October 3, 2011

Getting Paid on Big Hands

Once you’ve hit a big hand it’s easy to get paid – anyone can tell you that. Poker props know however that things are not quite that simple. It’s only beginners who think that way. Take set-mining for instance. Beginners will lay out the theory for you and they’ll tell you exactly how you can make money using that strategy. In the process, they will grossly overestimate the impact of the implied odds too. For a beginner, it’s clear as the light of day that once you make those trips, you’re guaranteed to get paid big time. In reality though, the situation isn’t quite that simple. Often, you will make the big hand and everyone will just fold, leaving you there monster in hand and a couple of stray chips in the pot.

Why does that happen? It happens because everyone is looking out to protect his/her stack. Your opponents are also searching for the best spots and they will only get their chips into the middle once they think they’ve found a good spot.
The first thing to learn about getting paid is that there are two types of hands: hands that will earn you big pots and hands that will only result is small pots. Big pot hands are obviously straights, flushes and such. These are hands on which you are willing to push all your chips into the middle in order to take your opponent’s entire stack. Small pot hands are hands like top pair top kicker, which you’re willing to take to showdown but might not necessarily be willing to stake your entire stack on.
Building a pot is a form of art. One starts out small and preferably from position, then gradually shapes and molds the pot so that by the time showdown is reached, it takes up a satisfactory form.

The most straightforward way to do that is obviously to just bet every street. In NL Holdem, matching your bet sizes to the size of the pot will make an incremental increase in pot-size possible, so starting out small makes a lot of sense indeed.
The check-raise is another proven method to increase the size of the pot. The check is meant to lure the opponent in with a bet of his own, on which our check-raiser can then pile even more chips. The core concept is the same as with the bet, bet, bet approach, only instead of starting out the betting himself, the player with the monster in his pocket lets the opponent start building the pot.

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