04/09/2008

When Getting Pot Odds Just Doesn't Cut It

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Back when I first started playing online, limit hold’em was my main game. Even now I still have a very close affinity with it despite the fact that no limit hold’em is my game of choice these days. I suppose it’s a bit like checking to see the results of a football team on a Saturday afternoon who you have a fondness for despite supporting someone else.

But one of the problems with switching games is that it can take you a while to adjust to the little nuances of a new form of poker. For some time afterwards, my mindset was still with limit hold’em and this is another reason for sticking with the same game and not to chop and change.

One of the mistakes that I used to make when I first started to play the no limit version is that I would often pay bets off on the river simply because of the pot odds that I was getting. But on closer examination I was clearly paying off with almost no chance of success whatsoever.

A following example whilst not being an actual hand will closely outline what I was doing wrong. Let us say that the game was $3-$6NLHE and the game is six max. It has been folded around to me in the hijack seat and I open raise to $21 with the 9h-9d. The player in the cut-off calls the raise, the small blind folds but the big blind calls.

With $66 in the pot we see a flop of Jd-6c-2c giving me a fair but not great hand. The big blind checks the flop and I bet $40 to which the cut-off calls me but I have managed to get the big blind to fold. The turn card is the 8h still giving me a decent shot at having the best hand. I cannot go on the defensive and fire another barrel of just over half the pot and my opponent calls again.

The river card is another overcard and is the Qc which isn’t good for me. I have a choice here between making a defensive bet on the river or checking and seeing what my opponent does. So I check and with $306 in the pot, my opponent bets $100 on the river and I make the “automatic” call and get shown QJ or a made flush.

But there are very few actions in poker that should be automatic and this is certainly one of them. With pot odds of slightly over four to one then it is very easy to decide that a call must be made but that is the wrong approach.

The bottom line here is that you can really only make the call under two conditions. The first one is that you firmly believe that you have the best hand. The second one is that the bet is so small in relation to what is in the pot that the call really is automatic. Getting four to one pot odds is hardly the worlds fair and with this being online poker then you have no visual information in which to base tour opinion. But looking at his entire range of hands and given that they have hung around after two consecutive flop and turn bets then what chance could I have here of actually holding the best hand? Is it conceivable that a player would set up an elaborate bluff in this way and especially at this level?

But my reasoning always went that I had checked which showed weakness and that in itself had induced a possible bluff and my pot odds were over four to one... so call. The number of times that I had the best hand when I called were so small that it was hardly worth talking about.

I was simply bleeding money and this was turning into a serious leak. If my opponent held overcards then there was a queen and a jack out there. A possible flush draw had just gone in and there was no credible straight draw. But this river bet smacks of a value bet to me now and thankfully I don’t make the call anymore in situations like these (most of the time).

When looked at from a different perspective and through the eyes of your opponent then if they were really bluffing would they only bet such a small percentage of the pot in a situation where your betting indicates that you will certainly make the call?

They have seen you raise pre-flop and then bet the flop and turn with two high cards on board so they must suspect that you would call a small river bet either on suspicion or with a mediocre hand. Therefore their hand can beat something that is mediocre which makes folding the nines the correct play despite the pot odds, but you live and learn don’t you?

About the Author