Secrets of poker Poker

Finding thin value

Written by Ben Blaschke

You’ve no doubt heard the word “value” used pretty often when it comes to poker. People talk of extracting value from their good hands, which basically refers to any instance in which they bet with the best hand and are called. When someone says they extracted maximum value, they mean they bet and were called on all three streets, or managed to stack their opponents.

But what about “thin value”? This refers to instances whereby you don’t have a particularly strong hand – perhaps second or third pair – yet are still able to bet and be called by a worse hand. It’s easy to come out betting when you’ve got a big hand, but recognizing spots in which you can extract thin value is one of the most important skills you can have as you rise up through the poker ranks.

An example might be when you hold A-9 in position on a 2-2-9-7-J board. The default position here would be to check back the river, given that in many instances you don’t expect to be called by anything worse. However, depending upon the betting action throughout the hand and your knowledge of your opponent’s likely calling range this could well be a great spot to bet for thin value. For example, if you know your opponent will call you down here with any pair or any 9-x hand, you can definitely bet thinly. Conversely, if they are the passive type who will only call with top pair or better, checking back would be the better option because there is no value to be gained from his worse hands.

The key here is not to get too carried away with betting for thin value – it’s certainly not an invitation to be betting the river with second or third pair all the time – but if you put the time into learning when the opportunity arises it will certainly become a valuable part of your poker armory.