All about Being Pot Committed

Published: 17/12/2010

The phrase “pot committed” is used to describe two very different Poker situations which result in the same outcome. The first situation occurs when a player has “too much to lose”—i.e., so many chips already in the pot that the only option remaining is to play the hand to its ultimate conclusion, for better or worse. The second situation is whenever a Poker player’s odds of winning the pot are simply too big to fold.

In both cases, the player is said to be “pot committed.” No matter what cards are left to be dealt, how many other players are vying for the pot, or what actions have gone before, the pot-committed player must see the hand to the very end by checking, calling, betting or raising. Dropping out is no longer an option. In this sense, being pot committed is somewhat like going “all in,” but there are some very important differences.

Too Much to Lose

The first form of pot commitment can come about in a number of ways. In most cases the pot-committed player will probably already be on a shortstack, perhaps barely able to cover the cost of the blinds. As an extreme example, a player down to his/her last pound in a 40p/80p game will be unable to continuing to play if he/she folds the Big Blind. This predicament is especially common in tournaments, when the blinds increase round by round.

A similar set of circumstances may arise when a shortstacked player with a strong hand gets trapped between two or more loose-aggressive bettors who raise and re-raise pre-flop. No matter what cards come down on the flop, the investment to see them has been so high that walking away no longer seems to be an option.

However, appearances can be deceiving. To be truly pot-committed, the odds of winning, no matter how slim, must still justify the risk of continuing to wager and play. Does a player clinging to red pocket Aces against three other players when the board shows J-9-8-7 all spades really have a chance of surviving the river? Or would saying “I’m pot committed” simply be an excuse for making a poor call? Many experts believe that with an obvious losing hand, folding is always still an option.

Too Much to Gain

On the other hand, nobody would ever fold an obvious winner. Any player with an unbeatable hand would be happy to say “I’m pot committed” and have opponents come along for every bet and raise. And in most instances, a hand can be far from invincible and still qualify as pot committed. In fact, players can be fully pot committed anytime the chances of winning are significantly higher than the price that must be paid to win.

Take, for example, the player working on an open-ended straight draw post-flop. With eight outs among 47 unseen cards, all it takes is pot odds of 6-to-1 or better to keep him/her pot committed.

Experts will often slow play weaker players into being pot committed. They allow the pot to build gradually so that the amount to be won is too attractive for them to fold, even against long odds. Then, all it takes is one big raise to trap them. Pot committed players cannot afford to fold.

Of course, going “all in” is an extreme form of pot commitment, from which there is no turning back. When one is already pot committed on a shortstack, no matter how many players are still in or what the pot odds are, it represents an opportunity to double up. As long as the chances of winning are a coin toss or better, this commitment is often the best option available.

Published on: 17/12/2010

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