race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." -- Grantland Rice
The bet is the atom of winning poker. Betting units are made of chips, but a chip is like an electron, nothing on its own. The bet is
the individual building block on which you must construct your game.
But bets are easy to misuse. A bad call here, a poor fold there, a raise missed here, a missed bluff there... you can choke a whale on
ways to misuse a bet. Poker is a card game, but winning poker is a betting game. Unfortunately for most players, they focus on their
cards more than their betting -- even though a commonly recognized standard for successful poker is to win one bet an hour.
One of the problems with starting hand charts
or count systems are they (by themselves) don't offer a player a clue to the different ways hands play. Maybe both Starting Hand A and
Starting Hand B should be played, but they should be played dramatically differently. Some hands earn their profit early in a hand,
while some hands show their profit by being more bettable in the later betting rounds.
As I discuss in Omaha Poker Strategy, hand bet-ability is a crucial
aspect of the game. Players who play crappy starting cards find themselves with mediocre, un-bettable hands. They make two small pair, baby flushes
and idiot-end straights -- hands that may be winners but are usually not bettable, especially out of position. (One reason it is better to play hands
from late position is because some mediocre hands become more bettable.) You should be playing hands that can drive the poker betting, hands that you
can extract more value from.
Consider this Omaha HiLo hand, head-up between two players. On the turn card, the board is Jh6c8d3d. One player holds 8s7c5d3h, while the other
holds Ad2dKdTd. Notice each player has exactly six cards with which to could scoop the whole pot. The hands are equal, right? Heck no.
The 8753 is almost never bettable, while the A2KT is extremely bettable. When it comes a diamond, and the A2KT will scoop the pot, it
will bet 100% of the time -- and often get paid off by the 8753. On the flipside, suppose the last card is the Ac. The 8753 will scoop
the whole pot, but the hand is not bettable at all. It has very weak high value and very weak low value. It happens to be good enough
to win, but betting would normally be foolish. The A2KT has the nut hand both ways, and has a fearless bet. So, the A2KT will make the
best hand the exact same percentage of the time as the 8753, but the A2KT will make money while the 8753 will lose. Betability makes
all the difference.
But that is not even where the difference ends. Except when it comes an offsuit 8, 3, 9 or 4, the 8753 will not be bettable, while the
A2KT will always be bettable -- which will mean that the 8753 will fold a winner some amount of time greater than zero, tipping the
$$$ scales even more in favor of the A2KT. Even if the A2KT player is concerned about getting quartered and will bet cautiously, he
will likely bet when the river card comes a King or Ten, so to get its equity out of the pot, the 8753 will have to call these times.
It will also have to call when it comes a Jack, crippling his two pair, and when it comes a Seven or a Five, counterfeiting its low and making a straight
very possible. Even though these cards don't make the A2KT the winner, they offer the A2KT the ability to sometimes win the pot merely by betting.
The bottom line is the 8753 will almost never get an extra bet, while the A2KT will always be able to make an extra bet, and will win
some amount of pots beyond that when it bets and the 8753 folds. Two hands with an equal chance to win are not in fact equal.
A similar Holdem example is the classic confrontation between Ace-King and a pair of deuces. It's close to 50/50 if both hands go to the showdown,
but AK destroys 22 in actual play because of it superior bet-ability.
You don't win in poker by winning pots. You win by
mastering the wagering of atoms.