On the most basic level, the principles of poker are somewhat simple. If you have a good hand, make a bet, and your opponent calls with a worse hand, you make money. However, a problem occurs when you’re playing against other players who think like this. If no one at the table is paying off other players’ good hands with bad ones, then everyone is effectively trading money back and forth in equal amounts over time, and everyone loses because of the rake. To overcome this problem, a no-limit hold’em player must learn how to extract value from weaker hands, as well as the typical “second best” type hands that can’t get away from the pot. There are three primary ways to perform this feat, and being well-versed in all three of them will help you to escape profitless scenarios like the above.
The key feature of no-limit poker variations is that you can change your bet sizes to anything you want within the restrictions of the game. In general, bigger bets are called down by fewer hands, and smaller bets are called down by more hands. Whenever you have a strong range and it’s unlikely that you could be bluffing, you should usually choose to make a smaller bet size if your opponent’s range is weak because there’s no way they’re going to call a large bet. While this will get your good hands paid off slightly more often when your opponent is likely weak, you have to be careful that you don’t lower your bet sizes too much when your opponent can have strong hands as well. Then you won’t be able to get full value in the super strong hand versus marginally strong hand scenarios, and your total profits will suffer.
Besides changing your bet amount, you can also change how many hands you bet with. If you increase your bluffing frequency in some spots where you would normally only be value betting, then you’ll be taking advantage of situations where your opponents are folding too often to pay you off. This way you take advantage of their tightness by weakening your own range, making sure they make a mistake by folding too often if you can’t get them to make a mistake by calling too often. This is an advanced strategy that requires careful consideration of both your own hand range and your opponent’s hand range. If you bluff too much when your opponent has strong holdings, then you will be wasting your money because they would be calling your value bets anyway.
As an extension of bluffing more often, picking up on when your opponents adjust to your increased bluffing frequency is also key to extracting more value with your strong hands whenever your opponent is weak. Because their hands will often be too weak to just call down, a lot of players will choose to start bluff-raising you with their weak hands. The effect this has is that when you’re value-betting, your opponents will be raising into your good hands, paying you off even more. The correct no-limit hold’em counter-adjustment to this strategy is to simply ease up on your bluffing a little and let the money start pouring in.