Multi-way pre-flop pots are the easiest way to confuse
yourself. Of course, this depends entirely on any number of
different factors. A limped pot with six players isn’t at all
the same as a raised pot with four players. The key to success
in pots with multiple people is to figure out things before they
Now, this is much easier said than done, but it’s not
nearly as difficult as it may seem. What does this mean? It
means that when a player raises and it’s on you to act, you
should have an idea how your other opponents are going to react
to any decision that you make. Is there a
loose guy behind you that calls everything? Is there a
player who will 3-bet if you just call? These are the types of
critical analysis that you can make to simplify and better play
in any pot with multiple players pre-flop.
The type of pot that you are playing in
Your hand strength
The position you are going to be in
Your position are going to be the three most critical
factors that are known to you. There are other variables at play
as well, such as your other opponents that are also in the hand,
but how these affect your hand aren’t going to be known right
away. Look at it this way; you have things that you know and
things that you don’t yet know. Once you take the known
information, you’ll be able to better figure out what you
don’t know. It may sound like I am talking in circles, and it’s
partially because I am. You have to connect this line to that
line in order for everything to make sense. Ok, this article is
becoming a bit too philosophical, so on to the examples and real
Type of Pot
The type of pot that you are playing in is in reference to
whether the action is limped, raised, re-raised, and so on and so forth. If you are
in a limped pot you should automatically be assuming that your
opponents do not have exceptionally strong hands. If you are in
a raised pot, you should give more credit to the players who are
still hanging around. If you are in a re-raised pot, you better
have a very strong hand if you are continuing on. Hopefully this
basic outlook on the type of pot that you are playing didn’t
confuse you, as it is the framework for anything that you do
from here on out in the hand.
Hand strength is something that you should already have a
feel for. No one has to tell you that pocket queens are a good
hand. The time where hand strength comes into play will be when
it alters your decision. Using the pocket queens example,
pretend that you are in late position and a middle position
player makes an open raise. Yes, you have pocket queens, but
they are hardly the nuts. Do you have to raise? Of course, but
what if the big blind calls? What if the small blind re-raises?
These are the types of things that you should really be thinking
about, not just how much you are going to raise.
One of the worst ways to approach poker, especially pre-flop is to think
only about your own actions.
Before you raise 5x, think about
what will happen if you are re-raised. A 3x raise could give you
room to stay in the hand whereas a 5x raise could price you out.
Hand strength is obvious, but you need to carve the value of a
hand into the situation that it’s a part of. Everything is
relative, and this is never truer than with hand strength.
Position, position, position: it seems like a recurring theme
in poker because it most definitely is. You’ll have a much
better chance at isolating when you are in position than when
you are under the gun, for example. Likewise, a big hand (like
pocket queens) is going to raise more from early position than
it might need to from late position. You want to push a lot of
people out but keep a few in at the right price when you are in
early position with a big hand, but in late position you just
want to keep the field firm.
These are the types of adjustments
that will need to be made when considering position in multi-way
Your opponents are the one thing that you can never be sure of.
Even if a player has been mucking every hand the entire
night, there’s no guaranteed way to know that they are going to
fold when you 3-bet from the button. Your ultimate objective is
to use all of the things that are set in stone (type of pot,
hand strength, and position) in an attempt to set yourself up for
the most likely of outcomes. If you are in a raised pot with a
loose player while holding a big hand in late position, you’ll
be able to raise big. If you are in a limped pot against a tight
player while holding a moderate hand in late position, a small
raise will do the trick. Note that every base was touched in
those two examples and that the proper move was affected
Much, even most of pre-flop play is easily understood by most
players. The problem for many is being able to put all of the
information together in order to form one coherent, profitable
play. You may play poker and have a reasonable idea of what the
proper move is, but it’s the fine adjustments that will
ultimately separate the losers, break even players, winners, and
big winners. For a few sessions, take the time to really think
out your pre-flop moves in multi-way pots before you make them.
Odds are that you will consider something that you hadn’t before
and you’ll shift up your play as a result.
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