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Exploiting pot control in no limit hold em

The concept of pot control is a very important one in no limit hold’em as it allows the player to dovetail the strength of their hand with the size of the pot. But when you play against better opponents then they will exploit this part of your game with ruthless tenacity. Let us look at an example here to see what I mean. You raise with Jc-10c in the hijack position and get called by the button with both blinds folding.

You see a flop of 10d-8c-4s and you c-bet for two thirds pot and your opponent calls. The turn is the 2d and you make a half pot bet and get called again. If the stakes were say $1-$2 then a pre-flop raise and call would take the pot to something like $17 before the flop. A flop bet and call makes it around $40 and a half pot bet and call on the turn makes the pot now $80.

Suddenly we are looking at a situation where there is 40bb in the pot with a betting round still to go and you have nothing but top pair and a pretty weak kicker. You feel that if you bet again that you are never getting called with worse hands than yours and so you check. Meanwhile your opponent steps in with a bet of $85 which is slightly more than the pot. If you call then you will have invested over 60bb into a pot with a very weak hand.

If your opponent suspects that you are weak when you make a river check then you invite attacks in this way. You also put yourself into difficult situations because you simply do not know if your opponent has made a big hand or if they have simply bet because they saw that you had checked. You may in fact be better off making a small blocking bet on the river. This prevents your opponent from raising most of the time as they risk more money and your blocking bet could in actual fact be a value bet with a big hand.

Likewise if you always bet two thirds of the pot to three quarters of the pot when you have something and it is either on the flop or turn and you then switch to half pot bets. If you do this on reflex as part of a pot control philosophy then your more astute opponents will simply jump all over that line.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson plays poker at

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