Texas Hold'em: The Control Bet

Due to the differences regarding betting between limit and no limit Texas Holdem rules a control bet can only be used in pot and no limit

Texas holdem. This is because the Texas Holdem rules regarding fixed limit constitutes that the size of a bet may not be altered, hence the name: fixed limit. 

No-Limit poker in particular allows for maximum creativity when it comes to betting; if you want to reach the upper echelons of the game, to reach that superstar plateau, you’re going to have to work towards a level of creativity other players just don’t have.

You’ll need to start by understanding all the different types of betting you’ll find in No-Limit Hold’em. One important one: the control bet. Understanding the control bet gives you a big advantage over your less sophisticated opponents and will really kick-start your progression to another level of play.

What’s a Control Bet?

Well, without making it sound too obvious, a control bet is a bet designed to control the size of the pot.

Simply: If a pot stays small, it’s usually not worthwhile for a player to bet a large portion of their stack to put pressure on their opponents. So it’s easier for their opponents also to get to the river without a lot of risk. When the pot gets large, though, it gives opponents much better odds to call bets on later streets. So, you can make very large bets that opponents will have good reason to call, and this will end up putting them to very difficult decisions.

The structure of No-Limit Hold’em makes control betting a powerful weapon. If you can control the pot, you can then control other player’s actions. Control over your opponents will then inevitably lead to success and profit.

When Should you Do it?

Well, in a nutshell, you should always be thinking about controlling the pot. If you think you’re either dominating your opponent or are dominated by them (you’re either way ahead or way behind) you may want to keep the pot small. A showdown will often work out for you, but ultimately you can’t take much heat.

If your hand is either highly vulnerable or invulnerable to draws, you may want to let the pot get big, so you can put opponents to big decisions.

Thinking Ahead

In No-Limit, whenever you enter a pot, you need to consider how your bet affects the pot size; what the pot size is now, what it will look like on subsequent streets and how this may affect future decisions. So the next step is: If it is possible to manipulate the pot in No-Limit Texas Hold em, how should you go about doing it? Here are a couple of scenarios to consider:

Biggie Sizing

You have 8s 8c. The flop comes 8d Tc Kc. You’ve got a set, so here you can definitely benefit from a big pot. If you make a small bet, you’re going to get called by lots of drawing hands. And then if one of those hands hits on the turn, it’s going to cost you. On top of that, if the pot is still small, a very large bet on the turn is not usually warranted by the odds. If you make the pot large enough on the flop, an all-in bet on the turn (or on the flop if you are raised) will often force an opponent to make a marginally incorrect call with a drawing hand. Or they’ll fold, giving you a pot large enough to make up for the times you have pocket eights and miss the flop.

Down Sizing

You have As Kc and the flop comes Ad Kd 6d. Here’s a case where you’re likely way ahead, but also almost completely dead to a diamond flush. You may want to make a small bet (defensive) so opponents with a small flush, or without just a flush draw, may be afraid to push the pot.

If you make small bets the whole way, you might get called by a lot of hands; a pair of aces, a pair of kings, or even drawing with one diamond. But if you make a big bet, it usually won’t be worth it for someone with a small flush to make a large bet and risk losing their entire stack to a higher flush to win a small pot.

Although, beware of small stacks since they may be more inclined to call since they only risk a little. And also beware of a player with a big flush won’t want to over-bet the pot and risk losing you. If you keep the pot small with small check calls or defensive bets, you’ll often get to a showdown with your two pair taking the pot. And the odd time someone does produce the flush, it won’t be too costly.

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