Skillfully building that pot to win the most at poker

Skillfully building that pot to win the most at poker

December 26, 2017 3:30 PM


A good measure of a poker player’s level of skill is how well he builds the pots he wins. While you would like to win lots of pots, most important is how big those pots are that you win? That is easily the key to success at the poker table.

It takes no skill to win a pot when you hold the nuts. The poorly skilled player will just bet until all his opponents fold or ends up going to the river with one or two of them. Sure, he takes the pot – with a big smile on his face; but it’s not nearly the size of the pot a more skilled player would have scooped in that situation.

That certainly applies when you hold the nuts – a hand that can’t be beat. But it can also apply with a monster hand. Just be sure an opponent is not likely to hold a better hand, based on how he has played his hand thus far and what type of player he is. For example, if a tight player has been calling you all the way to the river, give him credit for a big hand. If you were to bet into him on the river, how likely is it he would raise you? In that case, a check would be wise.

Getting back to building your pot, remember, your opponents can only guess at the strength of your hand. It’s perfectly permissible to be deceptive. Let’s consider the ultimate case when you flop the nuts. That’s what happened to me the other night while playing $4-$8 limit hold’em at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif. It was a good game with lots of loose players and a moderate amount of raising along the way. That’s a favorable table texture; it allows you to cheaply invest to see the flop with marginal hands that barely meet the Hold’em Algorithm criteria, as you hope for a “happy” flop that improves your hand to a significant extent.

In a middle position, I looked down at pocket tens in the hole and decided to raise to thin the field somewhat (so my 10-10 would have a better chance of surviving). As I said, it was a loose table, and most of the players called my raise so they could see the flop. No surprise there; a few did muck their cards.

Luckily, I was so pleasantly surprised when the flop was the other two tens, followed by a rainbow Jack. Wow! Quad tens on the flop! Who wouldn’t be surprised and oh so happy?

I kept my cool – no tells from me – and, as calmly as possible, anxiously waited to see how the betting progressed. The Small-Blind opened the betting; two players called. And, then another player raised it up. I figured him for a pair of Jacks. My turn to act.

Calmly, I peeked at my hole cards, careful not to give any tells. Being deceptive, I hesitated a bit as if I was trying to decide whether to fold or call the two-bet. Naturally, the thought did occur to me to consider making a value bet by re-raising (a three-bet) to further build the pot; but that would likely force out some of my opponents and make all those who remained in the pot quite apprehensive.

At this point, my goal was not just to win the pot, but – more important – to get as many chips into the pot as possible. So, I slow-played, and just called his raised bet, along with the other players. That must have been the biggest pot of the night.

Bottom Line: When you catch a monster (better yet, the nuts), your goal should be to build the pot as big as possible. If you can, let others do the betting/raising for you. It may take some deception to keep the pigeons in the hand as long as possible.