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Starting Hands Revealed
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What is pot commitment?
At its most basic level, pot commitment means you deem the pot is offering sufficient odds, at that instance, taking into account the strength of your hand, that you will be willing to play for the rest of your chips, if need be.
Whether you actually want to play for the rest of your chips, of course, is another matter entirely.
Commit the fish
When we have strong hands, i.e. strong enough hands that were all our chips to go in the middle, we would in all likelihood be favorite, then we obviously favor a situation where this outcome happens.
In a fantasy world, we could bet certain amounts and every time our opponents would call every time. The real world is different however, these days, most players have some idea at least how to play poker.
Still, occasionally, we can be blessed with a player who doesn't read the board and/or game texture very well, effectively just playing their own hand and not taking into account what you might have.
If you have a strong hand against these guys, you can bet it big on every street, getting all your opponents chips on or before the river, since if they have a reasonable holding, there's a high chance you'll get them to pay you off.
Commit smart players
Against smart or even average players you may have to do something different. Hand reading abilities and ability to figure out your opponents tendencies and thus likely reactions are vital towards getting the best poker result.
Let's take a look at a quick example of how you would go about getting players to commit to the pot when you flop a hidden monster.
$1-$2 NL holdem. 6-max. Your stack $316. You have been fairly active and have been looked up when you held a combination of both good hands, pure bluffs and drawing hands already, so people will be finding it difficult to pin you down to what hand you might have at any one time, exactly what you want to be engineering in the minds of your opponents!
A straightforward player with about $180, raises 3 big blinds UTG, you have 6s6h in cutoff and elect to call his raise. Big blind also calls. Pot is $19. With a hand like 66, basically you are looking to hit your set on the flop or be done with the hand if you miss and someone bets.
Flop brings Kd 6c 2s. Bingo! Big blind checks. UTG bets $15, a bet, that makes it look like at least that he's representing the King. Now if he was a very aggressive player who could barrel 2 or even 3 streets with little or nothing, you might think about slowplaying your set of sixes here as a raise would be a warning sign to all but the most maniacal of players.
You could still make a case for just calling this player on the flop, as if he has top pair top kicker he might very well continue to fire believing he's value betting, however if your reading of him is even slightly off, say if he's got a hand Like KQ or KJ, he might slow down on the turn, or even if he does have the hand you are hoping AK, if he's even tighter than you think he is, he might still slow down on the turn.
Therefore in order to get him wedded to the pot, overall, it's best to get money in there now, and make it more likely that he and you end up stacking him. So how much should you make the raise for on the flop. Your opponent has $159 left.
So $34 already in pot, if you raise him another $28 that makes the pot $90 if he calls. Leaving him $131. A standard enough half pot size bet on the turn of $45 on turn makes a pot of $180.
If he calls this, which seems likely, if he has top pair top kicker, with less than half a pot sized bet in chips on the river, you will have effectively pot committed him, and get all his chips, all achieved by your judicious decision making, particularly on the flop, as your small raise here, sealed his doom!
Having a commitment phobia
How about situations where you have a good hand but not so good that you are 'pot committed'. How do you avoid being pot committed?
Getting back to Ace King and to a lesser extent Ace Queen, raising with these type of hands is pretty standard play in position i.e. either when you are first to play or raising limpers or indeed perhaps even re-raising when in position.
There is an argument for not re-raising from the blinds and merely calling, that way you have a good disguised hand, as no one will put you on AK or AQ, because surely you would have re-raised with them.
By not re-raising preflop it can make post flop play easier. If you flop a good hand like top pair top kicker, then if facing bets it'll be far more likely that someone is value betting you thinking they are ahead, or pure bluffing you, rather than someone betting because they have put you on AK, and hoping that you can't lay it down like the previous example, since there is little chance that they can put you on AK in such a spot.
Therefore, although you have given up on the chance to take the pot down preflop, and you might have to give up on the flop or turn, if you don't hit anything, you have also gained the benefit of reducing the chances of being pot committed.
Other ways to avoid getting pot committed are to slow down on the turn especially when you have position.
That way if you have a good but not great hand, your opponent might have folded his worse hands than yours on the turn anyway. But if he had being trying to trap you, when you call his river bet as you will almost definitely will do, you minimize the amount you could have lost in the hand, and should he be value betting the river light or pure bluffing, you'll earn more than you would have done should you have bet the turn and got him to fold.
So it's a win-win situation by being appropriately cautious.
Can't escape pot commitment all the time
In no limit poker, getting into uncomfortable situations, where you are pot committed, but not so enthused about it, are unavoidable.
As you improve your hand reading and reading of opponents, the amount of times this happens, while never being eliminated, should be reduced. In addition the percentage of times where you are actually ahead in these uncomfortable situations will increase, due to your improved reading of the game.
This will be the case, as you will have managed to escape getting pot committed with second best hands more often, and be getting to pot commitment stage at times when your opponent is actually bluffing or betting light, rather than when he has an actual great hand!