Betting for Protection in No Limit Holdem

In most No Limit Hold’em poker games, whether it’s played online/live, a solid strategy is to adopt an aggressive post flop game, since it will make a lot of money over the long haul. There are lots of reasons for turning up the aggression and putting money into the pot. Once such reason is betting to protect your hand, when you expect to currently have the best hand, but don’t want to give free cards and allow the other players involved in the hand to realize their equity.

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Betting for protection is an important concept to grasp when thinking about betting ranges versus certain opponents. It goes hand in hand with analyzing the texture of certain flops. A protection bet, that is betting to protect your hand from being outdrawn is definitely a play you should make as part of an overall aggressive style of play.

Some poker players will scoff at the idea of betting for “protection” as the two big reasons for betting is either for “value” when you can expect worse hands to call, or as a “bluff” when you are trying to get better hands to fold. Really, though, a “protection” bet is under the guise of a value bet, since you can expect worse hands to call your bet, it simply has the added benefit of protecting your hand and get drawing hands to pay to see the next card, as your hand is vulnerable.

Every time you get your opponent to do something they wouldn’t do if they could see your cards, i.e. call to chase a draw with incorrect odds, you win. Obviously, a big part of accomplishing this is to bet big enough to really get drawing hands to pay. The thing about community card games like no limit texas hold’em is the strength of your hand can change dramatically from one street to the next. So, it becomes crucial making your opponents pay for trying to make the better hand, and the times they don’t improve and you scoop the pot, you win a bigger pot.

A monster hand like trips on the flop can turn into the losing hand if a potential flush is now possible on the turn. Hence, the reason you should rarely slow play, especially when draws are out there! If you don’t utilize this play then you can be losing lots of small pots which were rightfully your if you were to have turned up the aggression earlier in the hand. All of these small pots add up over the course of your poker career.

You expect to have the best hand and can expect worse hands to call. Of course, it becomes a trickier proposition when betting medium strength hands vs aggressive opponents, in these spots it can be better to pot control in case you are behind but when ahead also not losing value since you can expect them to bet aggressively with their draws.

Of course, you are required to analyze the board texture to determine if it’s worthwhile trying to protect a made hand. The more connected, both in the rank of cards and suits, the greater number of drawing hands that are out there which can draw to the winning hand. By checking, you are making a big mistake, as you’re giving your opponent exactly what he wanted, a free card when he/she currently has nothing. There are some hands like a gutshot or two over cards that would have folded to continuat bet, only to catch up with that miracle card in the deck they needed, which can end up costing you a big pot.

There is the misconception that betting for protection is a bad reason for betting in NLHE. The reason being that it can be difficult getting worse hands to call, which when value betting is the fundamental reason you are betting. However, like every situation in poker, it depends on the board texture, your opponent’s likely holdings, and the playing style of the player.

If they are a straightforward opponent, meaning they’re not floating you on the flop with garbage, or generally looking to make your life miserable, then when you have A5 on a board of K-7-5. You have bottom pair, which isn’t looking really good, but could be the best hand. Although it can be difficult for many worse hands to call, namely 22, 33, 44, Ax it’s basically a probing bet designed to make your opponent sacrifice their equity in the hand, for the times they are holding QJ, etc and if they are loose they will also call with worse. If you are called on the flop, then you can re-evaluate your hand on the turn. There is also the chance they didn’t believe you on the flop when they have only ace high and you still take down the pot.

All in all, betting to protect your hand is an important side effect of your poker betting strategy particularly against loosey goosey fish who call with lots of hands preflop and don’t like folding on the flop. If you’re betting to protect your hand, you obviously expect to have the best hand, and can expect worse hands to call. In other words, it’s a value bet, and the better you get this down pat, the more money you will make playing no-limit holdem poker.

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