Controlling the Pot in No Limit Hold'em

Many players get themselves into trouble in escalated pots in no limit Texas hold’em when what they really should be exercising is pot control. If you play badly in escalated pots then you can control the size of the pot by calling raises pre-flop as a substitute for 3/betting. For example let's say that you have Jc-Jd in the big blind and a player on the button raises with a 30% range. Your equity against that range is around 68% which many players would deem is good to 3/bet with.

While it's true that 3/betting ends the pot there and then in many instances, it also escalates it as well and an escalated pot pre-flop makes it easier to reach an all-in situation post flop. If it's been raised to 3.5bb and you 3/bet from say the button with pocket jacks to 12bb then you have placed a total of 12bb into a pot that only has a value of 17bb. So you've actually placed around the same percentage of chips in the pot than the equity edge that you hold. You may have 68% equity but you have placed over 70% of the chips in the pot at this stage and you have risked $12 to win $5. Not a great play.

However what if you have made an error in estimating your opponents range and it is only 20% instead of 30%? This doesn’t make a big difference and you still have 65% hot and cold equity but there is now a gap between your equity against your opponents range and the percentage of the pot that you have placed. So you need to think very carefully before you consider escalating the pot in games like no limit Texas hold’em.

Even a simple pre-flop 3/bet is a big step and we can see that in action by a pot sized bet and call on each post flop betting round after either 3/betting or calling a raise pre-flop. If in the big blind you call a raise then there is 7.5bb in the pot if the raise was to 3.5bb. If the pot is bet on the flop and called then this places 22.5bb in the pot! The same action on the turn makes the pot 67.5bb and on the river is 202.5bb which is just enough for two players with 100bb stacks to get all in. However when re-raising pre-flop to say 12bb then 24.5bb are in the pot by the flop. That same betting sequence places 73.5bb in the pot on the flop and 220.5bb in the pot on the turn and 661.5bb by the river.

So clearly both players are getting all in a full round sooner on the turn which is a massive difference and leaves you with far less room to maneuver post flop. The lesson is clear……think carefully before you 3/bet.  

A big thanks to Carl “The Dean” Sampson for submitting this article. Carl plays at


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