News: Poker Basics – Pot Control

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It’s a move designed to stop the pot getting too big for your hand, but are you missing out on value by pot controlling?

Big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot

Pot control is when the (usually in position) player takes a passive line (checking or just calling) with a good (but not great) hand to manage the size of the pot. 

There is an old maxim in poker which still holds true today – ‘big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot’. If you have a middling hand, the worst thing you can do is bloat the pot then face a tough decision by the river. 

As such, players will often pot control one-pair-type hands by checking back when checked to, so if they face bets or make bets on the turn, they will be smaller. It’s much easier to call a pot sized river bet with a pair of nines when you missed a street or two of betting previously.

Fear of running into a big hand

If you pot control, you need to protect your check back range

Many players pot control simply because they fear their opponent might have them beat or check/raise them off a hand as a bluff. This is certainly a mistake as not only do you miss out on value with good hands you also allow your opponents free cards to outdraw you (therefore pot controlling on dynamic boards is a bad idea). 

You shouldn’t fear being reraised because, while it could be a bluff, most of the time it means you were probably behind anyway. 

If you are going to pot control then you need to occasionally play your very big hands the same way. You need to sometimes have sets in your pot control range, otherwise your opponents will spot that you are trying to get to showdown cheaply and pressure you with multi street bets. 

Pot controlling can be a useful strategy, especially in tournaments where survival is very important. However, a lot of amateur players use pot control more to mask risk aversion in their game. If you employ pot controlling as a strategy, make sure to ask yourself if you are missing out on value and asking whether you instead should be trying to get another bet in. 

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