Don't look at the money contributed to the pot as yours

Don't look at the money contributed to the pot as yours

August 01, 2017 2:30 AM


Once you have made or called a bet, or raise by putting your chips ($) in front of the pot, they no longer belong to you. They are just part of the growing pot, along with contributions from other players at your table. Neither they nor you have any legal claim over those chips – until the end when the dealer awards them to the best hand (or everyone folds to a good bluff).

Let’s illustrate this concept with a typical example. You are playing limit hold’em. Suppose, from the hijack position you were dealt a marginal starting hand, 8-7 offsuit. That barely meets the Hold’em Algorithm criteria from a late position. You call a middle-position opponent’s bet to see the flop. Then, the player to your immediate left (the cut-off) quickly raises it up. That happens so often. The original bettor mucks his hand; and now it’s your turn to respond. Should you call his raise?

You deliberate: “Well, there isn’t much money in the pot, and I have only invested one small bet.” But then you contemplate further: “On the other hand, I know he often plays deceptively; and I certainly don’t want him to think he can run all over me. What’s more, I already do have some of my chips ($) in the pot. The flop could really help my hand.”

It sounds like you are trying to convince yourself to call the preflop raise. But would that be the best, wisest decision? First of all, remember the chips you previously put into the pot are no longer yours; they belong to the pot.

The question you should really ask yourself is whether your hole cards are worthy of investment at this point. With only you and one opponent still in the hand, the pot is not likely to grow much – poor implied pot odds. Meanwhile, you have only a marginal drawing hand; it’s not likely to improve much – if at all – on the flop. You can expect improvement one out of three times with such a hand. If it does, most likely you will pair one of your hole cards – not a very strong hand.

So, the wise decision is to fold your hand, and wait for a better opportunity. Don’t act under the impression you must defend the chips you had previously put into the pot – those belong to the pot, not to you.

In case you are not convinced, consider another example: You are dealt K-10 suited in a middle position. An aggressive early-position opponent opens the betting with a raise. Two other players call. You decide to go along to see the flop. It looks like it could be a good size pot, and your hand has lots of opportunities to improve. In all, five of you see the flop: 10-8-5 rainbow.

You have top pair on the board. The early-position again opens the betting. With top-pair, and a good kicker – the King, you plan to call his bet. As you wait for your turn to act, the opponent to your right raises the pot. Trying to put him on a range of hands, you guess he could have caught a set, or perhaps has a bigger pair in the hole. You know he is a tight player, and must have a decent hand to stay to see the flop. Nevertheless, you think: “I already have a bunch of my chips in the pot, perhaps I should call along to see the turn.”

Again, remember, those chips you already put into the pot no longer belong to you. Indeed, if either of your opponents has a good hand, you could be chasing with your pair of tens, with only two to five outs – not really a good calling hand. Don’t let your previous bets persuade you to invest further in that hand. Save your chips.