Pot Escalation in No Limit Holdem Poker

Many tournament poker players and limit hold’em players remark about how their form of poker is the most demanding and cite numerous reasons as to why that is the case. Well as someone who has played all of the mainline forms of poker then I think that I am in a good position to be able to judge which one is the toughest. However, rather than take my word for it then let me fly a few facts by you. Computer programs have reached a near state of perfection in limit hold’em.

This is because of the structured nature of the game but if a game can be solved then surely this has to point to a game being easier? Once a game becomes easier then it then becomes very difficult to earn serious money at it. For example, nobody would play noughts and crosses for high stakes, would they? The reason why they wouldn’t is that the game is solved and anybody that chose to play the game for big money would already know the theory behind how to play a game in which you couldn’t possibly lose.

Once this equilibrium has been reached then it becomes impossible in a game as simple as this to make money. This is what happens when a game becomes solved and this is what has happened in limit hold’em. In no-limit hold’em however then it is a different story. You always have the capability in deep stacked cash games to lose more in one single pot than you could have possibly gained by winning a much larger number of pots. So errors are magnified in no-limit Texas hold’em and indiscipline is punished severely.

You could in theory win 99% of the pots that you played and still be a net loser overall in this form of poker. The lessons are clear in that you need to identify as quickly as possible situations in which it appears that you are beat. So escalating the pot if you are limited in experience can be a tremendously dicey proposition. This is expressly the reason why many professional players try to reduce variance as much as possible. Poker is a game that tests you to the absolute limit when it comes to the mental side of things and lower variance leads to lower stress levels and happy poker players play the game for many years while unhappy players bust out.


No matter what starting hand you hold, pot escalation is a serious issue in no-limit Texas hold’em. If you have a deep stack in cash games then there isn’t any hand that you could be dealt pre-flop including the much sought after aces that wants a huge pot post-flop without improvement. Let us say that you held A-A on a 9-5-2 rainbow board, would you be happy to see the remaining 97% of your stack go into the middle on the flop against a decent solid tight-aggressive player? Of course, you wouldn’t so be very careful when it comes to escalating the pot in this form of poker.


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

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