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A Little Bit of Pot Control

by Eduard Antonyan |  Published: May 28, 2010

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Game: $2-$4 no-limit hold’em
Opponent: Unknown, presumably tight player
Stacks: Mine: $400; His: $708
My Position: Hijack seat
My Cards: AClub Suit 10Club Suit

In the aggressive “bet, bet, bet” state of today’s online cash games, playing “pot control” has fallen a bit out of style. In this column, I’m going to review a hand in which I think using pot control is best, and can lead to some profitable river situations.

In a $2-$4, $400 buy-in cash game online, everyone folded to me in the hijack seat, and I raised to $14. The button called, and so did the small blind. Both players covered my $400 stack.

The flop came AHeart Suit 5Club Suit 3Diamond Suit, giving me top pair.

The small blind checked, and I made a continuation-bet of $30 with my top pair.

The button folded, and the small blind (who thus far had been a tight player, by my observation) called.

The turn brought the 7Heart Suit, and my opponent checked.

Against weak/fishy players, your default here should just be to bet again. There’s a ton of worse A-X hands that will call, as well as some pairs and weak draws.

However, against a tight player, I think this is a good spot to check back the turn. Why?

When a tight player calls my raise out of the small blind, he’s going to have a fairly strong preflop range of hands. He’s probably not playing hands like A-6 offsuit or 6-4 suited, so when he check-calls this flop, he’s often going to have a strong ace (A-J, A-Q), a suited ace ( A-2 suited, A-4 suited), or a small pair with a gutshot (2-2, 4-4). A tight player is very likely to fold all hands worse than A-10 when I bet this turn, so there isn’t a lot of value in betting. Yes, I do get some gutshots to fold, but these hands have very few outs to improve, and if I check back, I may induce a bluff on the river.

This is a spot that’s commonly known as “way ahead/way behind.” Either I am way ahead of my opponent’s range and he has only a few outs to improve, or I’m way behind him and he has a hand that has me crushed.

So, against this specific opponent in this situation, I think checking back the turn is best.

The river was the JDiamond Suit, and my opponent led out for $72 into a pot of $103.

Given that we checked the turn, I now think it’s very likely that he will bluff with all of his hands worse than A-X, and that he’ll often value-bet a hand like A-2 suited or A-4 suited, figuring that I probably don’t have an ace.

By checking the turn, I widen his river betting range, and can now call this bet.

I called, and lost to my opponent’s A-J offsuit.

Even though I lost this hand, by checking the turn, I gave him a chance to bet his worse A-X hands on the river, and also any weaker hand as a bluff.

Against tight players, consider checking back some of your marginal top-pair hands on the turn, and see if you can induce them to bluff with the weakest hand on the river. Spade Suit