Texas Hold'em Poker Strategy behind Small Pots

Texas Hold'em Poker Strategy behind Small Pots

Online poker tournaments are full of life and death situations just by there aggressive nature. Online cash games aren’t much different unless you are playing at extremely high stakes. The main purpose of playing Small Pots is to keep your risk at a minimum while allowing yourself the opportunity to hit a big hand or a big draw.


By doing so you are then able to exploit the implied odds of your opponents stack and extract as much value as possible from the hand on later streets. The other reason for playing Small Pots is to allow yourself a safe way to release your hand with minimal damage to your stack. When you play large pots you typically win or lose large amounts of money. It’s a fairly straight forward concept.

Controlling the Pot Size

Of all the skills a poker player needs to employ controlling the size of the pot ranks high among them. By making the proper bets you create situations that allow you the proper odds to call on your flush draws, straight draws, and even inside straight draws. Position plays a large part in this equation. Most players prefer to play position, acting last in the hand, because you can control the pot best when you have it. Clearly in online tournaments the blind structure also plays a role in the size of the pot relative to the starting stacks. Typically online poker tournaments have fast structures where small pots are not played very often. Conversely deep stack tournaments with long levels and large starting stacks allow you to maximize the small pot concept and utilize this skill throughout.

Small Pot Play in Action

Let’s take a look at small pot play in action. In our example the blinds are $50/$25 and the levels are 1 hour each. The average stack is at $5000

  1. Player A has $5000 in early position
  2. Player B has $4400 in middle position
  3. Player C has $6500 (Button) HERO
  4. Player A [Q][Q] opens with a bet of $175
  5. Player B [3c][3h] calls
  6. Player C [Jd][Ts] calls
  7. There is now $525 in the pot.

The flop comes down [Ad][9c][8h] rainbow. Player A makes a probe bet of $250 to see where he is at in the hand. Player B folds his pocket threes. Our hero is getting the correct odds to make the call. The pot now has $775 in it and is giving 3 to 1 odds to make the call. With the implied odds of adding an additional $5000 to his stack should a [7] or [Q] hit the board he now has several options. THIS is where controlling the size of the pot comes in!

Here are the options available to our hero: a) smooth call , b) raise and see exactly where your opponent is at in the hand. There is no option “c” because you cannot fold the hand at this point. Both options A and B allow you to control the size of the pot. You also have position on your opponent. If you feel your opponent is weak and probing then you raise it up to $600. It’s possible you may take down the pot right there. If you feel your opponent does have the ace you can easily call and see another card with minimal impact on your chip stack. Knowing your opponents tendencies also helps in making decisions here.

NOTE: There are several ways this hand could play out based on how our opponent reacts. You need to be able to adapt to all situations and make tough decisions accordingly.

The Consequences

Clearly option A is meant to control the size of the pot and keep it small enough to get away from the hand should you miss on the turn and face a big bet. Option B is designed to take down the hand immediately. While option B is a larger bet it is also designed to get away from the hand without seriously damaging your stack should you get re-raised. Even if our hero decided to take option B and missed on the turn he would have a stack size of $5475 which is still above the average stack in the tournament.  This kind of play is typical Poker Strategy in structures that give lots of play. You must be able to play these kinds of pots correctly to be successful. If not you are not likely to win many poker tournaments.

Bigger isn’t always better. Now is it?

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