Poker Notepad: Pot Commitment
In this first part of series of theoretical articles “Poker Notepad” we are going to talk on one very significant topic for those who play live: being pot-committed. This is especially important for those playing cash games as they have absolutely no clue about it.
Let’s get through the “terms used” as all the nerdy articles seem to start like this, aren’t they?
It is very common to hear or see the following logic in cash game: the player invest more than a half of his stack into the pot and calls on the turn and river just because he is “pot committed”, or “too much involved”. And the main focus is the invested money, not pot odds.
You know what? In cash game player can’t be pot committed at all. How do you like that? Nonsense, you say. But let yourself think about it. What is commit poker? After you’ve been busted in tournament you can say goodbye and leave and you can always rebuy at the cash table. You don’t have to invest the reminder of the stack just because “there is not enough left” or “a lot was invested”. Invested sum is of no importance.
In fact, playing pot committed poker means that you have positive expectation of calling the bet of the opponent considering his range in the hand and the pot odds. See, no mentioning of stack size.
Now let’s practice a little bit.
Villain has 100 bb, so do we. NL Holdem.
Villain raises to 5 bb, we call with 6-6.
Flop (10 bb): A-K-6 rainbow.
Villain bets 10 bb. We call.
Turn (30 bb): Ax.
Villain bets 30 bb. We call.
Turn (90 bb): 3x.
Villain bets all-in 55 bb. We?
Your guts tell you to call – it is a boat after all, wow, with pot odd of 2.63 to 1. From the other hand, we haven’t taken to analysis Villain’s range…
Let’s say Villain will bet with KK+, AQ+ in this aggressive manner. Than we beat 8 hands (all AQ combinations), and 10 hands beat us (1 x AA, 3 x KK, 6 x AK). Considering pot odds, call still makes sense: 200bb * (8 / 18) – 55bb = +33.8bb (EV).
Now let’s imagine that we somehow saw one of the hands our opponent has and it’s a king. We must fold immediately than! We don’t beat anything, and get beaten by 3x KK and 6 x AK – 9 hands. Regardless of stack and pot sizes, money invested, moon position to the sun and other factors we are making call which is –EV.
But I have KK!
Let’s continue our lesson. New table, new hand. Effective stack size is 100 bb. We have a bunch of callers – they call with anything and raise very tight, only 3-betting QQ+ and AK. They 5-bet only with rockets.
We open raise with kings, get 4 calls, SB makes a 3-bet (20bb), we re-raise making it 65 bb and get 5-bet all-in in our face. We need to call just 35 bb…
And the call is mathematically justified. There is 185 bb in the pot, we need to call just 25 bb, our equity is 18.054%, total pot is 200bb. We’re to get 39.71bb which equals +4.71bb on the distance. So it’s OK.
But! If there were not 4, but 2 pre-flop calls, our pot would be smaller. We would have to call not 25 but 50 bb. We are still pot committed, must get in and so on, aren’t we?
Despite equity being identical, call will be –EV (-12.09bb) on the distance.
So one more time. Pot commitment is based in two factors:
- How are we doing against villain’s range
- How much do we need to put in.
So next time anyone talks about pot committed poker, slap him hard while explaining what he gets wrong.