Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Bang for Your Buck, Part 2

When playing hold ‘em in small stakes tournaments, the goal is to win all the chips.  So we don’t want to invest chips willy-nilly; unless we can obtain a fair return as compared to the risk involved, we shouldn’t be committing chips to the pot.

Really, if that’s all you remember, you’ll do OK at the tables.  Too many players let chips drift off chasing poor risks, limping when they should be raising, calling when they should be folding, and in general, doing dumb stuff.  But there are some specific spots where you can pick up chips by being slightly aggressive.

You probably already know about “Orphan Pots.”  This is a small pot that two or three players have limped into, no one shows aggression, the flop comes ragged, no one bets it, the turn is another dud or maybe a Broadway card, and everyone checks it around again…to you.  You make a small bet, and everyone folds.  It’s not terrible important what cards you hold – you’re representing a made hand of something, and if the other players have nothing or weak hands, they’ll get out of your way.  Your bet should be somewhere around a third to half the pot, depending on the situation – no sense sending out more than you need to, to get the job done.  If you’re called or raised, you know you’re done with the hand.

But there’s another spot very similar to this where you should be putting chips into the pot.  It’s not quite an “orphan” pot; more like a “Foster Child.”  Here’s the scenario:

Position isn’t that important, but it’s easier to do when you act last.  You’re NOT the aggressive one; in fact, this can be a time when, like our orphan pot, there are limpers indicating no one has much of a holding.  The flop fits you nicely – you either have four to a flush or a straight (preferably the nuts), or you hit bottom two pair, but the flop may have fit someone else as well.  That’s what you’re hoping for.  If someone bets, you raise.  If you’re first to act, you bet half the pot, just like the orphan.

There are many who play this differently, or “tricky” – they sit back and try to “hide” their good (but not made) hand.  If they hit their flush or straight, then they made a big bet (sometimes going all-in) and no one challenges them and they pick up a small pot.  If more big cards come on the turn, they may even fold their two-pair to scary overcards; if no such cards hit (or they turn two-pair into a boat), they make the big bet and chase everyone away again.

Prime the pump.  Put some chips in there, and hope others…well, hope they do likewise and you make your big hand (you ARE ahead at this point).  They may fold now, saving you the trouble of making your hand and allowing you to win the pot right then.  Remember, opponents aren’t going to commit chips if they don’t have something worthwhile; if you give them “free cards” to make a better hand, you don’t deserve their chips.  Make them pay for the privilege of continuing the hand.

You don’t win tournaments by winning the most hands; you win by winning the most money.  Invest wisely.

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