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Geometric Pot Escalation in no limit hold’em

One of the key factors that affects why many novice poker players fail to make money is in the concept of geometric escalation. This is that an object has the capacity to expand at a much faster rate once it begins the process of expansion. Let me quote an example from a recent game that I played at online poker room to explain what I mean. I raised with Q-J after two limpers had come into the pot and both blinds folded with both limpers calling. Each of us had a 100bb stack in what was a full ring NL100 cash game with $0.50-$1.00 blinds.

The pot going into the flop was 18bb (less the rake) and the flop came Q-10-7 rainbow. If I had limped along then the pot would only have been 4.5bb but now a pot sized bet on the flop isn’t 4.5bb but 18bb or so. This means that a re-raise would be committing in terms of stack size and we are only on the flop. This couldn’t have happened had I not raised pre-flop. So we can see then how just one simple pre-flop raise has changed the entire dynamic of the hand. It is for this reason why players need to be very wary of escalating the pot with hands that still have huge potential to lose.

This applies to any hand that you could possibly be dealt pre-flop in no limit hold’em including A-A which after all said and done is still only one pair unless it improves. One of the key ways that players try and stack weaker players is by slowly sucking them into gradually escalating pots. In this hand when the board was Q-10-7 then my hand is more marginal than what it first appears in a pot with 18bb in it and me only having top pair with a mediocre kicker.

In fact, if I was to bet this flop and it gets called then I would be very careful from there on in. My opponents checked and I bet 14bb which was called by the initial limper. This made the pot 46bb and a further bet and call on the turn would have possibly led to me losing a lot of blinds if my hand was second best. Had the situation been played out in a limit format then my hand would not have had the same potential weaknesses that it had in no limit.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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