General concepts

Points of Play

Tournament Play

The Size of the Pot

Limit poker is a long-run game. Unlike no-limit poker games, any individual hand does not have that much impact on your final result.  This is especially true if you are concerned only with your results for the month or the year.

Only the bottom line should count.  To achieve the desired results, it is necessary that most of your poker plays have what is called a positive expectation.

What this means is that a play will show a profit in the long run. However, in order for it to show a profit, it is not necessary that a particular play work more often than not. 

It is quite possible that a play may work, let’s say, 25 percent of the time and still show a healthy profit. This is because it may win quite a bit more when it works than it will lose when it doesn’t.

In limit poker games, this usually comes up when a particular play may cost you one or two bets when it fails, but will win you the pot when it succeeds.

If the pot is large, the risk may be well worth it. We therefore see that one of the major factors that must be considered before deciding what to do in some situations is the size of the pot (in relation, of course, to the size of the bet.).

This is what is meant by pot odds. Many intermediate-level players know that occasions sometimes arise when it is important to know the odds you are getting from the pot. 

An obvious example would be when you are considering drawing to a straight and need to know whether it is worth it.

What these players don’t know, however, is that pot odds play a much greater role in the deciding the best strategy than they think. 

The size of the pot should not be considered only when you are deciding whether to call or fold with a drawing hand. In fact, the size of the pot is nearly always a major factor in making the proper decision.

This does not mean poker is mainly poker mathematics. Far from it.  Psychology and logic are at least as important. However, they must frequently be combined in order to come up with the right play.

Take the subject of poker bluffing. The ability to size up your chances of getting away with a bluff is certainly not mathematical. However, once you estimate these chances, your decision as to whether to bluff will depend on your pot odds.

If you think you can successfully pull off a bluff (when all the cards are out) 25 percent of the time, it is worth a $ 20 bet to try to steal a $ 90 pot.  If the pot has only $ 50, however, it wouldn’t be.  Do you see why?

Another time the size of the pot matters is when you are considering slowplaying (sucking other players in ) when you have a big hand. 

If the pot is small in comparison to the bets, it is probably worth it.  If the pot is already large, it probably isn’t worth it. Why risk a large pot to win a few more bets?

There are many different situations when you should consider raising in a poker game. The obvious times is when you have a great hand and want to win more money.

However, there are many other good reasons to raise: As a bluff or semi-bluff; to “narrow down the field;” to get a “free card;” to gain information, etc.

In any case and kind of situation in poker games, it is important to realize that no matter what your reason for raising, you should nearly always consider your pot odds along with everything else before making a decision.

For example, suppose a player bets $ 20 into a $ 60 pot and you are his only opponent and have nothing (all the cards are out).  You should raise $ 20 as a bluff if there is better than a one-third chance of getting away with it, in your opinion.  You are getting $ 80-$ 40 or 2-1 odds.

As another example, suppose all the cards are exposed and you are in a three-way pot. The man to your right bets and you feel it is about even money that you have him beat.

However, there is a small chance that the player to your left will overcall and beat you.  You can prevent this by raising, but wonder whether it is worth it.

Well, the exact formula is rather complicated and I won’t go into it here.  However, the key factor is the size of the pot once again.  The larger the pot, the more inclined you would be to raise.

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