Whether you’re the player driving the action or, alternatively, getting involved as a caller, multiway pots strategy is not as clear as strategy in heads-up play. As the number of players involved in a hand increases, it becomes harder and harder to navigate different spots correctly.
Because these spots tend to get quite complicated, it is very difficult to provide answers for every scenario imaginable. Sometimes, you’ll just have to rely on your reads, experience, and your poker instinct. That said, these three tips should help you with building your overall game plan for multiway pots moving forward.
1. Stay Selective Before the Flop
It is often tempting to try and see a cheap flop in a multiway pot since we’re getting such good direct odds to call. For example, when you’re in the button position facing a raise and a few callers, we’ll have great direct odds to call and see the flop. However, you should still be quite selective with the hands you do decide to call with.
The problem with calling wide in these spots is that you’ll have a really hard time realizing your equity. That doesn’t even take into consideration that there are players behind you who can make a squeeze play, and force you to fold.
More often than not, you’ll end up with a hand that has some showdown value (like a middle pair with a middling kicker) and these are not the hands you want to be playing against several opponents.
So, try to pick holdings that can make the best (not the second-best) hands, such as small pocket pairs, suited Aces and decent suited connectors if you decide to join the action. Disjointed and unsuited hands are better off in the muck, even if you may feel like the immediate price is too good to pass on. Staying disciplined and learning proper hand reading will pay huge dividends in the long run.
2. Be Picky with Your Bluffs
Bluffing isn’t nearly as effective in multiway pots as it is in heads up situations. With more players to go through, it is simply harder to win the pot without a showdown.
Therefore, you need to reduce your bluffing frequency in these spots, especially with hands that have no equity. Continuation betting with air is simply not as profitable in these situations.
The best bluffing candidates in these scenarios are draws that have a chance to improve to what’s likely going to be the best hand. An advantage of betting with these hands is that you take control of the betting and give yourself a chance to win the pot right then and there by making other players fold their marginal hands.
If you face a lot of resistance from your opponent(s) and get check-raised, for example, you can easily get rid of these hands and only continue with your best draws (like flush draws with an overcard or additional outs). The rest of them weren’t likely to be the winner by the river anyway, so you aren’t giving up on too much equity and actually improve your EV by betting out.
3. Protect Your Equity
It is much more important to protect your equity in multiway pots. When you flop a vulnerable hand that’s likely to be in the lead, you’ll want to bet out and deny your opponents the chance to improve for free. While this may be a bit scary in certain spots, you’re much better off betting out to establish where you’re at in the hand and protect against others.
Examples of these situations are where you flop top pair with a hand like 9-J or 10-Q. While you’re likely to be ahead on the flop, letting another card come with multiple opponents is dangerous. That’s because even random overcards have quite a lot of equity in the hand, so be sure to make your opponents pay while you are ahead.
However, it is very important to understand that you need to proceed very carefully when facing aggression in multiway pots. Players tend to play draws more passively, and their strong hands very fast versus multiple opponents, so make sure to not overplay your one pair hands.
Obviously, you still want to have somewhat balanced ranges, but – generally peaking – trying to exploit other players is the way to go in these spots!