Monday, June 13, 2005

Controlling the Pot in No Limit - Feedback please

Okay, got that last suckout off my chest, so now it is time to do some serious talking. Real poker strategy, not just ranting and raving from your good old lunatic buddy.

Today's discussion is about controlling the size of the pot. I haven't seen much on this subject, but haven't read a lot of books on poker. I've been poking around blogs for a few months, and have maybe seen one discussion.

When I was a newbie (not an amateur like I am now) I didn't know lesson one about pot odds. And it really, really showed. If you don't know Pot/Implied Odds, stop right now and go get a poker book and read about them. I won't rehash here. The thing that I now know as the amateur player is that P/I Odds are your friend, as long as you control the pot. To me, this is the biggest lesson that I have learned through experience. I got a fair ways into playing before learning about them, and then thought I didn't need to know, that I would make good decisions regardless of the size of the pot. And several hundered dollars later, I now know better.

But it is not just about P/I Odds to decide to call or fold. The books that I have read talk about calculating your odds to draw a winning hand. This is just half the power once you understand how to determine your odds.

Don't remember where I read it, but I think it was Sklansky that said that when you get your opponent to make a play he wouldn't make with the cards face up on the table, you make money. Pot and Implied Odds are key to this.

Okay, so we are all on the same page and know about the odds. So now what?

Time to use the other half of these powerful tools. You should not just be using these to determine your play based on an opponent's bet. You should be using these tools to determine how much you should bet. Read that again. It was an epiphany for me as an amateur. Poker is about math, which is why a lot of people who are good at math are good at poker. I just thought this was a bunch of hooey (yeah, I said hooey) for a long, long time and it has cost me dearly. But now I am a convert. I wish someone had walked up to me a long time ago and slapped me upside the head and made me learn this stuff. Of course, I wouldn't have listened. But if you haven't made this connection yet, hopefully you will sit down and noodle it for a bit and become a better player.

Okay, so here is how I use this knowledge. Others may have different systems, and I tend to mix it up a bit in case any readers out there decide that they know how to beat me. If there is not a bettor in front of me, or if everyone has checked to me, I will bet small enough to not get committed, but large enough to chase off drawing hands. For example, I have AKoff and the flop is 10 4 8 with 2 spades. I have no flush possible, but I will bet just over the size of the pot to give the flush chasers bad odds. Simple, no? Even if I don't have a made hand, I still bet to get the chasers out and isolate to one other player. If I get multiple callers, I'm not going to pay off the chasers and will fold to any bet after the flop unless I have an unbeatable hand that can't be outdrawn. (Top full house, quads, straight flushes with no possibility of someone getting a higher hand in any way)

The reason is that I don't like to play in big pots unless I am heads up with a monster hand. Call me a wimp. Call me a wuss. This play works for me, so I don't care. There are way too many chasers once the size gets to a certain level. If you are playing dime/quarter NLHE and the pot gets above $5 and you don't have the absolute, stone cold are in trouble. If you don't have top 2 pair, someone does. And you need to quit trying to draw yours. Big pots look sooooo juicy out there. The odds look so good to call. You have invested so much. But if there are a lot of players around at the turn, you are in trouble. Someone has the made hand, or will suck out on you.

So, what are your thoughts? Is this a huge leak in my game? I have been doing pretty well since I stopped chasing the big pots, so it seems to be working, but I am always looking for advice.


At 2:22 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I tried leaving a comment, but frankly I started confusing myself. Just remember that if your opponents are not smart enough to know pot-odds, then using pot-odds to bet may not be as helpful as you think.

Just remember to bet big to push players out, and bet small to keep them in. Its an obvious concept, but I sometimes forget it. With sophisticated players, change it up sometimes. I've made small bets to scare out smart players who think I am value betting.

So, in the end...there is no easy answer. Being aware of pot odds is good, using them is better. And don't be afraid of the large pots when you have the right odds. Thats how you make the money. If the pot is $10 and you have a flush draw on the flop and someone raises it $4, you best damn call, because you are almost 50% going to make the flush. The pot might be big, but the bet is worth it.

Shoot. I'm confusing myself again.

Check out my blog re: the SNG challenge. It might be something you are interested in.


Post a Comment

<< Home