Poker players ride an emotional roller coaster – one minute they're on top of the world after raking in a huge pot, and the next they're down in the mud after an opponent draws out. That sinking feeling you get when a big pot gets away is enough to make some players eventually give up the game.
Included below are seven situations you need to watch for where you may be getting ready to lose a big pot.
In many of these situations you will receive the correct pot odds so you'll have to call most of the time anyway. In almost every situation, you will either be pot-committed or there'll be a big enough chance that your opponent is bluffing that you will have to call.
Let's start with this situation because it's really common.
When you have a made hand and an opponent keeps calling your bets, they are usually chasing something. If two suited cards are on the flop and a third one hits on the river, it's easy to assume your opponent just drew out on you.
Even when you make your bets big enough to make it incorrect for your opponents to call, they often chase flush draws. One of the biggest leaks in inexperienced poker player's games is the inability to fold flush draws when they aren't receiving the correct pot odds to call.
The problem? They aren't always chasing a flush draw. They may have been chasing with a second pair and hit two pair or something else. Even average players are smart enough to see the possible flush so unless they think you were drawing to the flush (unlikely if you have been leading the betting) they may be bluffing.
Just like every other situation at the poker table, if the possible flush card hits and an opponent bets, you have to determine the most profitable play in the long run. In other words, if you had to play the exact situation 100 times is it more profitable on average to call, raise or fold?
The size of the pot goes a long way toward figuring this out. You also have to guess how many times your opponent is bluffing or betting with a weaker hand than you. If you have been betting big enough to make the pot odds incorrect for your opponent to chase a flush the odds are the pot is big enough that you should almost never fold.
For example, if there is $500 in the pot and your opponent bets $50, you only have to win one out of every 10 times to break even. Rarely will anything in poker be anywhere close to a 90% probability, so enjoy it while it lasts.
On the other hand, what if your opponent bets $500 into the same $500 pot? In this situation you need to really dig deep into what you know about your opponent's past playing tendencies.
The $500 bet is suspicious to me because it seems like a big over-bet. If I hit the flush, I want to bet an amount that my opponent will call.
Is the opponent smart enough to realize that I expect a bluff and trying to trap me? This is something we all worry about, but I've rarely seen it in play. If your opponent is smart enough to make this play, you'll know way ahead of time anyway.
I would be more scared of a $150 or $200 bet in this situation. The same goes for knowing your opponents playing level and tendencies in this situation. If my opponent is good, they will know a bet size of $175 will give me the most pause, and they'll use that sizing to make me consider a fold.
Poker looks easy on the surface but situations like this show just how in depth it can be. The more you know about your opponents the better your chances to make the right decisions in tough spots.
When you study your opponents and learn which ones are aggressive and which ones are passive you learn how to win more.
If an ultra-passive player check raises you, they're broadcasting a strong hand. Consider the possible range of hands they may hold in the context of the last card to hit the board. What could they hold that just improved to the point that they're check raising?
This isn't always easy. Consider the following situation.
The passive player limps from middle position, you raise from late position, and everyone folds except the passive player, who calls. You have a pair of kings and the flop is the 7 of hearts, 5 of clubs, and 2 of spades. Your opponent checks, you bet, and she calls. The turn is an 8 of diamonds, she checks, you bet and then she raises.
What hands could she hold that fit this scenario? The only real possibilities I see are pocket 8s or pocket 6s. An over pair, like 9's, 10's, or Jacks are possible, but unlikely.
I put the player on pocket 8's unless I've seen them run a semi bluff with an open end straight before. Most passive players don't bluff with an open end straight draw out of position.
Unless you have specific information that tells you otherwise, this situation is a pretty safe fold.
When you hold top pair or a flush and the board pairs, you need to be aware of how your opponents play changes.
Any time the board is paired there is the possibility of a full house or three of a kind. If you have a flush, a full house will cost you a great deal of money.
Unless the stakes are extremely high, it's difficult to get away from a flush in Texas Hold 'em, especially if your opponent is lucky enough to hit a full house. When the board pairs in a game of Omaha you might as well throw away your flush. The odds of your flush standing up are small, especially in a big pot.
However, in Texas Hold 'em when you are playing top pair or top two pair a paired board can ruin your hand. Many weak players chase with even a small pair and sometimes it turns into three of a kind.
If you know how your opponent plays it can give you clues as to what she holds, but paired boards are tricky to play.
When you put in a nice pre-flop raise with a pair of kings or queens and get called, the worst card in the world for the flop is an Ace. Unless you are fortunate enough to hit a set in this situation, you need to give up on the hand. Against a single opponent, you have a chance they aren't holding an ace, but against two or more opponents you are unlikely to win the hand.
This situation is a little more tricky than some listed on this page.
Straight draws aren't as popular as flush draws and some players don't even see straight draws often. Unless the bet makes the pot odds really bad, you should usually call in this situation, assuming you have a strong hand.
Just like some of the other situations listed above, if you know how your opponent tends to play it will help, but rarely can you put someone on a straight in this situation.
Pocket aces are a clear favorite against any other hand in Texas Hold 'em. The problem is, the more opponents who see the flop, the less likely your aces are to win without improvement. Against six opponents you are actually an underdog, even holding pocket aces.
This problem is magnified by how hard it will be to lay down your aces on flops that look safe.
When you go all in, there isn't much you can do if an opponent calls with pocket aces or kings. This is one of those times you just need to pray for a set and get ready to buy back in. Even when your opponent only holds Ace-King, you've still got a toss-up hand.
The theme throughout this post has been learning as much about your opponents as possible. These situations reinforce how profitable it can be to know your opponents and how unprofitable it can be to not know their playing tendencies. Keep your eyes open for these situations and learn how to minimize the damage when they come up.