Roberto Romanello: Thin value betting on the river

EPT and WPT champ Roberto Romanello is one of the UK’s leading players and is here to solve your poker dilemmas

Thin it to win it

I see a lot of pros talking about the difference between a good player and a great player being the ability to value bet thin on the river. I’ve been experimenting with this a lot recently, but every time I try and pull it off, I’m either check-raised or run into a better calling hand. What am I doing wrong?
Neil Williams
You have to be careful when making thin value bets, and it’s always player dependent. Against donks, I’ll value bet relentlessly with hands like top pair, two pair and sets, but you have to be confident about their range. If you can put them on a, say, a weaker top pair, you know they’re never going to re-raise and put you in a tough spot. You get so much value out of thin value bets, it’s a great way to get a big stack and it tilts players so badly they might blow up in a profitable spot later on. Nobody likes being owned. Value betting only gets tricky against players capable of re-raising with bluffs. Before making a river bet, ask yourself are you confident enough to call a re-raise?
If not, maybe check it down. Don’t just look at your hand and value bet, look at the opponent and what you think they’ve got. If you’re unsure, don’t do it.

Slow it down!

I love small-stakes MTTs and nothing makes me happier than final-tabling a big field. But recently I’ve been trying to play a lot of pots in the beginning, with mixed success. I end up becoming that donk who everyone at the tables hates, but I run into problems as I get deeper. I know I should play tighter, but slowing down looks suspicious and I end up stacking off in horrible spots. How can I slow down but not damage my image?
Brian Cooper
It’s fine to build an aggressive image early on in MTTs, I do this myself. I like to look like I’m splashing around a lot of chips, and when the blinds are small there’s no harm in looking like a lunatic. If the worst happens and you’re put to the test, you won’t damage your stack. But when the blinds get bigger, you need to shift gears. You can’t be full throttle the whole way. If you’re hitting cards and it’s your lucky day, keep raising and steamroll the tournament. But some days that just won’t happen. Slow down when the blinds grow, and if you get a big hand, you will still be paid off as players won’t forget you were previously aggressive. Taking your foot off the gas a little isn’t that suspicious and won’t damage your image. 

Forward thinking

I only recently turned 18 and started reading PokerPlayer, and I’m getting to grips with playing online. I’ve followed your career and respect how you’ve gone from a small-stakes local player to one of the biggest names in UK, so I was hoping you could help put me on the same path. I’m happy sticking to online games for now, but my goal is to win a bracelet when I turn 21 in a few years. How should I start practicing?
Howard Green
Those are good goals and I’m a great believer in setting yourself targets. To go from online grinder to bracelet winner you have to get down to your local casinos and start playing a lot of live poker at the lowest stakes. You will learn so much more by building through the stakes than jumping straight in at the deep end. Grind your way up and learn on the move, build your bankroll, your buy-ins and pay attention. What I learned in the early days of poker was priceless to my future. As for your online game, if you’re winning keep making money to support you in the live arena. You need to find the right path for you. Be warned, though, that first trip to Vegas will be hard. Vegas is very in your face, and to win a bracelet you have to learn to deal with everything Sin City throws at you as well as the game.

Live loser

I can’t play live poker profitably. I was in Vegas this summer to watch the WSOP and party, but out of 10 cash game sessions, I had only one winning run. Online I can comfortably make money up to $1/$2, but live players are completely different. They don’t stick to the same theories as online grinders and I can never get them off hands. What am I doing wrong?
Andrew Kelly
Online poker and live are two different games. Online, you can barrel away, stick to solid theory and build success, but live poker is a different beast. Let’s reverse the question. If I was playing against you online, and you were barrelling away, without you in front of me, and with no live tells, I’m likely to let a hand go and wait for a better spot. But live I’m going to get reads and start calling you down. Treat the live game with respect. You can’t just expect to make money. There’s no multi-tabling, no Skype, no Facebook, just players eager to win money. Make sure it’s not from your pocket.

I was sooted

What’s the right way to play big draws early on in tournaments? I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve bust out with a straight or flush draw and two overcards. Late on I don’t care, but should I be tighter early on, or is it all about getting a big stack?
Leon Stevens
When I first started, I would pile it in with up-and-down draws, overcards and straight draws. I pushed like hell because I was hitting draws for fun. I thought I was bashing everyone up and thought I was the daddy, it made me believe that was the right way to play. I was wrong. A few months later, I would be doing the same things and variance would kick in. I would blame it on luck, but in reality I had to change. Now I’m much more careful. If you’ve got a huge draw then push it. But even with nut flush draws, against donks I always wait to get there and still get paid off. In an EPT, you don’t want to be out with a flush draw, you’ll look like an idiot. Late on it’s fine, but early, never call off your stack with a draw. If you face a small bet to see the turn or river, get there first, maybe even raise to protect your hand and give yourself a chance to barrel, but never stack off.

World Series of meh!

Is the WSOP everything it’s cracked up to be? I went to Vegas a few years ago and hated it. It was tacky and overpriced, and playing all those events must kill poker for pros. Yet every year players flood Vegas and seem to love the World Series, so what is it that makes it so special?
Max Greaves
The WSOP really is everything it’s cracked up to be if you have a great run. But, yes, Vegas is a tough place to beat, and a lot of players will hurt themselves every year. So set targets, limits and plan your trip in advance.

Romanello’s tip of the month

Every year I go to Vegas and usually stay at some high-end hotel. But not this year. And if you’re making your way out to the WSOP next year for a lengthy stay, it’s time to get yourself an apartment. I chose to stay at Palms and not walking through a casino every night after a bad beat, buying food and cooking breakfast myself made a big change. I didn’t have huge success this year, but it put me in a better frame of mind. I enjoyed it more than any other year. If you’re going to Vegas for a long period, start planning in advance and get the best apartment deal. You need some semblance of reality in Vegas, and, more importantly, your home comforts.
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