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Pot Control in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em

In no-limit poker games, bets can get out of hand fast. You might have a hand that’s good enough to keep playing for small or medium bets, but if you’re going to have to risk a ton of chips or even your whole stack to stay in the action, it might just not be worth it.

Keep in mind that, in general, most people make bets based on the size of the pot. So an aggressive pot-sized bet can be drastically different in a 3-bet pot vs a limped pot.

That’s why it’s important to apply the concept of pot control to your poker strategy.

poker cards on a casino table

Photo: pokernews

When to value bet with a decently strong made hand

Should you check or bet?

Start by assessing your position. In early position, you’re going to have a much harder time controlling the pot, and if you bet and get raised, then you’re either going to have to fold or risk it in a huge pot.

Whenever you bet, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to:

  • Get called by worse-made hands?

  • Protect against draws?

  • Get better information about better-made hands?

The bigger you bet on the flop, the better the hand your opponent will need in order to call. If you make a smaller bet, your opponents can call with a wider range.

Betting with a marginal made hand and then getting raised is usually a disaster. At the same time, checking on a draw-heavy board and having your opponent check behind isn’t ideal either.

If you aren’t sure how to proceed with a marginal hand, it’s generally better to check against all but the most straightforward opponents. Since they’re only going to raise with good hands, you can confidently bet and then fold to a raise.

However, if your hand is highly susceptible to being outdrawn, you should usually bet.

Exploitative Pot Control

If you’ve got a good read on your opponents, you can take your strategy one step further by playing exploitative poker.

One way to do this is by checking more often against players who will bet when checked to. You can do this with a wide range of marginal-made hands, draws, and even junk hands that you’re going to turn into bluffs.

Another method is to bet more often against players who respond straightforwardly. If someone always raises the best-made hands, calls with their marginal-made hands and draws, and folds their junk, you can use that information to your advantage to extract more chips.

Always remember to think ahead! This is the best way to stop yourself from ending up in a difficult spot. Think about your opponents’ tendencies, and think ahead to what’s probably going to happen.


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