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Should You Always Use Pot Control?

I have to say that I absolutely love poker but I guess that I have written enough articles now for FlopTurnRiver for you to already now that. In this article I want to look at the concept of pot control. This is something that has been expanded over the past few years with the advent of small ball tactics. I can understand pot control being a key issue for many people but there are many reasons not to exercise it in poker.

The concept of pot control is to keep the pot manageable by betting less or by checking and eliminating an entire betting round altogether. But a lot of the time you are not controlling anything. Let us look at an example to show what I mean.

NL400 six handed and it is folded around to the cut-off who limps and we make a pot sized raise to $18 with the 10s-9s, both blinds fold but the limper calls and we see a flop heads up. We both have $400 stacks and the flop comes 9d-7c-2h and our opponent checks and we make a $13 bet into the $18 pot which gets called. The turn card is the Kc and our opponent checks again and we check it back for pot control.

The river card is the Qc and our opponent checks and so do we and they show Ah-9h and they take the pot. So much for pot control, had we bet the turn and the river then we would have certainly taken this pot down. Or what if our opponent had air and made a pot sized bet on the river or an overbet?

Now having to call a large bet with third pair is going to put us in a tough spot. Even though their range is probably polarized to the nuts or air and we call or raise on a re-bluff then this is hardly pot control is it? Let us look at another example, you open with 10s-10d and are called by the big blind. The flop comes 8c-7d-4s and the big blind check calls our flop bet. The turn is the 2c and once again the big blind check-calls. The river card is another deuce and what we don’t want to do here is to check this hand back.

Many players would do so in fear of either betting into the nuts/better hand or of being bluff raised. Well how many players call a pre-flop raise and then check-call the flop and turn and then check-raise the river? Who would set up a bluff as elaborate as this or risk losing value with a nut hand? But there is an important underlying concept at work here against sophisticated players and this is to do with three barrelling.

What you do not want to see happen is for your observant opponents to know that whenever you fire three barrels that your range is either air or the nuts. Sophisticated players understand about hand ranges all too well and if you only ever fire three barrels with a powerful hand or air then you are allowing your opponents to play better against you. Now you are firing with value hands as well with overpairs and weak two pair hands.

If your opponents know that your ranges are polarized then you will be bluff-raised with air more often and called down very light with increasing frequency. Look at the following situation, hero raises with the 8c-7c from the button and villain calls from the big blind with the Js-10s. The flop comes Qs-4s-2d and villain checks, hero has nothing but continuation bets and this gets called. Villain could have check-raised here and probably should have but that’s a different matter.

Turn card is the 6d giving hero some equity now with a gutshot draw. Villains flop call seems ominous and the turn card is the Ad and Villain checks again. Hero tries to use the ace as a scare card and as the pre-flop raiser could have easily connected with this board. He decides to fire a second barrel and this gets called again. Once again Villain should have check-raised, don’t know what he is doing but he probably should be betting the river if he misses his draw.

River is the 10c giving Villain third pair and hero has total air. They check, hero pots, they tank and then call. Villain wins the pot with third pair and hero not only loses but he also tilts after villain calls a third barrel with third pair. This call isn’t difficult if you know that your opponent only ever three barrels with the nuts or air. So keep this in mind when you are striving for pot control against good players.

Carl "The Dean" Sampson can be seen at his blog http://www.pokersharkpool.com and 888poker

Carl Sampson

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