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This is Part II of our series on how to make your winning hands more profitable – how to build that pot as big as possible. Playing limit Texas hold’em – or any other poker game – your main objective should always be to win as many chips as possible. As we said in Part I (flopping a set), the bigger the pots you win, the more likely you will go home a winner; and, the more fun it is. The number of hands won is of secondary importance.

Part I can be found Here

There are two ways to make three-of-a-kind on the flop. One, start with a pair in the hole and catch a matching card on the flop; we call that “a set.” The other is catch a pair on the flop that matches one of your holecards; that’s called “trips.”

In Part I, we explored how to build the pot you expect to win, when you make a set on the flop. Catching trips – also three cards of the same rank – is another story; and, of course, it’s just as important to your poker success. But there are significant differences compared to a set of the same three cards when building the size of “your” pot.

Let’s assume you are a tight player. When a pair falls on the board, your opponents are bound to be concerned if you bet out or raise on the flop. Certainly they are well aware you may have flopped trips. As a result, they are more prone to muck their cards when you do so. They are likely to call only when they hold four to a straight or a flush, or catch a big two-pair.

So, under those circumstances, how can you best play your trips in order to maximize the size of the pot? First of all, on the flop, the best decision is to start by slow-playing so as not to force out your “sources” for added chips. Just check along and call any bet – float. Give your opponents a chance to improve their hands – and thus more likely to call on the Turn when you bet or raise and the bets/raises are doubled.

Now is the time to build your pot. If you are in a middle or late position and it’s been checked to you, use your deceptive skills when you make the opening bet on the Turn. Hesitate for a few seconds, study your holecards, reexamine the board, and then make your bet; and sit back in your chair (a reverse tell in this case). The more callers, the better for you.

What should you do if an opponent then raises your bet? Unless he is quite deceptive, and undoubtedly thinks he has the best hand. Study the board. Could he have caught a straight or a flush? If so and if he’s a tight player, caution is advised. Just call his raise – and hope to catch a full-house on the River – just in case.

The same applies to the River. Bet out if your trips are not threatened; make the opening bet and hope for a few callers. Should an early-position start the betting before you are to act, check the board to see if there is a threat. If so, just call along. On the other hand, if there is no threat of a straight, flush, or full-house out against your trips, don’t hesitate to raise it up to build “your” pot.

Next issue, we will conclude this series of columns on how to win bigger pots. Part III will explore how to best use your image for that purpose. We also invite your comments.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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