There are many common phrases used in the poker world. Some of them are valuable, some not, and some that are just misunderstood and misused frequently enough that they create confusion for newer players and sometimes more seasoned players alike.
I’m going to share my top three of these phrases with you that are frustratingly misused and why they are being misunderstood. Let’s dive in:
3. “AK is a drawing hand”
To be fair, this is an old, outdated notion that most players in today’s game have realised is rubbish. But it is still used occasionally, and is just as frustrating as ever when it is. Of course this is an old school, unsophisticated thought process that AK isn’t a “made hand” because it’s not a pair. Where this notion falls short, is that we are not playing against pairs only, we are playing against ranges.
Let’s take an example, we are in a tournament with a 15BB stack. A player with a large stack opens the pot to 2.5x. Our hero has AK and flat calls to see if they can “hit the flop” because AK “is a drawing hand” and they don’t want to put their tournament life at risk without a “made hand”.
There are problems with this flawed reasoning, but for starters, our AK has a clear shove. It blocks AA and KK, the 2 hands we really don’t want to see our opponent show up with. Our shove carries with it extensive fold equity. When our opponents fold to the shove, we pick up their 2.5x open, 1.5x from the BB/SB, and around another 1BB from the antes for a gain of 5x without a fight. That is a tangible increase from our 15bb starting stack. Finally, and this is where the “AK is a drawing hand” is a flawed idea… we are playing against a range of hands.
While it’s true we will be slightly behind the pairs in their range that call us, we are ahead of a number of hands in their raise/calling range as well. AK is not a “drawing hand” against AQ, or AJ, or KQ… You get the picture. If they call our shove with 99+, AJs+, AQo+, that is 5.7% of starting hands. If they’ve opened a tight 12%, they are folding and surrendering the 5BB in the middle over half the time. And our AK is still a small favorite when called at 51% equity.
2. “Pot Control”
The concept of pot control is a valid one, but it is routinely being misused, misapplied, and misunderstood. Pot control means taking actions to keep the pot small, typically in an attempt to get to showdown without playing a big pot. This thinking should come into play when we have a higher stack to pot ratio, and a hand with reasonable showdown value but not strong enough to want to play a big pot with it.
However, it’s not uncommon for players – when asking for feedback on their play – to have a scenario where there’s something like 6,000 chips in the pot, they have 12,000 behind, and check the flop citing a desire to “pot control”. The problem is that the pot is already out of control relative to the remaining stacks. With a stack-to-pot ratio of 2, if the opponent bets 4,000 on the turn and we call, there would be 14,000 in the pot and 8,000 remaining to bet on the river. So much for getting to showdown without playing for stacks…
A more subtle, but just as egregious misuse of pot control is when we do have a bit of a higher stack-to-pot ratio, but a hand that wants to play a bigger pot against a certain opponent. Perhaps we have top pair with a modest kicker, against a loose, stationy opponent. While we may not feel comfortable playing a big pot with top pair/modest kicker on deep stacks – and falling back on the idea of “pot control” feels safe – we are going to lose a lot of value by not betting three streets against this player type, since they will call us with all kinds of weaker holdings. Sometimes we will get shown top pair with a better kicker, and may feel a bit silly when that happens, but if our line is making boatloads profit long term that’s not the time to play it safe by misusing pot control.
1. “I’m repping the ace”
This one is tilting when used in wildly incorrect situations. I’ve seen both sponsored players on various sites (who are not winning players) and self-proclaimed poker coaches say this on live streams in the following scenario:
We have raised or re-raised preflop with KK and have been called. The flop comes something like A-T-5, and they continuation bet saying they are “repping the ace” because they are the preflop aggressor. This is such fundamentally flawed logic.
While it’s true that – as the preflop raiser – your continuation bet “reps the ace”, this is counter-productive when our actual hand is KK. Our c-bet forces many worse hands, most of which are very low equity, to fold, while always getting continued action from our opponent’s ace or better holdings.
Folding out many low equity hands while simultaneously giving value to literally all better hands in our opponent’s range is not a winning strategy. Better to “rep the ace” if we have a hand like QJ, a semi-bluff gut shot with limited showdown value, not when we have tangible show down value with KK and also when we’re ahead, are not vulnerable to too many outs.
Unfortunately, less experienced players may hear these things said without really understanding what they mean, which leads them to misuse the phrase or concept. In turn, this leads to others hearing it used in the wrong context and derive a poor understanding of the topic as a result. It’s a cycle that is perhaps never ending in the evolution of the poker world. When in doubt, ask someone who is a proven winning player, so you can at least learn and get concepts correctly into your poker psyche.
Are there other poker phrases that you don’t understand, or that frustrate you with their rampant misuse? Share your thoughts below.