Navigating Multiway Pots

“The one thing I hate about training videos is they always assume I’m playing some high stakes game,” my student says to me. “In every training video I see it’s folded around to the pro, he raises, and only the big blind calls. It’s just this perfect world. Yet, when I go play $1.00/$2.00 live I will raise and get four callers!!!!”

I have heard this refrain from many players, which is why I spend so much time teaching multiway pots.

The truth is, most multiway pots are not as tough to navigate as you’d think. People just have a hard time accepting they need to fold pairs.

For one, when you play multiway pots, you need separate who is a nutcase and who isn’t. When you raise and get multiple callers, take a second to look at who called you. Look around and think about each player. Who here is a regular and who is a recreational player?

The reason you want to look around for these differentiators is obvious once we get further into the hand…

If someone raises you postflop in a multiway pot, generally, you’re running into the hand.

Anyone who has played poker for some time has learned not to bluff in multiway pots. If they’ve ever tried this, they’ve likely run into a hand. It is extremely difficult for multiple players to miss the board, and low stakes players hate folding their pairs. Most bluff attempts are doomed, and seasoned players learn this quickly.

Experienced players also learn not to raise their one pair type hands. If you put in a big raise with a pair, usually the only people who play back at you are players who hold two pair or better. This creates negative memories that make well-traveled regulars sour at the thought of raising a measly pair.

For these reasons, the typical experienced player will not be raising one pair or a bluff multiway, especially if there are players to act behind. Logically, we can then figure out their range is mostly two pair or better.

Most small stakes games play this way, if you pay attention…

The entire table makes an implicit agreement with each other: If you like your hand, raise with it. If I like my hand, I’ll call with it. We will all see the flop and make our decisions there.

Then, if one of these worn regulars hits two pair or better on the flop, they try to get it in versus one pair. They know that no one will ever call them a bad player for trying to play two pair or better fast. Furthermore, they also know a lot of people absolutely suck at folding one pair, so this isn’t that bad of a strategy.

Since most low stakes games are running on these implicit rules, you should decide to not play their game. This will require you to threebet more and also bet/fold good top pairs when one of these nut peddlers raises you postflop.

Playing this way will not earn you many friends, but it’s also the best way to go about it.

The only people who do not play by these implied rules are recreational players. They will sometimes raise as a bluff just because they don’t like you. They will raise with a pair to “see where they’re at.” You need to be wary against these players.

To figure out who is a regular and who is a recreational player is fairly easy. Look for ease in folding. Recreational players are enjoying a game they don’t always get to play. They want to play every hand. They will only fold after expressing great pain. On ever single deal.

If a guy is completely comfortable folding on most postflop and preflop decisions, that is someone who has logged some hours. This guy is likely not raising squadoosh with four other guys in the pot.

In a multiway pot, then, you will want to bet your top pairs only and fold them when nut peddlers raise. You will want to keep betting them because all low stakes players suck at folding pairs, even if they are regulars.

If there are multiple people in the pot and a draw hits, most likely someone hit it. Don’t bet to find that out. Check.

If you flop second pair, you can check/call one street, but if a guy keeps firing you shouldn’t worry too much about letting it go. He initially fired into multiple players, which makes it less likely to be an outright bluff. If his range is mostly top pairs and some draws, you’re still not beating that range most of the time.

If a recreational player raises you postflop, you’re going to have to use your street smarts. Talk to him. Try to get a reaction. What have you observed from him that day? How did he put the chips in the pot? This is the art form of poker.

Online, you can look to their aggression frequencies. Many guys are 40/27 preflop (40% of the pots they voluntarily play, 27% of the time they raise preflop), but then postflop their aggression frequencies are in the low 20s. That means their raises and bets only make up 20% of their actions on a given street. They likely have the joint when they raise, as opposed to a psycho recreational player who is in the 60s or 80s as far as aggression frequency.

I hope these tips have been helpful to you and your game. Good luck to all of you.