Why do some players make so much money playing hold’em while most players struggle or lose! A big reason is correct play before the flop, which we discussed last issue. But there’s another important reason: Good players force their opponents to take bad pot odds.
In gambling — no matter what the game — the person making the money in the long run is the one who has the best of the situation. This point is proved in casinos every day. When you bet on the double sixes on the craps table and take odds of 30 to 1 — when the real odds of rolling double sixes are 35 to 1 — you are taking the worst of the proposition. Over the long run, your money will end up in the casino’s pocket.
The same holds true in a poker game, When your opponents take the wrong odds to outdraw you, over the long run their money ends up in your pocket. Poker is all about getting your opponents to take bad odds. Most of the errors bad players make involve taking too many cards off when the pot is not offering them the right odds to hit their hand.
You will make money in the long run when your opponents repeatedly make this type of error — even though sometimes they get lucky and hit their hand. Just as the casino likes the craps shooter who bets the hard-way twelve, even though the shooter occasionally gets lucky and rolls the double sixes, you have to like the action of players who consistently draw to long-shot hands when the pot is small relative to the odds of hitting the draw.
In both structured-limit and spread-limit hold’em games, a high proportion of your opponents will routinely see the flop. But because of the difference in the two structures, the amount of money in the pot, given the same number of players, differs. Consider a situation in which five people limp in to see the flop. In a $4-$8 structured-limit game where the big blind is $4, there is now $20 in the pot (five times the $4 call). In a $2-$4- $8-$8 where the big blind is $2, there is now only $10 in the pot (five times the $2 call). Because the blinds are smaller in spread-limit hold’em than in structured-limit hold’em, the pot will always be smaller in the spread- limit game (all else being equal).
This difference in pot size should drastically affect your post-flop play in the two types of hold’em for one big reason: The difference in pot size affects the odds your opponents are getting to call after the flop.
Take, for example, the situation where five people limp in to see the flop and you hold 10h As. The flop comes. 10s 3c 6d giving you top pair, top kicker. Weak players are willing to call on the flop with hands like two over cards (e.g., Kc, Qh) inside straight draws (e.g., 9d 7s), backdoor flush draws (e.g.,9s, 4s), bottom pair (4h 3d), and so forth.
Since these hands are all long shots, you don’t mind your opponents playing with you. But you do want to make sure you are forcing your opponents to take short odds to draw to these types of hands. How you get them to take short odds varies, depending on the structure you are playing.
In a spread-limit hold’em game, where there is only $10 in the pot before the flop, if you bet $4, the next caller is calling $4 to win a $14 pot. In other words, the Slot Gacor pot is offering him 3 ½ to 1. Most of the weak hands that might be calling are worse than 3 ½ to 1 underdogs. This means that, in a spread-limit game, you don’t need to do anything fancy to get your drawing opponents to take bad pot odds. Merely betting out with your top pair, allowing them to take 3 ½ to 1 to draw to their hands, will suffice.
In a structured-limit game, the strategy is more complicated. Because there is $20 in the pot before the flop, if you bet $4, the next player is calling $4 to win a $24 pot. Where the pot is offering only 3 ½ to 1 in the spread-limit game, it is offering 6 to 1 in the structured- limit game — which means that most of your opponents are getting long odds to draw to their hands since the majority of the draws will be better than 6 to 1 under- dogs to hit, When you bet into a field of players in a structured-limit game with a made hand such as top pair, you are giving the majority of your opponents the right price to outdraw you. And if your opponents aren’t making an error, where is your edge?
This difference in the price the pot is offering means you need to change your strategy in structured-limit hold’em. Whereas in spread-limit betting out is enough to make your opponents take a bad price, in structured- limit, you have to use the check-raise more often to force your opponents to take bad pot odds. The upside to using check-raise is that you are causing your opponents to call two bets instead of one to win the pot.
Just take another look at the situation where you flop top pair and there is $20 already in the pot. If you bet out, the pot offers your calling opponent 6 to 1. But if you check, your opponent bets, and you now raise, your calling opponent is only getting 3 ½ to 1. He is now risking $8 to win a $28 pot.
There is, of course, a downside to having to use the check-raise in the structured-limit game: When you check and everybody else checks behind you, not only have you missed a bet but you have given the entire field a free card. You need to be very sure that someone will bet behind you if you opt to try for a check-raise. Having to make these kinds of decisions means that you are likely to make more errors when you play in structured-limit hold’em games than in spread-limit games. And errors ultimately cause bigger fluctuations in your results.
Because of the bigger fluctuations in the structured- limit games, spread-limit hold’em offers many more advantages to the expert player than its structured-limit cousin. The extra edge a good player has is big enough that he can consistently win a much higher percentage of the time in the spread-limit game.
But with this advantage comes a downside. First, the only spread-limit games in existence are all played for small stakes. If you want to be a professional poker player, you will not only have to be a winning player, but a significant enough winner to support yourself and still have enough left over for your bankroll to grow, This is not going to happen playing $2-$4-$8-$8 games. And there’s a second major drawback: Since the structure of the game allows the expert player to have a huge advantage, the game eventually dries up, leaving no game for experts — or anybody — to play in, After all, a bad player who loses every time he plays will either quit playing because he is out of money or because he is so “unlucky” he can’t stand it.
So, advantages or not, you are probably not going to find too many spread-limit games around. Instead, structured-limit hold’em has taken over, But that’s okay. The better players might get the money more slowly, but they’ll still get the money all the same.