No-Limit Cash Games: Playing Monsters

Poker isn't just about getting good cards; it's also about how you play those cards.

Just because you've picked up a monster hand doesn't mean you should abandon all strategy knowing you're going to win anyway. How you play your hand can make the difference between taking down a big pot or getting slim winnings for your good cards.

There are many different philosophies on playing made hands. Some say slow-play, others say bet out. In my opinion, there is really no set way that you should play a made hand; it all depends on the situation. What you want to keep in mind is that your goal is to get your opponent pot-committed. That way, you'll have the best chance of getting his all-in by the river and taking down a huge pot with your monster hand.

When to Slow-Play

The best time to slow-play your monster hand is when you're up against an aggressive opponent who has an early position. There's nothing better than flopping a set on a raise and having him bet into you over and over - "feeding the monster," as we like to call it.

The only time I slow-play a made hand is when I hit big against an aggressive opponent who likes to steal pots. If I figure he's made a top pair on the flop, I'll re-raise him on the turn to get him pot-committed before I put him all-in on the river.

The turn is the best time to get someone pot-committed. If he's betting into you, just double or triple his bet on the turn and he'll follow you all-in on the river.

When to Bet

Betting into solid players is a favorite of mine because it immediately lets me know if they have a hand or not. If they call my bet, I know they hit top pair on the flop and I'll be able to pot-commit them by the river.

As with slow-playing, the turn is where you want to pot-commit your opponent and set him up for an all-in at the river. The only time you want to all-in the turn is if there's a draw that can beat you and you've got a lot of chips in the pot.

For example, here's how I usually bet when I've flopped a set. Say my opponent and I are both sitting with $600, and I call a raise of $30 pre-flop with 5c-5h. The flop comes Kd-5s-2h rainbow. I'm first to act so I bet $48 and he calls which means he's most likely holding A-K or something with a king pre-flop.

Now it's time to pot-commit him. On the turn, if I check, he bets and I re-raise, he may fold. Instead of scaring him off like that, I bet out $120 on the turn, and if he re-raises, then I can go all-in with him. If he just calls, I can get him all-in at the river.

This is the beauty of pot-committing opponents.

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