Pot control is an advanced strategy that helps players stay in control of the betting throughout a hand, allowing them to maximize their winnings and minimize their losses. However, pot control can be tricky when you play poker. It demands cautious handling because it frequently prompts players to make less-than-optimal choices.
This guide will explain pot control and how to use this technique. With this knowledge in mind, you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a more successful player!
Photo by Pixabay
What is Pot Control?
Simply put, pot control is a strategy used in poker where players check or place small bets to avoid the pot from becoming too large. It is also when players raise or bet to increase the pot when they have a strong hand.
It’s essential to include sets in your range of pot controlling, or else your opponents may detect that you’re attempting to reach a cheap showdown and pressure you with multiple bets.
Pot controlling can be advantageous, particularly in poker tournaments where survival is crucial. If you opt for pot controlling, first evaluate if you’re forfeiting potential earnings and if you should aim to obtain an additional bet instead.
Control the Pot on the Flop: Consider Position
One’s hand strength is typically determined during the flop in poker. Either a player has a good hand, or they don’t. Sometimes, a player may have a decent hand, such as a top or second pair with a mediocre kicker, but it may need to be stronger to compete with other players’ hands.
When playing a poker game, consider your position to control the pot’s size.
Suppose you’re playing a poker game and are the first to act. If you want to keep the money in the pot low, choosing to check might not always ensure it remains low. This is because your opponent can still place a bet.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase the amount of money in the pot and you’re not in a favorable position, your only choice is to place a bet and hope that your opponent calls or raises. However, if you’re in an advantageous position, you’ll have more options to achieve your desired outcome.
If you’re playing poker and find yourself in a late position, there are a few different strategies you can use depending on the strength of your hand. Raising it to increase the pot size may be a good idea if you have a strong hand. You can benefit from a free card if you have a weaker hand and opponent checks.
Alternatively, if you have a moderately strong hand, you may bet on the flop and then check on the turn. This approach allows you to see the river without investing too much money.
Photo by Pixabay
Keeping the Pot Small
Players tend to play cautiously with average hands to avoid losing their chips, as there is a greater chance that other players may have better poker cards, such as suited connectors or medium pairs. Therefore, it is not rational for a player to take a big risk in these situations.
To control the pot and minimize losses, players can skip betting rounds by checking. This can significantly reduce the amount of chips they use, as each betting round often sees a 60-100% increase in bets. Checking each round and waiting until the showdown to claim the small pot is a viable strategy.
Checking down is easier when playing in a late position, as players have more control. However, in an early position, a player who checks may only get bet into by a player in a late position, leaving them unsure of their hand’s strength.
In such cases, a good poker strategy is to make a lead bet, with the size of the bet depending on factors like opponent history, flop texture, and the number of players in the hand. A probe bet of 1/3 to 1/2 the pot is a good starting point as it deters opponents from making larger bets and allows you to control the pot. If the opponent raises the bet, assume your hand is not strong and fold.
Photo by Pixabay
Building the Pot
Many players who get strong hands want to slow-play them, hoping their opponents will initiate the betting. However, for this strategy to work, the player must ensure that their opponent is aggressive enough to take the lead and that they have a decent hand to connect with the board.
Additionally, if players check and slow-play their hand from an early position, they may miss an opportunity to make money if their opponent doesn’t bet.
While slow playing can be a useful tactic, the most effective way to increase the pot size is by contributing money to it. A poker player with a strong hand might not want to scare their opponents away by betting too much.
A smaller bet of around ¼ to ½ of the pot can allow opponents to call and continue to play. The appropriate bet size will depend on the flop’s texture and if any draws on the board could potentially beat the player. If so, a larger bet of around ¾ to a pot-sized bet may be more suitable.
Lastly, consider whether to raise or call. A flat call might indicate weakness or a draw, while a raise can show strength. Which one to use will depend on the opponent’s reaction to different types of plays.
Pot control in Texas Holdem is a skill for any serious poker player to master. By carefully managing the size of the pot, players can increase their chances of seeing the showdown cheaply, winning big, or minimizing their losses. Ultimately, the key to successful pot control is to be aware of your opponent’s tendencies and to adjust your strategy accordingly.