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Building A Big One

Building A Big One

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Nov 01, 2011


Roy CookeDeciding when and how to build big pots is a key to maximizing your edge. This concept is hugely important in no-limit, but also has significant value in limit games.

Good players take into account how the hand will play, what level of volume and action they desire, the styles of their opponents and their own image in deciding how to manipulate the pot’s player volume and size. Their final conclusion can be only an educated best guess estimate as the variables are endless. But the fact that you’re thinking in these conceptual terms will put your decisions ahead of most of your opponents.

The chips were flying in the Bellagio’s late Saturday night $40-80 limit hold’em game. The game was on total tilt with several super-stuckees getting into raising wars pretty much every hand. Under the gun, I looked down at AHeart Suit QHeart Suit and mulled over my best play.

I generally raise with this holding under the gun in tight games where I have a chance of eliminating most of the field or winning the blinds. But that wasn’t going to happen in this game, they would call my raise. That said, my image was tight and while I knew my raise wasn’t going to intimidate anyone into folding, it would likely slow them down as far as raising. My thoughts drifted to limping, not showing the strength of my hand and letting the aggressive, tilted players behind me put in the action as they had done the previous several hours. I flipped in $40. A raising war erupted behind me and it came back four bets to me. I capped it, confident that my hand would play well with the 6 players in the pot. I also believed that capping it might have value later in the hand either by causing my opponents to misread my hand or be intimidated by the fact I had capped.

The flop came the JHeart Suit TSpade Suit 8Spade Suit. I had flopped a double gutter, with two overcards and a backdoor flush draw. With six players in a capped pot, I knew that my rivals would take almost any out to the river and that I would need a big hand to win.

My hand was significantly weakened by the fact that many cards that improved my hand would likely improve my opponents’ hands to a superior holding to mine. Both of my overcards filled straight draws, one would make a single card straight. Even if I hit my ace and it didn’t make anyone a straight, it would likely make someone two pair or still be trailing a made hand. Additionally, someone likely held the flush draw, meaning that any spade that improved my hand would still be a loser.

Also, semi-bluffing was not a viable option. They all just called way too much. Plus, it was a board that hit a lot of hands. It was checked to me, and I knuckled to acquire as high a price as possible from the pot. When you think you have little or no chance of bluffing and are drawing to big hands, getting the best possible price from the pot is generally the best play.

The tilters behind me went to war, and it came back three bets to me. I called, it went to four-bets and the betting stifled itself. Five players took the turn, the 9Heart Suit, a beauty for me, or so I thought. I had made the upper end of the straight and also had the nut heart-flush draw.

Once again it checked to me, but this time I fired. I thought that the 4-straight on the board would eliminate the fast action. One player called and one of the tilters hit it, folding two players. I re-raised it, received a call from the middle player and was raised again. I was starting to feel concerned that my hand wasn’t good, that the tiltoid held KQ for a bigger straight. But this guy was on tilt and didn’t have to have KQ. A naked queen was still a large part of his range and I had a flush draw and king draw too. I capped it at five bets, knowing I might be beat, but I was getting 2-1 on my bet even if I was.

Blessed be the poker gods who mercifully rivered the 4Heart Suit completing my nut flush. I fired one more time and received one call from the tilted turn raiser. I turned my hand over and he disgustedly showed me the KClub Suit QSpade Suit. I had sucked out big-time. The dealer shoved me the pot in several scoops. And he had big hands!

Yeah, I know I got lucky to win the pot. But the fact that I had maneuvered the situation pre-flop to acquire as much volume and raising as possible gave my draw, albeit a shaky one, a correct price to attempt to suck out. And more importantly, my pre-flop actions were correct at the point of decision when I didn’t know what the flop would be. Even without position, taking AHeart Suit QHeart Suit into 5 opponents who had wide ranges was a highly positive EV play.

When deciding the correct play, think of how you want the hand to play. Do you want the pot to be big? Everyone drawing at you? Thereby creating a pot where it will take a big hand to win. Or do you want a small to medium size pot? One that just a pair has a high propensity to take down? One in which a bluff is more likely to work? The larger the hand your holding is likely to make, the more inclined you should be to let players in pre-flop. Suited hands and small to medium wired pairs play well in unraised volume pots. Big suited hands, particularly those with an ace play well in large raised volume pots.

So, plan ahead. Think how things will vary depending upon how you play your holding. And make the best play choice. You won’t always snag the pot, but your EV will be higher over time. And when your EV is higher, your long term results will be too! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is You can also find him on Facebook.