Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thoughts on Pot Sweetener Bets

See many mentions in books and on forums of 'Pot Sweetener' bets - but very rarely any advice on good / bad situations for them... figured I'd do a post on the subject, as usual the objective being to get readers thinking rather than make any bold statements.

Firstl what do we mean by pot sweetener bets?

Well the concept is this - make a small raise with a hand that has the potential to flop a monster, even though you know you'll be called in several places... an ideal hand being a smallish pair and an ideal situation a multi-way limped pot against deep-stacked opponents. The sweetener aspect comes from the fact that in No-Limit games the bet sizes after the flop are as a proportion of the pot. By building the pot pre-flop you put yourself in a position to win a far bigger pot the times you do hit compared to the small investment in raising.

Next lets use some numbers to demonstrate...

Its level 1 in a deepstacked tournament, everyone has 200 big blinds and from the button you see 2 limpers ahead and look down at 6-6. You'll make a set approx once in 8 times (near enough for our example) and stand to win a good pot.

- First time you limp for 10 of your 2000 chips. Including the 2 blinds the pre-flop pot is 50 chips. You spike a set and an early position player bets the pot on the flop, you raise 3 times his bet... so pot = 50 (pre-flop) + 50 (ep players bet) + 150 (your raise) = 250 on the turn. Now imagine the EP player has a high pair (he spiked a Q with his AK for TPTK!). He then calls your turn bet of 4/5ths the pot and river value bet of half the pot. At showdown you have won 250 (flop) + 400 (your 200 bet was called) + 750 (your 325 value bet called). The total pot 1400 chips of which you invested 10+150+200+325 = 685 chips so you increased your stack by 715 chips... not bad... we need to take off the 7 out of 8 times you miss your set and fold - so (715-70) = 645 chips.

- Exactly the same hand and the same result - except this time you used a pot sweetener bet, making it 30 chips to go even though you knew the limpers would call this bet with anything they limped with. Now the pre-flop pot = 150, the EP player bets this on the flop and you raise to 450... on the turn the pot is 1050 chips, no need to work out the maths from here as long as your bet is called on the turn the pot will be so large that your opponent will surely commit the rest of his stack. Opponent specific of course that flop or turn bet will not always be called. The point to demonstrate is that by sweetening the pot pre-flop you grew the pot enough to win 2000 chips rather than 715 - and importantly did not have to overbet the pot on later streets to do so. Finally for the numbers 7 out of 8 times you miss your set and fold - so we need to take off 30 chips * 7 or 210 chips.

So when should a pot sweetener bet be used?

- Going to start with when it should not be used, any time you are short-stacked!! You need the implied odds here as you will not often spike the set and not always get paid off when you do.
I would never use this strategy in a sit and go... even at the early levels where you appear deep stacked enough for it to work - those chips are too precious to gamble on implied-odds situations with. If you insist on raising with small pairs in the early levels (don't do it!!) then at least have the decency to raise enough to have some fold-equity!!

- Pot sweeteners will of course work in a cash-game, ideally at a full table where you have several opponents in the pot (thought is that this increases the likelihood of one or more opponents hitting the flop hard enough to pay you off).

- Tournaments are also good, especially deep-stacked ones when you have 100 or more big blinds for several blind levels.

Thats all for today - best of luck with those pot sweetener bets.

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