In most poker games, your best bet is to use an aggressive strategy to win money over the long run. When it comes to aggression, there are two main reasons why you should place a bet or raise. You should either bet because your opponent is likely to put money in with poor chances of winning the hand (betting for value), to get your opponent to fold when they have some chance of winning the pot at showdown or by bluffing (protection/bluffing), or some combination of the two.
Betting for protection has a negative reputation in the poker community. The concept of betting for protection is when you bet a hand likely to have the best hand, but unlikely to get worse hands to call.
Betting for protection is an important factor in determining what the best line for your hand is. The value of protection is higher on the flop than on the turn because the implied odds given to your opponents are better. When you start giving your opponent free cards you are giving them not only a chance to win the pot if they hit but also a chance to extract value bets from you. To make this a profitable trade-off you need to be pretty certain that they are going to bluff on future streets with a strategy that is advantageous for you.
While most of your bets in no-limt hold ‘em should still be clearly classifiable as either bluffs or value bets, there are definitely situations where betting for protection makes sense. They key is to understand what you are trying to protect against and why. It isn’t just about locking up your equity in the pot, although that can be valuable. It’s about protecting yourself from bad turn and river situations where your opponents’ hands can improve but yours cannot or where you are liable to get bluffed.
Just because the fish do it doesn’t make it fishy. As with anything in poker, you need a well thought-out plan. With the right plan, though, you can and should add betting for protection to your repertoire.
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