Make all of your bets count at the poker table


Here’s a situation I see surprisingly too much in no-limit hold’em tournaments and cash games. Let’s use tournaments as an example. Say blinds are 100-200 and everyone is plenty deep. There are four limpers to the big blind, who raises to 400. Everyone calls and they see a flop five-handed.

What has the big blind accomplished? What could he possibly hold that would justify such a bet?

The answer to both questions is nothing. If his goal is to thin the field, he failed miserably. If his goal is to punish the limpers, he didn’t really accomplish that either. While limping and calling a raise is never a good strategy, the players are getting proper odds here to make the play.

What if his goal is to build a pot? Well, that brings us to the second question of what holding would justify such an action. Even if he had pocket aces, playing them in a five-handed pot out of position could lead to trouble, which easily could have been avoided. You’ve done nothing to help clarify opponents’ hands. If you get action or push back on the flop, it will be difficult to determine where you stand.
So, what should the big blind do here? He has a couple of options. With a random hand, he could check his option and see a free flop in a sizeable pot.

Or, he could raise big with a pot-sized bet to try to win the pot. The problem with the latter option is your move will be transparent and if you get action, you’ve raised the stakes to play a hand out of position.
With a strong hand, you really only have one choice: Make a big raise. With pocket aces, I’d be inclined to make an oversized bet to about 1,300 to go.

That would thin the field and you may trap someone who thinks you’re making a move. While I would love to get it all-in heads-up, I’m happy to take the pot right there. I’d much rather take the pot than face four opponents out of position.

This is just one example of what I find to be lazy poker. Players are just not making simple adjustments or calculations based on pot size and number of opponents. If opponents are trying to see a pot cheaply, see it with them or change the price of poker. Make it expensive.

Taking a middle ground is pointless. Every bet and action you make should be purposeful. Consistent and purposeful action will lead to positive results in the long run.

— David Apostolico is the author of You are the Variable: Play Your Best Poker, ($5.99 for Kindle). Email him at