Poker Pro Gavin Griffin On Playing In Kill Games
Catch Some Strategy From Poker's Triple Crown Winner
One thing that everybody playing poker is looking for is action and the casinos cater to that as much as possible.
In LA this comes in a few forms. The first and most important for many reasons is the bad beat jackpot. The major casinos in LA are currently in an arms race to offer the biggest and best jackpot around with some of them offering $150,000 bad beat jackpots on certain days of the week and $100,000 jackpots every other hour the rest of the week.
The opportunity to hit these jackpots is what gets the butts in the seats and the casino makes enough money from the jackpot to not really worry about the times when it’s hit. The lure of the jackpot is so strong, people will be willing to play in the blinds when they would normally chop, and pay the extra $5 of rake just because they have a “jackpot hand.” This could be any number of hands from legitimate ones like A-10 plus and 10-10 plus (The qualifiers in LA are aces full beaten by quads, both cards must play, one person has to have an ace in their hand.) to silly ones like 9-8 suited and K-Q suited.
The next thing that LA casinos do to induce action is offer mostly 4/8 chip-structure games when playing limit hold‘em. This structure encourages action because of the sheer volume of chips on the table and in each pot. The pots are so physically big, people don’t pay attention to the actual odds they are getting and concentrate more on how the pot looks. This makes for better games, which in turn, encourages people to want to play in them more.
The end result is good for everyone involved. The casinos have more steady games, often having five or more $8-$16 games running at one time. The losing players, though in the end they usually lose, have the extra thrill of winning these monster pots and can have some massive winning sessions. Finally, the winning players have a higher winrate and a steady game that they can trust will always be there.
Finally, the LA casinos and many casinos across the country offer an interesting twist on a low limit hold‘em or Omaha game called the “kill game.” In Omaha, the rules are simple. If you scoop a pot, usually with a minimum size requirement, you post an extra blind in the hand called the “kill blind,” and the limits increase by either 50 or 100 percent, meaning a $6-$12 game turns into $12-$24, or a $4-$8 game turns into $6-$12.
In hold’em, the rules are a bit different. Every pot has a button in it that usually says “leg up” on one side and “kill” on the other side. If you win a pot, you get the button and you have a leg up. If you win the next pot, it’s a kill and the limits are increased. In the $8-$16 games I’ve been playing in, the killer posts six $2 chips and we play $12-$24 for the next hand. The kill continues until a different person wins a pot. The kill is also forfeited if the killer chops a pot.
Generally, people play looser for one bet in a kill pot than they would in a regular pot because they want to get in on the action, but tighter for a raise because it looks like so much money. In fact, they shouldn’t be changing based on these factors, but it’s a psychological mistake that most players make.
There are some strategical adjustments that must be made when playing in these games. First of all, when you have the leg up button, you should play a little bit tighter than normal because there is a six-chip penalty for winning the next pot. Remember that when figuring your pot odds in the hand. Another thing to consider is where you’ll be posting the kill blind if you win the next pot. If you’re under-the-gun and have the leg up, it’s only a two-chip penalty to win the pot since you would be posting the big blind next hand anyways. If you’re in the BB, it’s a four-chip penalty for the same reason. If you’re in the SB, it’s a six-chip penalty, but you get to post that six chip blind on the button.
When it’s a kill pot, most of the time you won’t be the blind, so how do you adjust to that? If you are out of position against the kill blind, you shouldn’t really adjust your play much because there’s a decent amount of dead money in the pot to counteract the fact that you’re going to play out of position against that blind. People tend to defend their kill blind pretty vigorously, so don’t expect to get many folds. In position against the kill blind, when it hasn’t been raised by another player or if the kill blind themselves have raised, you should raise a little looser than normal.
In the case where the kill blind has checked their option, you are raising to isolate against a hand that has shown some weakness in the hand already. In the case where they have raised, you get the chance to leverage a big three-bet and play the hand heads up most of the time against someone who you have an advantage against in the skill department.
If you are the kill blind, you should be defending less often when you’re in early position, and more often in late position. Also, when folded to you in later positions, you should raise a bit looser than normal because checking the option on a kill blind is an invitation to get raised by those behind you that might have folded if you raised first. Also, if you get to raise first in as the kill, you are offering the blinds a much worse price than usual on calling your raise.
At this point, players can be split up into two groups. The type who is going to call down lighter because it’s a kill pot and the pot is “bigger,” and the type who will fold more often because the bets are “bigger.” I put bigger in quotes because the pot may be worth more money, but it’s not any bigger just because the bets are larger. Your pot odds calculations will still be the same, the math doesn’t change.
It just seems to be a bigger deal because there is more actual money in the pot. It’s important to recognize who is doing what, and adjust accordingly to their logical flaws. Bluff more against the people who play scared in kill pots and go for thinner value and bluff less against those who will call down more.
Kill pots are great for winning players because the mistakes people make are made at a higher limit so they add even more to your bottom line. Be sure to take advantage of others’ mistakes and limit your own so your bankroll continues to grow. ♠
Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com.
You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG
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