Being a poker player is like being an investor. To improve your results as a poker player you have to learn to build larger pots and get more value when you have the best hand. With every risk comes a load of risk together with it, the higher the risk the higher the gain. Without its risk, it’s a lot more reliable than bluffing or bluff-catching more aggressively. Best of all, maximizing value is an area where, in my experience, even seasoned players have room for improvement.
Having a clear idea of what you’re trying to extract value from is the key to getting more value. It is a great idea to have a clear target so that you can be able to avoid the struggle of slow play and knowing how large your bets should be and once you identify the hand or hands from which you’re trying to get value, you can make better decisions about how to play your own hand. In case you knew how the opponent you have either has one type of hand or a different way if you knew he had something else, in which case you would choose to play if you have a strong holding. It is possible to enumerate every possibility along with their relative likelihoods and the expected value (EV) of playing against them in a certain way, and then determine mathematically the betting line that will yield the highest return, if you are given time and the proper tools.
It is important to make a quick decision on how to play your hand in the midst of the heat of the battle; however, you have neither the time nor the tools to do this. Targeting hands that are just a notch or two weaker than yours is generally recommend. When having kings preflop, you’d really like your opponent to have queens or jacks. If you have A-K on an A-9-5 flop, you’d really like your opponent to have A-Q. These are the hands most likely to pay you off.
As much as all the mentioned above may to be seem obvious, most people go wrong in giving their opponents an opportunity to fold these hands. For instance I will not three-bet a player with A-K because I want to make sure that he still has A-Q in his range when we see the flop, if he raises in early position. In the case that he does hold A-Q, the odds of seeing an ace on the flop aren’t that great. That’s the only scenario where I stand to win a big pot, though, so I want to do what I can to make it happen.
In some cases, you may choose to target weaker hands in your opponent’s range rather than those that are just slightly worse than yours. One reason for this would be if your hand is so strong that you’re virtually guaranteed to stack slightly weaker hands no matter what you do.