Don’t Out Level yourself in a Bomb Pot! Watch bet sizing.
One of the more interesting new aspects of No Limit Holdem is the appearance of what is called “bomb pots” in casino poker. Bomb Pots, were first introduced at the Peppermill in Reno, NV and is a high stakes way for a single person to pay the time collection for the entire table. Instead of players paying individually, in the past, a time pot would occur where the winner of the hand would pay the time for the table or the player seated in the position of the lowest card on the flop would pay the time. A bomb pot is just an extension of this communal way to pay time but involves playing poker. You can also play a bomb pot at any point and it does not have to be played just to pay the time.
In a bomb pot, everyone “antes” or puts in a certain amount of money blind before the flop. In the $5-10 games that I usually play this can range from anywhere between $10 to $100. After the antes are posted the flop is put out and normal poker commences. This creates a situation where all the ranges are entirely “uncapped” from each position including nonsensical holdings like 72os from under the gun. Because anyone can have anything at anytime some people proceed with caution with hands like a flopped top pair, while others bet large amounts for protection especially on draw heavy boards with what they think is the best hand.
I played an interesting spot at the Bicycle Casino last week in a bomb pot that sort of demonstrates this. The game was $5-$10 and the stacks were $4000 effective. We were playing bomb pots at every dealer change even though the game was not a time collection. In this particular bomb pot we were anteing $35 each (total pot $315) and I was dealt 6♣4♣ in MP1. The flop came out J♥ 6♠ 6♦ giving me trips. The small blind checked and the big blind, a very nitty recreational player, bet out $100. The action was folded to me, I called and everyone else folded.
Raising here with trips and a weak kicker would be a huge over play in my opinion, again, because all the ranges were entirely uncapped. In fact, the chances that someone holds trips on a paired flop with 18 random cards (9 handed table) is a little under 50%. This means that the player from out of position should be extremely strong when betting out on a paired board into the field to the point where value betting AJ might be a mistake from the big blind, especially if hands like KJ are going to fold from early position. So I decided to proceed with extreme caution.
The turn brought out the 7♥ and this time the big blind bet out $100 again. This was a little bit strange to me, as usually bet sizing that is the same on a subsequent street indicates weakness from a recreational player. However, because people are so unfamiliar with bomb pots, I concluded that raising the turn would still be an overplay of my own hand strength so I called.
The river fell the 8♥ and now the big blind checked. If you are familiar with my work over at my training site, CrushLivePoker.com you would know that I am the biggest “thin” value champion in the world. I constantly contend that getting value from your hands is the key to having a high winrate in live poker. However, I thought that this situation was different because it was a bomb pot. Due to the unfamiliar nature of bomb pots, I thought that the complexities of the hand trumped the smallish bet sizing on the flop and turn followed by the check on the river. It is also important to note that the kicker of my six did not play (I would chop with 62-65) and I would lose to any full house or any other higher six. I also thought that there was a strong possibility that the big blind might check a weakish six on the river, even one that beat my hand like 69, 6T or 6Q because he was uncomfortable with the situation. Finally and most importantly I thought the “configuration” of the hand was such that I looked extremely strong.
When we talk about configuration we are referring to the positions of the players within a hand. Usually configuration refers to the ranges that a player has preflop, but in a bomb pot, every hand is played before the flop so the most important configuration considerations move to post flop. Because my opponent bet out in extremely early position (from the blinds) and I called from somewhat early position, the ranges should be very very strong. I am countering his strong range of leading into nine players by calling both on the flop AND on the turn, which should show extreme strength. So even if he was betting out with a hand as weak as say AJ or an overpair, my hand should really look like at least trips. So that would make it very hard for him to check call at the end of the hand. All these factors lead me to finally check back on the river and I won versus AA.
I felt kind of dismayed after the hand, however, because I realized that I ignored the most transparent pattern of recreational hand strength, which is bet sizing. Would my opponent really have only bet $100 into $315 on the flop with trips, followed by the same bet into $515 on the turn? In retrospect, probably not. I think what really interfered with my bet sizing instincts was the fact that the board contained basically no draws and my perceived feeling of what his strength SHOULD be—of a flop lead out into the entire field. This is a common mistake that a lot of mid stakes, thinking players make. They put themselves into their opponents’ shoes and think about the way they would play a certain hand from a certain position. This is the definition of out leveling yourself, especially against recreational players. You cannot assume that your opponents are on the same thinking level as yourself and this can lead to costly mistakes as I feel it did for me here. In the end, with the pot being about $715 what I really should have done is bet maybe $200 to scoop up additional value from an overpair or a big jack. Betting over that amount, however, I feel would be an over representation of the strength of my hand and would lead to a probable situation of “value owning”, where I am value betting a hand for certain sizing that only better will call.