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Managing the Pot Size

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One factor of poker that many amateur poker players tend to under appreciate is the ability to manage the size of the pot and keep their bets suitable to the pot. Players understand intuitively that you don't bet a thousand chips into a hundred chip pot, but fail to apply the basic principle here consistently to their poker game, the principle of making bets that give you the best chance of maximizing your profits and minimizing your losses.

In poker, it is a frequent sight to see players make inappropriately sized bets for what they are trying to accomplish, and as so often ensues, they lose control of the hand. For instance, say that you are in a fairly loose game and are holding K-10 unsuited on the button. One player limps before you, you call, the small blind also calls, and the big blind checks to see the free flop. The flop comes 10d-7c-3h. You have the top pair and likely hold the best hand, as it is likely that anyone with A-10 would have raised the pot preflop. The action is checked to you, but what do you do?

Obviously, you're going to bet here, but how much? There are a few weak draws possible, and given the loose game so far, it is possible that an opponent did see the flop with a weak hand that could have found a draw. It is tempting to make a big bet here to try and force everyone out to pick up the pot, but in this situation that could easily backfire. While you have top pair, it could easily be beaten if someone is holding an ace and hits it on the turn. Also, given that the game has been fairly loose, you should be expecting callers.

In this situation, making a smaller bet is advisable, as it allows you to get out of the hand less expensively if the turn card helps one of your opponents. Your bet will signify that you have a hand, making it possible to take the pot on the turn if nobody improves their hand, and your bet will not commit too many chips to the pot, making it painful to let go of the hand that you have if one of your opponents shows aggression on the turn. If you make a bet near the size of the pot, you're going to want to continue with the hand even if an ace comes on the turn and the chances become very good that you are beat, simply because the pot is large and contains a lot of your chips.

This is a good example of how if you bet too many chips, you force yourself into making painful decisions that you could have avoided by making a smaller bet. You need to tailor the size of your bets to the situation in each hand. In the example, you had the best hand on the flop, but could easily be beaten as the hand continued to the turn and the river. With the looseness of play making it likely that you're going to be called, making an intimidating bet is not the right decision. Instead, save the intimidating bets for when there are a number of dangerous draws and your opponents are capable of folding if the odds are not with them.

Know what the situation is before you make your bet. Anticipate your opponents' actions. Be aware of how strong your hand is compared to the likely holdings of your opponents. Poker is about making the correct plays at the correct time, and there are a lot of factors to consider whenever you make a decision.

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