In this installment of Improving Performance let's discuss limit Hold'em games that employ what is known as a kill pot. For the uninitiated, a kill pot occurs when one individual wins two pots in a row and then the stakes for the ensuing hand are doubled. Some card rooms have a specific threshold that the pot must reach in order for the next pot to be a kill but others view any two wins in a row as good enough to qualify. There are also games that employ a half kill which only raises the stakes by 50%. The kill pot feature adds another dimension to the game and another very good reason to always remain observant of your opponent's tendencies.
Recently I was playing in a limit Hold'em kill pot game with my friend Jon when he leaned over and made an observation about how he felt most of the table reacted to the stakes being doubled on occasion. Jon said, "Notice how most of the players loosen up when they have a leg up to a kill (having won one pot and if they win the next they will be required to post a double blind) when they should really be tightening up". Jon's reasoning was that if you win that second pot, you will be required to post the double blind. Also, once there is a kill pot many players significantly change their playing style relative to looseness vs. tightness. Aside from giving me further insight as to how Jon approaches his game, it got me thinking about what the proper strategy for kill pot games should be.
Should you significantly loosen up or tighten up when you're either a leg up to a kill pot yourself or just playing a hand with double the normal stakes? The players who loosen up seem to do so for two reasons. They see the opportunity to win a much larger pot than normal and they feel that some of their opponents have just been forced outside their comfort zone and therefore can be pushed off all but their very best hands. Others, who may well be temporarily out of their comfort zone, tighten up considerably requiring top premium hands to participate and then play weak/tight.
Obviously, neither of these approaches is optimum play unless, of course, you have a significant read on the opposition which would dictate your course of action. Without a strong read to convince you there is an opportunity to be taken advantage of, you should ignore the doubling of the stakes and play your normal game. If the kill pot situations force you to tighten up because you're uncomfortable, then maybe you're in the wrong game because you can and will be bullied. You need to put your powers of observation to full use to identify who the loose cannons are and who plays the kill pots weak/tight because they're uncomfortable. The most profitable opportunities in these type games require identifying the loose cannons who play marginal hands and build pots which you can win with your superior holdings Our goal for this session regarding kill pots is to catalog your opponents' reactions to the doubling of stakes while not letting the increase effect your play. If you do your homework, you can take advantage of both these prevalent behaviors in kill pots. Stay observant and I hope you kill them!