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Value bet vs. pot control

In poker tournament strategy, there is never such a thing like a principle that is set in stone. No two hands are ever the same since there are so many variables that will influence your decision.

For example, people will always tell you that when you have a good hand, you have to protect it aggressively. While that me be true in many situations, consider this: what about a situation where your opponent will never fold against a bet? Maybe he is already too invested, maybe he is so short and the pot is already so large that he simply cannot fold?
Let's say you have raised preflop with AdQd, one player calls you from the button. Flop comes QhTh2s, you bet half the pot and the Button calls. The pot now has 12 BB in it, the Button has 6 BB left. The turn card is 7d.
In a situation like this, why bet the turn and inflate the pot? Sometimes it makes sense to control the pot size and see the river first.

There are three possible scenarios here:

  1. Villain can have a made hand which is better than your top pair with Ace kicker (he could have two pair or a set) - unless you improve, you lose, so you want to see a cheap showdown
  2. Villain has a draw (flush draw, straight draw) - which means he will never fold, considering the fact that he is short. If no draw materializes, you can check the river an iduce a bluff. If it does materialize, you may save some chips on the river.
  3. Villain has a made hand worse than your own (like KQ or AT) - in this situation, why risk chasing away your opponent? Wait for the river card to put him all-in, and he will certainly call with a second-best hand because he is already invested too deeply.

If your opponent is surely going to go to a showdown, you can always bet the river to get his remaining chips in the middle. At the same time, if there are draws on the board after the flop and your opponent has a big enough stack, the situation is different.

Now you have to ask yourself this: Is he going to pay to see the turn and river with his draw? If so, bet enough to deny him the pot odds he needs. If he folds, you are ok with that. If he calls, even better. If the next card does not help him with his assumed draw, bet again. Note: players are much more likely to pay with a strong draw (8 or more outs) after the flop, but if you bet 50% of the pot or more on the turn, they will consider folding when a big enough part of their stack is at risk!