it's strong enough to win at showdown but not strong enough to bet for value.
In other words, the "A worse hand never calls and a better hand never folds" adage applies again.
You have JJ. You raise to $6 on the button and the big blind calls.
The flop comes A32. He checks and you bet $10.
He calls. The turn comes K. He checks and you check behind.
The river comes Q and he checks.
Start out by asking yourself, "If I bet this river, will my opponent call with a worse hand?"
In this example, it's a pretty clear NO.
Ok, now what about if you check? Is there a chance your jacks are good?
Absolutely. If your opponent had any sort of draw or a pocket pair worse than yours on the flop, you almost surely have the best hand.
Check and take that free showdown because there's no value in betting.
The value your jacks have seeing a free showdown far outweighs both betting for value or betting as a bluff.
Another Showdown Value Example
You have 78. You raise to $8 in the cut-off and the big blind calls. The flop comes 4J3. He checks and you c-bet $12. He calls. The turn comes 8 and he checks.
What should you do?
On the flop, you made a continuation-bet. At this point your hand has no showdown value and the only equity you have is the fold equity you get by betting.
You want your opponent to fold. That's the only way you can win. Once the turn falls, though, everything changes.
All of a sudden you have a pair of eights and, well, showdown value. The bulk of your equity in the pot is no longer fold equity because you have a pair.
But should you bet it? No. Rarely, if ever, is a thinking player going to call with a worse hand. And he certainly isn't going to fold a better hand.
So we check with the intention of seeing a showdown.
Barreling Doesn't Make Poker Sense
This example is a good one because lots of players will just barrel this turn 100% of the time, but that makes no poker sense.
Barreling this turn is pointless. The only way you make money is if your opponent folds. And if your opponent folds, you had the best hand anyway.
Barreling this turn would only be profitable if your opponent was especially weak and would either call two streets with a draw or, on the other end of the spectrum, fold a jack to a second barrel.
Both of which are very unlikely. The only thing barreling this turn accomplishes is building a bigger pot with you as the underdog.
Once you turn that hand with showdown value, your plans change. No longer is your equity in the hand from getting your opponent to fold. Your goal now becomes getting to showdown to see if you're good vs. his flop-peeling range.
Put Your Opponent on a Range
Whenever you make a decision in poker, the most important factor is what your opponent has. Your opponent's range dictates what your most +EV decision is in every single hand you will ever play.
Putting your opponent on a range is an imprecise art. You slowly remove hands from his range as the hand progresses until you're left with a small range of his likely holdings.
If you can narrow down his holdings even a little bit, you'll be better able to suit your play to his.
Take the 4J3 example above.
When he peels the flop, we can put him on a range of jacks, flush draws, straight draws and 55-99. Sets and overpairs can be discounted.
When you turn the eight and are deciding whether or not to bet, you have to look at his calling range.
If he folds all draws and continues with 99+, his calling range has you crushed and your bet accomplishes nothing. If, however, he calls with worse than a pair of eights, then the bet is fine.
The same goes for if he folds better. If he for some reason folds a jack to your second barrel, your bet is perfectly fine as well because it actually accomplishes something.
The problem with an in between hand like eights in this example is there aren't many hands worse than yours that would be willing to call the turn bet.
Meaning we would just fold out the hands we were already ahead of. There's no value in betting there. The best play is to check behind and play poker on the river, hoping to see a free or cheap showdown.
Keep Your Aggression Reined In
It's a very fine line sometimes, choosing whether the best play is betting for value, betting as a bluff or trying to see a cheap showdown.
But do your best to put your opponent on a range and ask yourself a few simple questions.
- Where does my equity in this hand come from?
- Is he going to call with worse?
- Is he going to fold better?
- Is there a chance I can win this at showdown?
Once you know where your value comes from you can act accordingly.
There's nothing wrong with being aggressive, but it needs to be controlled aggression. Playing hands with good showdown value aggressively, looking for a fold, just isn't profitable.
It will end up costing you far more money than if you just try to see cheap showdowns with them.
Keep your aggression reigned in. Use it when the only way you can win is getting your opponent to fold, or when you're betting for value.
If you can remember all that, and successfully put it into practice, you should immediately see better results with those in between, middle-pair type hands.