“I had to call – I was pot committed!”
How often do you hear this sentence at a poker table? Unless you’re playing in very high stakes games and have somehow stumbled upon this article, I’d wager this is something you hear a lot. Players love to use this excuse to make weird calls and punt their chips away.
Maybe you’ve done it on occasion as well. At a poker table, you’ll sometimes get that “in for a penny, in for a pound” mentality. And while most players aren’t completely immune to this, you should know that there is a big difference between actually being committed to a pot and making a call just because it “feels” like you have to do it.
Being pot committed is purely mathematical
There is nothing abstract whatsoever about being committed to a pot. It doesn’t matter that you need to call 10 chips to win 200 chips if you’re 99% certain that you’re going to lose. You’re only committed to a pot to the degree that you actually stand a chance of winning it.
If you’re getting 10-to-1 on your call, you may feel like you have to call every single time. But you shouldn’t if you only expect to win once in 20 times. In that case, you’d just be throwing chips away.
Even if you’re getting 1000-to-1 on a call, you’re still better off folding if you are certain that your hand can never win. Of course, that is a ridiculous example, but one meant to illustrate the point.
So, the first thing you need to do when thinking about a call that feels like the one you must make is to figure out the math behind it. Whether you’re really pot committed or not can only be determined by figuring out your pot odds and how those odds compare to the actual likelihood of winning the hand. If the numbers don’t add up, you aren’t committed and you should fold instead.
It has nothing to do with how much you have left
When you’re in a tournament, and you get to the river with just a few big blinds left in your stack, you may feel committed to calling off the rest of your chips no matter what. The pot is huge, and you’re already so invested that it feels like there is no going back.
When you lose, you might think that this is just one of the suckouts or coolers. However, that’s a wrong approach, and it’s not the way you should be thinking about poker.
Even if you only have a few blinds left in your stack and there is a big pot in the middle, you shouldn’t be calling if the chance of winning is practically zero.
If your opponent kept betting all the way through and you were chasing a draw and missed, should you really call off whatever is left in your stack with just 6-high, for example?
You probably made mistakes early in the hand, and that’s what got you in that spot in the first place, but now that you’re there, why give up the last of your chips when it is virtually impossible to win?
You’re better off saving your few blinds and putting them all in the middle the next hand. You’re not going to win that massive pot with 6-high, so just give up – you aren’t actually “committed.”
It doesn’t just happen – you make it happen
Sometimes you’ll find yourself truly pot committed and having to make super-thin calls because you are getting the right odds. But if you’re often in these spots and lose many big pots after being shown the winner, you need to take a step back and think about your general approach to your hands in the first place.
Unless you’re playing very shallow, you won’t get pot committed by accident. There is something you’re doing that gets you in these spots, and it needs to stop. Are you calling over-sized bets with weak draws? Do you 3-bet way too frequently with speculative holdings? If so, there is likely something in your game that puts you in situations where you’re committed to calling bets even though you have very slim chances of winning.
While it is impossible to say what exactly might be the problem, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out if you put some effort into it, and that’s something you definitely want to do it if you strive to be a winning player. Getting overly committed with weak holdings is not helping your bottom line, and luckily, this is one of the easiest leaks to fix.