Think Before You Escalate The Pot

Written by Carl “The Dean” Sampson

There are many areas that stop novice and intermediate players from making money in NLHE ring games. One such area comes from how players continually place themselves into positions where they give themselves absolutely no room to manoeuvre post flop. Let us say that the game is NL100 and the effective stacks in this hand example are 100bb. It has been folded around to the cut-off who makes it $3.50. You look at your hand and see Qs-9s on the button and after seeing your opponent raise from this position in three of the last four orbits then you deduce that they have a wide range and are stealing.

But is it the better line to adopt against their obvious aggression? Now many players would argue (and many strong players) that three betting is the only play that allows you to win the pot pre-flop. However this just shows a chronic misunderstanding of poker because not only can you often extract more money by seeing a flop but by calling the raise instead of three betting then you give yourself more room to manoeuvre post flop. Calling denies your opponent the chance to four bet you out of the pot and allows you to use your position.

Let us say that you four bet to $14 and you opponent calls the raise. This puts around $29 into the pot and you have already invested around 14% of your effective stack with three full betting rounds to go. You have already started the process of escalating the pot but this is dangerous if you have any kind of problems with your post flop play. Let us say that the flop comes Q-7-4 rainbow and you opponent c-bets for $20. It is too early to fold with top pair and so you call making the pot $69.

Now you have committed more than a third of the stack that you had pre-flop with a mediocre pair with two rounds to go. The turn is the Ac and the action goes check-check. The river brings a nine and gives you two pair and your opponent springs to life and bets $50 into the $69 pot. Because your entire line has indicated weakness then you feel compelled to call what could be a bluff and you do make the call only to be shown A-Q for a better two pair.

However the fact of the matter is that you have lost 84% of your pre-flop stack with a mediocre two pair. Your line may be fine against hyper aggressive LAG’s but against standard solid players then it is more than likely –EV. Most players who are aggressive pre-flop tend to switch to orthodox post flop and especially from the turn onwards.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson plays poker at www.pokerstars.co.uk

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