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Recently I read from one of the poker books (NLHE: Theory and Practice, by Sklansky, D. and Miller, E.) that if you are ahead, you should value bet as high as the opponent will call, without giving good pot odds.

Bet more than your opponents can call profitably, but don’t bet so much that you blow your opponents off their hands. Bet an amount that entices them to make a bad call.

The implication is that if your opponent loves to pay too much to chase draws, you should shove whenever you are ahead and are 100% sure your opponent will call.

I am wondering if this is the best play (as opposed to raising high enough to give bad odds, but not shoving, so that you can get away when your opponent hits his hand).

I feel that over-betting (and shoving) will eventually lead to ruin, even though each action is +EV.

  • Can I ask what poker book, like I know you said you can't remember, but do you remember how old it is? – Grinch91 Feb 9 '17 at 10:15
  • No Limit Holdem, Theory and Practice, by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. Thought i better check since i got downvoted – sakon Feb 9 '17 at 10:31
  • Thanks for the edits. I dont know how to make the yellow square text. – sakon Feb 9 '17 at 11:05
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If you've also read one of Sklansky's older books (Theory of Poker), you'll be familiar with the Fundamental Theorem of Poker:

Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

(emphasis mine)

Sklansky goes on to define "mistakes" in this literal context - being an action which a player would not make if they could see all player's cards (and understood the concepts of pot odds etc) - with the size/impact of the mistake dependent upon the size of bets being "incorrectly" made or called.

I believe the scenario you describe and the concept given in TaP is more or less a re-statement of the above section of the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, because it is a situation where a player is on a draw (and presumably behind) and so needs to hit a certain runout to have the best hand, therefore also requiring a combination of express and implied odds in order to justify continuing in the hand.

If you bet enough that this player does not have the necessary express/implied combined pot odds to make a call +EV, then by calling your bet they are making a mistake as defined above. It follows that the size of this mistake is directly proportional to the size of the bet they call - the larger the bet they call incorrectly, the larger the mistake they are making and the more you gain (in the long run, when variance is not a factor, rather than each and every time this happens - see Sklansky Bucks).

So yes, if you are 100% sure your opponent will call any size bet with a draw which is behind in terms of EV, it would always be correct to bet all in, with a few assumptions:

  • You are playing a cash game: in tournaments, you need to consider ICM and the value of your tournament life, along with a lot of other factors
  • You are HU with this opponent: if there are other players in the hand who either aren't guaranteed to call or don't have a hand which is behind to yours, there may be times when it does not make sense to shove)

As for your final statement:

I feel that over-betting (and shoving) will eventually lead to ruin, even though each action is +EV.

The only way that over-betting or shoving when this creates a +EV situation will lead to ruin is if you are unlucky. As the number of hands you play (therefore reducing variance) and the relative size of your initial bankroll (larger initial bankroll reduced Risk of Ruin) tends towards infinity, so will your profit.

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You artificially make this about all-in when it is not.

Pretty simple. If you can get someone to take bad odds then take as much as you can.

The problem here is you don't really know if they are on a draw.

Lets say there is a flush draw on the flop and hero has two pair. Hero shoves for 3 pots. A reasonable flush draw will fold. A set will call and you will get stacked unless you hit a better boat.

Say villain will over call a pot sized bet on a flush draw. Go ahead and abuse them. Be aware they are going to hit on the next card like 20% of the time and they might actually already have you beat. If villain raises back the pot you can get away but if you bet 3x the pot and they call you cannot get away.

If you have the nuts and you think you can get them to call then go for it.

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I feel this is very opinion based question, however there is some fact, non-opinion based statements we can make about this question.

Ultimately your appropriate amount to raise will be dictated by your comfort levels, opponents, type of game, hand history with players, your stack size, etc, etc. There is no set amount persay because every situation in poker is unique in some shape or form.

The style you're describing is extremely high variance play style. Two or three hands that go wrong using this style and you double up players, well you're probably busto. As you said this style will eventually lead to ruin.

Every player is unique, every game is unique, every hand is unique, every time you sit down in poker you're playing a unique hand never before played. The appropriate amount to raise will always be different. As you mentioned if a player loves to draw, the appropriate bet could be to overbet and punish, then go for it, but likewise if you only need to bet half pot to win the pot then that's the appropriate bet.

  • Agreed on each hand/play being unique, which is why i asked about EV. If its the highest EV and i have a big bankroll, then it might be the most profitable play (even if it seems weird). – sakon Feb 9 '17 at 10:39

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