Pot Control

July 21 2009

Depending on your opponent(s) and how strong your hand is, you want the pot to be somewhere between very small and stack-size. What hand strength is good enough to play for your entire stack? In a sit-n-go, the answer is often top pair or better. Suppose the blinds are 25-50 and you raise to 150 on the button with king-jack. The big blind calls and the flop comes king-high.

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With more than 20 percent of your remaining stack now sitting in the middle, you should rarely be hesitant to bet the rest of your chips during the hand. This same hand would play differently in a cash game, however. Suppose it is $1-$2 no-limit hold’em with a $200 buy-in. You raise to $6 on the button with your king-jack and the big blind calls. Now the pot is $13, but you have nearly $200 left. Unless your opponent is very loose, he will almost certainly need a better hand than a pair of kings to put his entire remaining stack in the center with comparatively little already out there.

With your strong top-pair hand, you still want to play a decent-size pot to get paid off by lower pairs and drawing hands. If your opponent checks the flop, tend to go ahead and bet for this reason. If he instead leads out for a pot-size bet, however, you should then often flat-call.

Raising is aggressive, but sets the hand up for a huge pot. This concept is why many good players will bet right into you with a monster hand – if you raise, then they’ve gotten you committed to a very large pot. Think about how big a pot you want to play, and do what it takes to make the pot that size. If that means making a passive call instead of an aggressive raise, or checking behind with a one-pair hand when the pot is already large, then by all means do so.