Multiway pots are a staple of small- and medium-stakes casino cash games. Very few people come to the card room to fold all day long. So most games typically see three to five players enter each pot.
This playing frequency – with each player typically entering 30 percent to 50 percent of all hands – is far higher than what would be theoretically correct.
The willingness of so many players to see flops with poor hands is one reason these casino cash games are so profitable.
Multiway pots are great because people are getting in there with bad hands. But they’re also great because the people involved in these pots tend to play in a fairly straightforward manner.
If you pay attention to the information available, you can usually figure out how strong everyone else is. Once you know that, you’re ready to make sharp plays.
Here’s a simple example from a $2-$5 game in Las Vegas.
A player opened the pot for $20. I called with 8h 7h. A player on the button called, and the big blind also called. There was $82 in the pot, and we had about $1,000 in our stacks.
The flop came 10c 6h 4c, giving me a double gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw.
The big blind checked, and the preflop raiser bet $30. (Remember the amount of that bet, because it’s telling.) I called. The button folded, and the big blind called.
The turn was the 6d. The big blind checked, and the preflop raiser checked. I bet $120 into a pot of $172, and both players folded.
Nearly everyone plays scared in multiway pots.
Those with weak hands know those hands are unlikely to be good. Those with medium-strength hands are worried that someone has made a better hand. And those with very strong hands are concerned that they will be drawn out on.
These fears cause players to play in a simple, untricky way.
Players with weak hands check and either call small bets or fold.
Players with medium-strength hands make small bets to try to “see where they’re at.” And players with strong hands make big bets, trying to charge their opponents the maximum to attempt to draw out.
Therefore, in the absence of a large bet, you can often correctly assume that no one has a strong hand. You can then pretend to be the one with the strong hand and take the pot.
In this hand, my opponent’s $30 flop bet was relatively small, both in relation to the $20 preflop raise and to the $82 pot. He probably had a hand like A-K or 7-7 or possibly even J-10. The big blind’s call suggested a weak hand, too.
These reads were confirmed by checks on the turn, so I could bet with fairly high confidence that the pot would be mine.
Ed Miller is the author of nine poker strategy books with more than a quarter-million copies sold. Check out his latest book, “The Course: Serious Hold ’Em Strategy for Smart Players,” at Amazon or at his website, edmillerpoker.com.