The Entitlement Error: Don't Mistakenly Think You 'Deserve' a Pot

The Entitlement Error: Don't Mistakenly Think You 'Deserve' a Pot

Sometimes poker players just want to win the pot no matter what, even in the face of evidence that their chance of winning might have lessened or slipped away entirely over the course of a hand.

There are four streets in hold'em — preflop, flop, turn, and river. Because of the strength of their hand on one of these four streets, some players feel "entitled" to the pot once the hand reaches its conclusion. They may have formed an unhealthy expectation and from that, an unhealthy attachment. And this can cause them to lose unhealthy amount of money.

The following is a hand of six-handed 100NL played online that provides a good example of how this sort of misplaced entitlement can arise in a poker player's mind.

Check-Call, Check-Call

It all began with a 2.5x raise to $2.50 from an early position player. Quickly, one of the most feared and experienced regulars at the stakes raised it to $7.50 from the cutoff seat.

It folded to the small blind, who playing a $255 stack made the call of $7.50 cold. The big blind got out of the way, the initial raiser called as well, and the three players saw a flop come {4-Diamonds}{3-Clubs}{2-Clubs}.

Though bringing three low cards, the flop was by no means innocuous. Both the small blind and early position player checked to the three-bettor who with the advantage of position fired out $9.50 into a pot of $21. Only the small blind called, with the fearsome regular having the 255 big blinds with which the SB started well covered.

The {2-Spades} on the turn paired the board, and the small blind checked once again. This time the aggressor bet $32.50 into a pot of $40, and again the small blind called.

Considering Ranges

At this point, it would seem both players can still have relatively diverse, if not wide ranges.

What does that mean? It means that neither has to have one type of hand just yet. For every bluff catcher like {J-}{J-} that is just holding on in the small blind's hand, he could have an {A-}{K-} that is drawing, or even a {7-Clubs}{6-Clubs} that is also drawing after having made an ambitious preflop decision.

At the same time, the player three-betting preflop and keeping on the pressure can have more hands that beat the small blind's bluff-catching range. He is more likely here to have {K-}{K-} and {A-}{A-} versus the small blind's {Q-}{Q-} and {J-}{J-}. He is also more likely to have a {6-}{5-} or {3-}{3-}-type hand.

The fearsome regular can also have a wider variety of draws — anything from {K-Spades}{5-Spades} to {J-Clubs}{8-Clubs} — that is to say, hands just too unlikely to be counted much in assessing the small blind's possibilities.

But there still exist a lot of different possibilities for both players, something both should be aware of going forward.

River Surprise

The river came the {K-Clubs}, completing the flush draw present on the flop and making the final board {4-Diamonds}{3-Clubs}{2-Clubs}{2-Spades}{K-Clubs}.

The small blind moved all in for $205, a big overbet compared to the $105 pot. Was David trying hopelessly to slay the Goliath?

The Goliath in question may not have considered the question either way, as he had flopped a straight with {A-Clubs}{5-Clubs} that had just rivered a flush. He called quickly, then saw the bad news — the small blind held {K-Hearts}{K-Diamonds} for kings full of deuces, and an enormous $515 pot went the other way.

What Is Owed

At first glance, you may say there was nothing the player with {A-Clubs}{5-Clubs} could do on the river. He got there after all. But he was also already "there" with the straight on the flop.

However, what was the second nuts on the flop did not entitle the player to the pot on the river. And what was the ace-high flush on the river didn't entitle him to the pot either, since the board pairing on the turn would push any straight or flush far down a list of the nuts in order.

The question for this player with {A-Clubs}{5-Clubs} is (or should be) "Am I getting the right price to call?" That would mean calculating if his opponent can ever be bluffing or shoving with a worse value hand in sufficient combination to merit a call.

Thinking such a decision through, he would have to consider how he'd lose to {K-}{K-}, {4-}{4-}, {3-}{3-}, and {2-}{2-}. All would seem terribly unlikely, but when he remembers he has the {A-Clubs} in hand, what then could possess the small blind opponent to shove?

Going back to preflop, the small blind called from the weakest position three times, with heaps of money behind. He had to have been strong to be holding on, at least in theory. So if he isn't the kind of player to disobey theory in practice, folding the river to this player's shove should be plausible.

What is more important is to recognize the fact that having a straight on the flop can sometimes (as happened here) mean diddly squat by the turn and even less than diddly on the river. That's the larger lesson most players need to take away.

Many players have a hard time internalizing this because of our natural human tendency to keep track of all our potential grievances. Resist this feeling and you'll make better decisions with a cool head.

You may still end up paying off in spots like this one, but for better reasons than being stuck in the recent past.

This strategy article by Gareth Chantler for PokerNews is sponsored by partypoker.

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