Chapter 26: Pot Control in Online Poker

A very important concept related to board texture is pot control.  Pot control means keeping the pot small in situations where a big pot means bad things for your hand.  Another way to think of it is a small or vulnerable hand means a small pot.

I exercise pot control often.  Pot control situations will come up every session you play and it’s important to gain a strong understanding of this concept.

Let’s go back to the QQ hand I played from the hand ranges and equity chapter one more time, but with a different flop.  A tight, aggressive regular makes it $6 on the CO.  I raise to $20 with QdQh on the button.  Our opponent calls.  Remember, I’m putting him on AKs, AKo, and any pocket pair.

Let’s not forget that our opponent is putting us on a hand range also.  He probably thinks we’re raising 99 or better, as well as big broadway cards, with the occasional light 3-bet with a suited connector or weak suited ace.

The flop is AcKd3h.  Our opponent checks.  We’re going to exercise pot control and check.  Why?

Our main goal right now is to get to showdown.  That flop was pretty bad for queens, but it was also pretty bad for our opponent’s hand range.  If we bet, all we’re doing is folding out every hand we beat, and we’re getting called by better.  That’s a very important concept, and if you feel that is the case when you’re in a hand, under most circumstances you should not bet.

It’s also possible that our opponent might make a move on this flop.  If we bet, we could get bluffed off the best hand because villain might try to get us to fold our lower pocket pairs.

Once we check the flop, many opponents will bet the turn with whatever hand they have.  We’ll have to call one bet, even on a scary board like this, because giving up to one bet is too weak.  Also, it is very rare that someone will have the balls to fire a big bet on the river on this kind of board as bluff so we can safely fold if he bets the river.

If our opponent checks to us on the turn, it’s best to keep checking.

Sometimes I’ll reraise a CO opener on the button with a hand like A5s or KQ, and I’d play them exactly the same way as QQ here (except maybe firing a value bet on the turn or river, since there are hands like KJ to call me if villain is playing loose).

You can play for pot control out of position, though it’s going to be a little more difficult.  Since you have to act first and give away more information, an opponent may try to bluff you more aggressively since you are showing weakness.  For this reason, I tend to play for pot control out of position only against passive or weak opponents.

For example, I was coaching a student the other day while he was playing $.50/$1.  The CO, a bad regular who is a little too loose and a little too passive with stats of 30/10, opened to $3.  My student was in the big blind and 3-bet him to $10 with TT.  His opponent called.

The flop was Qc9h4d.  I told my student to check and play for pot control.  Betting usually folds out worst hand (except for a hand like A9).  Also, his opponent may make a semibluff (with hands such as JT, A4 and 54), if my student bets, moving him off his hand.  Since his opponent was passive and not known to bluff, we can safely check to him, showing weakness, and not be afraid of facing a big bluff.

In spots like this, if my opponent checks behind, I will usually bet the turn.  When you check a flop like this after 3-betting, bad players tend to open up their calling range on the turn and will give you action with hands that would have folded to a flop bet.


Are you looking for more training on pot control? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

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09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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