The importance of pot control
Many of the world renowned leading online poker players will say that pot control is simply a tactic that represents weak poker that can be exploited.
In a way this is correct, because if your opponent is shaping up to control the size of the pot, then this is something that they are looking to achieve. This means that, if you look to deny your opponent something that they are looking to do, then this can never be a bad idea. So, the best players in the world look to exploit pot control, but for the rest of us mere mortals it represents a very powerful poker strategy.
To understand why this is the case, we need to understand just what the average online poker player is comprised of. It is usually a player that lacks experience even though they may have played poker for a few years. Also, if you fail to exercise pot control then your swings will be greater and so the variance will increase the number of buy-ins that you will lose.
Pot control serves lots of different objectives and the main one being that it helps to prevent an inexperienced player from making a big mistake post flop.
To better highlight just what we mean by a “big mistake”, we need to ask ourselves the question of just what a “big mistake” is, in online No-Limit Texas Hold’em. For the vast majority of NLHE players, a big mistake usually comes from having a big stack. As a rule then, the bigger the stack the bigger the potential to make a big mistake! This is where players that buy in for the minimum with a short stack tend not to be in a position where they can make big mistakes.
If your stack is so small that you get all-in either pre-flop or on the flop then you cannot make a big mistake as a rule. A big mistake in poker is one where you have placed a huge number of big blinds into the pot as a big underdog. For example if you got all-in with A-K on an A-8-2 rainbow board for 150bb and were facing pocket eights then you have made a big mistake. Pot control helps to alleviate big mistakes but pot control can be exercised in many different ways.
For example let us say that it was folded around to your opponent who was sitting in the cut-off and they raised to 3.5bb. You held the Jc-10c on the button. Now many players would say that pot control means calling the raise instead of 3-betting because calling is only risking 3.5bb. However, if the flop came 10d-8s-4h then you are going to lose at least two streets of action to your opponent before you know that you are beat. However 3-betting pre-flop to say 9bb helps you define your opponent’s hand more clearly which can then help you to control the pot size later on in the hand.