Multiway pots represent some of the most difficult situations in poker. Unlike heads-up pots where we’re facing just a single opponent, these spots require much more thinking through as we have to consider actions and hand ranges of other players involved.
Playing our hand in a pot that involves two, three, or more opponents going to the flop requires some serious strategy adjustments.
The fact of the matter is that these multiway spots aren’t covered all that well in available materials out there, primarily because the mainline approach to poker is that we want to play as many pots as possible against a single opponent.
While this is usually an ideal scenario, it is simply not always possible, and there are often situations where we have to navigate more than one opponent.
This article will focus solely on the strategy for multiway pots and all the considerations that it entails. As always, we’ll use some Poker Snowie examples. It will help to find the most game theory optimal approach in many spots.
We’ll also look at some general considerations as to when and how playing a hand against multiple opponents makes the most sense.
Preflop Considerations: When to Enter a Multiway Pot
When you find yourself in a situation where you’re likely to see the flop against multiple opponents, it could be tempting to do so with a fairly wide range to try and hit the “magic” flop.
However, this approach only works if you’re playing against weak, passive players who aren’t likely to put you in too many difficult spots after the flop.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind about these situations is that your range is capped. Since you decided to just flat call with a raise and a call (or multiple calls in front of you), you’re highly unlikely to have very strong hands in your range.
In fact, you’re likely raising your premiums 100% of the time in these situations to thin the field and protect your equity against random hands.
This is important because other players will be aware of the fact, and it will play an important role in the way you approach different situations.
When you’re deciding to bluff, for example, you need to keep in mind that, on certain boards, your hand will be heavily weighted towards bluffs, simply because you can’t have many strong hands given the fact you didn’t3-bet before the flop.
Let’s look at what Poker Snowie suggests in terms of ranges we should use for multiway pots.
It is interesting to note that, with a raise from UTG and a call from UTG+1, Snowie doesn’t even have a calling range on the button and suggests to play very tight. In terms of GTO we should be either folding or 3-betting against the standard 3x open.
In the big blind, with multiple callers, the software suggests some calls with small pocket pairs and low suited connectors but still prefers a raise with a majority of hands we’re going to play.
So, in the GTO style of play, there is not much room for multiway pots unless we enter them as a 3-bettor, and then multiple opponents decide to call.
However, the app evaluates that all your opponents are going to play a very balanced and solid strategy post-flop, which is not the case in most real-life games.
Therefore, there are more hands we want to see the flop with to try and stack our opponents when getting such a reasonable price. These holdings include small pocket pairs, suited A-highs, and suited connectors that have a lot of playability and potential to make huge hands.
It is hard to give an exact range of hands that you should be taking multiway. A lot of it will depend on the particular table and the stats you have on your opponents. But sticking to solid preflop ranges is always a good idea.
Things get way more tricky once the flop is out. Choosing which hands to take multiway is less of a challenge.
It is much more important how you play your strong hands, and your draws from flop onwards, carefully selecting when to bluff, check or call to realize your equity.
Betting Frequencies in Multiway Pots
The first and most important thing to keep in mind about multiway pots is that your betting frequency needs to be lower with each additional player entering the flop.
With so many players involved in the hand, the odds of someone actually having a big hand increase exponentially. This is why we’ll want to bet fewer hands and try to control the size of the pot as much as possible to allow us to realize our equity.
When it comes to bluffs in multiway pots, the best candidates are weaker draws that have some potential of turning the best hand but have no showdown value of its own.
What you want to achieve with these hands is potentially fold out some better hands, and even if you don’t win the pot straight away, these hands provide you with an opportunity to keep barreling on later streets.
This is a good example of a hand where we could try leading out with a small bet. Our bet is designed to get some stronger hands to fold (such as some hands containing a 9 or smaller pocket pairs) but also to give us the betting lead heading to the turn.
Players who will have a few opponents left behind are not going to defend these medium strength holdings, so you will have quite a bit of fold equity on your side. On top of that, you can easily barrel such holdings later on if the situation fits it.
