Poker Strategy: Is Pot Control Worth It?

Poker is intensely competitive, even with the element of luck. It may be hard to believe that a game based on random cards with no way to influence which cards you draw has a professional scene. There are prominent, million-dollar tournaments in renowned casinos and online poker sites. The best poker players have figured out how to make a steady income from poker, a game that looks incredibly inconsistent, at least from an outside perspective. You may think the best poker players are just the luckiest ones, but the truth is, poker has an amazing depth of strategy. The best players are the ones who have mastered every aspect of the game, and this is not an easy task.

Poker strategy mainly consists of player analysis and good math. These two are very broad and have many applications for every scenario, particularly betting. Math allows you to determine if your strategy is profitable over time and also helps you decide if calling bets is worth it. Observing and identifying the playstyles of your opponents is just as important for good players. Many people play a style known as “exploitative poker,” which involves finding the weaknesses and habits of your opponents and changing your strategy based on that information. Some great examples would be bluffing more often when playing against a tight player who folds a lot or calling your opponent out on bluffs if their betting pattern becomes predictable. This article will focus on an old bet sizing strategy: Pot control.

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What is pot control?

Pot control is adjusting the pot to the size you want, typically used in the context of keeping the pot small. To do that, bet small or check, so the pot does not become too large. There is also growing the pot through value betting, but we will primarily focus on keeping the pot small. Pot control is an alternative to outright folding and is common when people have drawing hands.

Is pot control a good idea?

Pot control is ancient. It is instinct to stay away from a large pot with a weak hand, so players have been using pot control since the early days of poker. With that in mind, many modern-day poker players see pot control as obsolete. Here is an example scenario where pot control seems like a good option but is not. You have a mighty starting hand of pocket aces. You aggressively raise and make a continuation bet, getting everyone to fold except for one player who calls your bets. The flop is a ten of clubs, jack of clubs, and an eight of clubs. The turn is a nine of diamonds. Suddenly, your hand has lost a lot of its value. You have no real draw options, while your opponent could likely have hit a straight or flush. Your opponent checks you. This looks like a prime scenario to control the pot by checking. That stops the pot from growing and allows you to decide on the river without committing money.

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However, poker strategy has evolved a lot. Nowadays, there are many reasons why pot control is not the best idea, despite looking reasonable on paper. A big one would be that you allow your opponent to see the river for free by checking. Their check indicates that they could be on a drawing hand and letting your opponent see a free card. At the same time, you have no draw potential of your own. While you may fear their potential check-raise, if they do that, you should just fold. Yes, it was a bad beat, and you lost your money, but poker is full of those. You must focus on your long-term strategy and understand that folding is a necessary part of the game. Your checking also signals weakness and can leave you prone to bluffs if the river is a great card. In the end, pot control is not even that effective in getting the pot to your size. Checking and small bets will not deter an opponent from going all-in with a made hand.

Can pot control be good?

Pot control does have some niche uses; however, even in those scenarios, pot control is merely an option and not your core strategy. Here are a few examples:

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Playing online poker

We hope this article taught you about pot control and how to play poker in general. Poker strategy has no set rules, and pot control may work for you. The best way to improve your skills and refine your strategy is by playing poker on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Learners love online poker because it is easy to access, allows you to play many games at once, and lets you use poker tracking software to break down the playstyles of you and your opponents.

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