What Is a Bomb Pot in Poker & How to Play It?
If you have been watching a lot of streamed live poker games in recent times, you have probably heard the term “bomb pot” already.
These pots are introduced to live cash games to entice action, create an opportunity to win a lot of money fast and make the games more fun for recreational poker players.
But what is a bomb pot in poker, and how exactly does it work? This is a question many viewers still have even after watching the games and seeing such pots play out, simply because they can get so hectic.
In fact, even many players who find themselves in games with bomb pots are often not sure what exactly is happening and how they should act.
I am going to teach you what a bomb pot is, how the rules work, and how best to play your hands in bomb pots in order to maximize your EV and make sure you are not spewing money away.
What Is a Bomb Bot?
Before we can get into any details, let’s talk about what exactly a bomb pot is and how it works in relation to the regular game.
A bomb pot is a poker hand played with the preflop action completely skipped. Instead, all players are dealt their hole cards and forced to commit a certain amount of chips to the pot before even receiving the cards.
Then, a flop is dealt out, and the action picks up from there, giving everyone a chance to act on their cards, which could be any two cards in the deck.
The rules for bomb pots can change from one place to another, but this is traditionally how a bomb pot is played these days in major poker rooms and casinos in the US and beyond.
How Is a Bomb Pot Played?
The players in the game (or the game organizer) can decide how often to play a bomb pot, as well as what size ante players should pay to play in one.
It is quite common for a bomb pot to be played once every orbit, once every poker dealer change, or once every hour, depending on the poker room in question.
Once it’s time for a bomb pot, players will have to decide how the dealer button works.
To make things fair, each player at the table should get to play as the dealer in a bomb pot the same number of times per night.
Once everything is ready, players will post their antes. Commonly, the ante will be worth 5x the BB, which creates a considerable pot to play for.
For example, in an 8-handed $1/2 game, each player will pay $10 before the cards are dealt, creating a pot of $80 to play for.
Once the antes are all collected, the dealer will deal out the cards. Players can also choose the game they are playing, with both Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha often used for bomb pots.
Once everyone has their hole cards, the flop is also dealt, and the action starts with the first player to the left of the button.
From here, the action will go as it would in a regular poker hand, with players taking turns acting on their hands.
The big difference is that, unlike a regular poker game, each player will still have literally any two cards going to the flop, which can create some interesting spots.
With all two pair, straight, and flush combinations still in play, you will want to play more carefully than you would in a normal pot where ranges are more defined with preflop play.
NLH vs PLO Bomb Pots
In many live poker games, the player holding the dealer button for the bomb pot gets to choose whether the pot will be played over a NLH or PLO hand. To make things even more fun, double-board bomb pots are also sometimes introduced.
The choice between NLH and PLO can be very important because bomb pots play quite differently between the two games.
In NLH, hands like two pair and even top pair can still win the pot, despite everyone seeing the flop, simply because it’s so hard to make big hands on the flop in this game.
In PLO bomb pots, on the other hand, having the nuts or a nut draw on the flop is a lot more important, as a weak hand like one pair will rarely take the whole thing down by the river.
Double Board PLO bomb pots, which have become the norm in many poker rooms in Texas and some other states, play with even more action.
Two boards are dealt, with each board carrying one-half of the pot. A player can win the entire pot by getting everyone else to fold their cards or by having the best hand on both boards at a showdown.
Two boards being in play creates massive action and allows players to try and go for the scoop or lock up half the pot with the nuts and hope to somehow get their opponents to fold before the showdown.
In fact, the strategy for Double Board PLO bomb pots can be quite complex. Such hands require a lot of thinking and smart decision-making instead of pure gambling it may seem to people watching on TV.
Example of a Double Board PLO Bomb Pot
I am going to demonstrate how bomb pots work by giving you an example of a Double Board PLO bomb pot that you could find yourself playing.
- With blinds at $1/2, every player at the table posts a $10 ante, making the pot $70 to begin with (7 players). Holding the button, you are dealt K♠K♦7♠6♦.
- The dealer deals out two flops:
- Top flop: K♥3♠3♦
- Bottom flop: A♠8♠4♣
The two boards have come up perfectly for you. The top board gives you the top full house, almost certain to be the best hand, while you have a nut flush draw and a gutshot straight draw on the bottom board.
In a bomb pot like this, you will want to bet as much as possible on the flop to try and get people to pay you off with a 3 for the top board or hands like sets and two pair on the bottom board.
Since you will most likely win at least half of the pot and have a good chance of winning it all, you want to bloat the pot now so you can exert pressure later or get paid if you make the nuts on the bottom as well.
Navigating the Hand
For this example, let's assume everyone folds to you, and you bet $70 into $70. Two players call this bet, and you go to the turn.
- Top: K♥3♠3♦ 7♦
- Bottom: A♠8♠4♣ J♥
On the top board, you still have the top full house, which is likely still the best hand. However, keep in mind that 33 is still possible, as this is a bomb pot.
On the bottom, you have not improved, but still, hold draws to the nuts. Both players check to you, and you have a decision to make.
Your decision here should be very simple. With $280 in the pot, you should bet the pot or go all-in if you have fewer chips than that.
You are almost guaranteed to win the top half of the pot while you still have a strong chance of winning the bottom half. If you bet now, your opponents could fold a hand like A8 for the bottom that had a weak 3 to go with that or any number of draws.
You should also keep in mind that your opponents won’t always play ideal poker and may call bets with drawing hands even against reason, simply hoping to hit and win the pot.
Bomb pots allow for a lot of exploitative play, and you should always be aware of the player who is making bets or calling you in such pots before you make any decisions.
Final Say on Bomb Pots
Bomb pots are an exceptionally fun way to make a poker game even more fun and create some action that would normally never be possible.
These pots make even the tightest players commit chips to the pot with sub-par hands and allow the savviest and most inventive players to find ways to win hands in a variety of ways.
While playing fairly conservatively in bomb pots is definitely the way to go, adaptation to the table and using your table image are both things you can utilize in these unique spots.
The next time you play a home game, get your friends to play bomb pots with you and get ready for the time you go to a real card room that has bomb pots at the regular cash game tables.