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Go Small or Go Home

You have more than likely heard the expression “go big or go home” when playing poker. This phrase is often delivered by someone who is screwing up the courage to make a decision, and — if not a cover for a conservative playing style — could indicate a maniac style of play. It usually means that the person is dedicated to either winning big or going home rather than winning small. In poker, however, it is often the small pots and small decisions to keep a player in the game to begin with. When deciding how to play some particular hands, one of the decision to make is whether to play big or to play small.

If you have decided to play the hand at all, meaning the you’re holding something decent, you need to ask yourself if you’re going to play it as a big pot or a small pot. Your only concern here with your actions contributing to the size of the pot. This decision-making process is often applied post flop, once you have an idea of what you are dealing with. Pre-flop it’s a fairly easy decision to go big if you have a monster hand like AA or KK, but even with these hands the field can change drastically once the flop hits the board.

If you get a piece of the flop or, sometimes more importantly, if you’re convinced that your opponent did not get a piece, then you can go big. If the flop is scary anyway, however, than going small allows you to both protect yourself in case your opponent has a monster hand and sets you up to go big later if you’re convinced you have the best of the hands.

There are more factors than it is possible to relate an article to answer “big or small” for every combination of starting hands — but the important point is that you should be asking yourself this question on every hand you deem playable in order to protect your stack and take a chunk out of your opponents.


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