While we’ve mentioned our range is capped in this situation, we can quite credibly represent some big hands in this spot – hands such as pocket 2s, pocket 9s, and all 9-J combos. Therefore, it isn’t as easy for our opponents to bluff raise here and we can take advantage of that.
This is an even better example where we’ll want to take the lead in the hand when the original raiser gives up, and the action gets to us. Our hand has no showdown value, but we can improve to a flush or win the hand on the later streets by continued aggression if our flop bet doesn’t get through.
As you can see, Poker Snowie suggests that betting around half the pot here has a significantly higher EV than checking back.
Playing Multiway Pots as the Original Raiser
Of course, we’ll often find ourselves in spots where we’re playing against multiple opponents in a pot where we have the preflop lead. These are much more common spots as even against good opponents, big blind might be priced in to get involved in a hand once there is a call in between.
All the earlier considerations still apply in these spots, which means that we might consider lowering our continuation bet frequency as we can’t expect to get nearly as many folds.
It is an excellent example where Snowie suggests checking and giving up after raising before the flop. With our hand having basically no equity here and the board texture hitting our opponents’ perceived ranges pretty hard, there is very little incentive to fire a continuation bet here.
While firing a c-bet against a single opponent in these spots may be worth it, especially if they’re on the tighter side and play more fit or fold style. As the number of players involved in the pot increases, our betting frequency needs to go down.
Protecting Equity in Multiway Pots
In the same way, it is important to reduce our betting frequency with weak hands in multiway pots. It is also crucial to protect our equity – more about it in the Upswing Poker Lab review.
While we can afford to play a hand such as the top pair with a mediocre kicker a bit more cautiously against the single opponent, we have to be prepared to protect our equity against multiple players.
When there are more players involved in the pot, chances are too great that one of them will improve to a better hand if we let them see the turn and the river for free.
There are simply many random overcards in their hands and letting them see more community cards for free is not the most profitable way to play in these spots.
This is exactly the kind of multiway spot were betting on the flop is the best way to proceed. Snowie suggests a smaller bet size of around one-quarter of the pot because our main goal here is to deny equity from the hands that won’t proceed regardless of the bet size, but that has some equity against us (some face card combinations, hands like K9, random Aces, etc.).
There is no reason to go too big with the sizing as hands we’re looking to get folds from are going to give up either way. Those hands that have a decent amount of equity are likely to continue even if we bet around half the pot, so we’re achieving the same result while risking fewer chips.
So, to summarize, If we were up against just the big blind here, for example, we could mix in some check-backs, but against two players, we’re better of betting and protecting our top pair.
We’re also likely to get rid of at least one player by betting, which should make the hand easier to play from turn onwards.
Conclusion: Always Stay Alert & Pay Attention
Multiway pots are very hard to navigate because there are many factors to worry about once the flop is dealt. This is why it is important to always stay focused and alert in these situations even if the pot isn’t too big.
Things can easily get out of control if stop playing your A-Game strategies and allow yourself to go on autopilot in these spots without thinking your decisions through.
The advice and analysis in this article should help you navigate these situations better in the future. However, it is impossible to cover every potential situation that may come up at the tables, especially when there are multiple players involved in the action.
Thus, these tips should be used more as a guideline to help you recognize different spots and understand how to proceed:
Play solid ranges pre-flop to avoid awkward situations post-flop
Reduce your betting frequencies when bluffing agains multiple oppoennts
Be more inclined to bet to protect your strong but vulnerable hands.
Even with all that in mind, you’ll still find yourself in some difficult spots on occasion and if you want to learn more, make sure to go through the best poker training sites online and learn some advanced strategies.
The most important takeaway from this article is that multiway pots are a special kind of beast and you should always be very careful when you get involved, but do not shy away to take those pots when no one is showing ay interest.
If you want to dig deeper into advanced poker strategy, learn more about playing draws, check-raising, bluffing and other vital concepts, you can always check out my complete training program “Poker Formula For Success” and make your life even easier at the tables!