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Why Play Pot Limit
Comparing Pot-Limit
Poker's Ten
You Playing Style
How Deep Are You
Taking The Initiative
Drawing Hand's
Reading The Opponent
The Art of Bluffing
Betting The Bully
No Limit Play
All In Coups


Using The Material
Pot-Limit & No-Limit
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A 5-10
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A 11-20
Pot-Limit Omaha
Pot-Limit Omaha Q/A
Seven-Card Stud
Lowball Draw
Key Pot-Limit
London Lowball Q/A
High Low Split
High Low Split Q/A
Strip Deck Poker



             The initiative is important at any form of poker. At big-bet poker, this
Importance is magnified even more so. When you can bet enough in proportion to the pot that many types of hands are forced to fold, a bet or raise becomes a more powerful play. Aggressiveness will win a lot of pots without much of a fight.

             There is another aspect of the initiative that is extremely important at pot-limit and no-limit play. Someone who bets or raises is taking the most aggressive action possible at that point. Therefore, he has an unlimited hand. There is a chance he holds the mortal nuts. The player who checks or calls has a limited hand, at least in theory. (Naturally, a player can turn up with the nuts on some mighty peculiar betting sequences.) This has a profound effect on subsequent betting.
             Let’s look at a couple of typical poker situations, and see when having the initiative is quite valuable.

  1. At Omaha high, you pick up a hand that includes a pair of queens. The flop comes to your liking; Q-9-4. You lead at the pot with your top set and get one caller. The fourth street card is the J, making a possible straight, and also creating the possibility of a backdoor flush on the last card. Even if you’re one of the world’s greatest poker players, there’s scarcely any way to know at this point whether that jack made the opponent a straight. If you bet, the opponent does not really know whether you have made straight with that jack, or are still betting with whatever caused you to bet the flop.  But if you check, you are wow on the defensive. The opponent can take a free card. If he bets, you have too much hand to fold and not enough hand to raise. Your check and subsequent call pinpoint your values quite closely. He will put you on a hand such as top two pair or a set. He also knows you are most unlikely to have picked up a flush-draw on Fourth Street, why would you check? Are you Casper Milquetoast? As you can see, a check limits your hand and puts the opponent in the driver’s seat. He may even charge you a price to hit a full on fourth street, and run a big bluff on the end it non-threatening card hits. If you check and all on fourth poker street, a bet of this type on the end will be hard to call.
  2. At hold’em, the flop comes 9-4-4 of three different suits. You bet, and get one caller. Has your opponent limited his hand by failing to raise? Not really. A free card is most unlikely to let you draw out it he has an extremely  powerful hand such as pocket nines or pocket fours. In fact, it would actually be more normal for somebody with this strong a hand to smooth-call rather than raise. The raise may let the cat out of the bag too soon. As you see, the principle of the bettor or raiser having an unlimited hand and the caller having a limited hand does not apply here. The principle applies only when the texture of the board makes it dangerous to give a free or cheap card.

                    We can conclude that the initiative is of limited value when the nuts can afford to leave the opponent in the pot because there is little danger of being outdrawn. In the hold’em poker layout given, knowing nothing about the opposing hands players, you would not know whether to make a side bet on the bettor or the caller. Actually, the caller is more likely to show up with a layout that will let the next boardcard create a “new nuts” much of the time, a player who fails to take aggressive action has conveyed immense information about his hand. (Of course, there is no law against someone making a deceptive play, but there is a lot of risk attendant to giving a free or cheap card here.) These two situations we discussed are at opposite end of the spectrum, and naturally there is plenty of middle ground between them, but you can see the principle that is involved.

                You will find in big-bet poker that it is extremely important for the opponent to fear that you might have the nuts. By having the initiative in situations where your hand is unlimited, you can pick up a lot of pots, and keep would-be bullies from pushing you around. If you dog it, the opponent may take the initiative-and the pot- away from you.
                The preceding discussion has focused on the value of having an unlimited hand. At big-bet poker, there is another reason for you to bet or raise. The pot increases in size many times over what the normal growth pattern would be in a limit poker game, and the wager size increases in corresponding fashion. If you have a powerful hand and unnecessarily allow an opponent to draw out on you, the penalty is severe.

                 Let’s use an example from hold’em. Suppose the flop comes K-8-2, and you have 8-8, giving you middle set. Assume that there is 1K in the pot, and both you the opponent have 10K stacks. If you give a free card on the flop and an opponent picks off a 9 on fourth street holding that pair in the grand. Compare this with limit poker, where the penalty besides losing the grand in the pot figures to be less than an additional 1K. A big-bet poker player has to be alert to the possibility of a huge adverse swing be giving a free card. Note that if your hand been top set, it would have been your opponent who was taking the nose=dive from hitting that nine. A good idea is to ask yourself this question: “If I give a free card, is my opponent going to get rich or go broke as a result of improving?” 


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