Poker tip #1: Big Hand Big Pot, Small Hand Small Pot

Reading and studying poker either online, reading forums, talking to friends or reading books always leads to different tips and tricks.  Deciphering which tips you are going to employ in your play takes time.  Whenever I ask a question about a hand I have played almost always the response is 'it depends' and then questions are asked about stack sizes, player behaviour, position, number of callers, number of limpers, history of the players, table image.  All of these are of course relevant questions and when developing as a poker player more and more I am able to ask myself these questions and consider how I want to play the hand.  Being able to do this consistently of course is key and still something that I want to develop in my game.

Probably the one piece of advice that sticks with me however is one that I read in one of the Harrington on Holdem books.  If you haven't read any of these they should definitely be part of your library.  Harrington has books on both cash games and tournament games and brilliantly combines theory with discussion about particular hands.  In one of his books is the excelllent advice: 'Big hand big pot, small hand small pot'.

I find that in playing a hand if I am not careful I can start with a big hand and so I build the pot pre-flop. When the flop comes suddenly my hand may no longer be a big hand and so I need to slow down. Certainly this may become clearer as the hand develops and depending on whether there are callers or raisers.  If I start with a big pair and by the time I get to the river the money is still going in to the pot and my hand hasn't improved there is a good chance that I now have a small hand and so I don't want to see a big pot.

Bearing this saying in mind I know that I need to keep reading the hand and the action, checking and calling rather than betting out, not betting for the sake of it on the river, considering who would be calling my hands.  Of course sometimes I get this wrong.  A hand yesterday was a good example of this.  Raising an early raising with my pair of kings I got excited by my big hand.  The flop came 10, J, J rainbow. The early limper checked and I bet two-thirds of the pot. The limper called. The turn came with a 9. The limper checked and I bet half the pot.  The limper raised and put me all in. I was facing a big pot with a pair of kings and a gutshot draw on a wet board. It was hard to fold...so I didn't. The turn was a 2 and the limper showed his Q8s to take the pot with a straight. I lost my stack and was left wondering when my big hand became a small hand and when should I have known.

To  finish off I will let you decide whether your pocket aces are a big hand or a small hand on this board.


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