Making the Most of 'Bomb Pots'
"Bomb pots" continue to increase in popularity in both casinos and private no-limit hold'em games. For the uninitiated, see Lee Jones' recent article explaining how bomb pots work.
Essentially bomb pots are hands in which all players ante a certain sizable amount (say, 4-5 times the big blind), the hole cards are dealt, then a flop comes with everyone still in the hand and play proceeding as usual from there.
While Lee isn't a bomb pot fan, you still might find yourself agreeing to try them. And if you do, you should know what to expect and how to adjust.
What You Should Expect?
The first thing to know when playing bomb pots is that it is highly likely somebody will connect very well with the flop. When every pot is a family pot, you should expect one or more hands of two pair or better. You should never be surprised to see someone flop the nuts!
On a wet or dynamic board, you should also expect one or more hands with strong flush or straight or combo draws.
In a $2/$5 game, a typical bomb pot might require $20 antes from each player. With nine players, that creates a $180 pot to fight over when the flop betting begins. Stack-to-pot ratios shrink and pot control will rarely be an option.
With bomb pots, you cannot assign a range of hands to any other player based on their preflop position and actions. This can leave you feeling lost when the betting begins.
Despite all of this, players lacking experience in bomb pots frequently overplay their top pairs or big pocket pairs.
Bomb Pot Adjustments
To keep a bomb pot from blowing up in your face, commit to staying on the sidelines with anything less than two pair, at least until you get some reads on how the rest of the table approaches these hands.
When you get A-A or K-K in a bomb pot and don't flop a set, be prepared to check and fold quickly. Don't dwell on it. On a dry or static board, the chances are just too great that somebody has a set, trips, or two pair. On a wet or dynamic board, there are too many cards that can bury your big pair when the turn and river come.
When you bet aggressively after the flop with top pair or an overpair — ordinarily strong hands on most flops — sophisticated bomb pot players aren't going to call with worse hands, and better hands aren't likely to fold just yet.
Instead look for situations that can lead to winning very large pots. Top up your stack when the bomb pots begin so your biggest hands can get paid off for the maximum amount possible.
Without any preflop ranges, consider the tendencies of each of your opponents. Does he play his big draws aggressively or passively? Would she overplay a one-pair hand? Does he like to check-raise with his big hands? Would she make extra large bets on wet boards with big hands out of a fear of being drawn out on? Will he ever fold two pair or stronger? Does she simply like to gamble when larger pots are at stake?
I like to build ranges based on postflop hand strength groups rather than preflop combinations. A range might include all two-pair hands, sets, and flush draws, rather than a traditional line like 8-8+, A-J+, A-Ts+.
Dial back the semi-bluffs. Semi-bluffs get their power from fold equity and it's naïve to think a pot-sized bet will get through the entire field often enough to make this a profitable play.
Variance on Steroids
With bomb pots, expect to see a lot of chips in motion. To be sure, sometimes everybody misses and a fairly weak hand (or bluff) will win a modest pot. But with patience, your opportunity to flop a hand strong enough to commit your entire stack will come.
As if that's not enough, some players like play "double board" bomb pots. In this variant, two sets of community cards are spread concurrently and the best hand based on each board wins half of the pot. After the antes are collected, the dealer puts out two flops, followed by a round of betting. Then a turn card is added to each board, followed by more betting. And finally the river completes each board.
When playing this way, if you have the nuts on one of the boards, the most profitable play might be an all-in bet that forces everyone to fold so you win both halves of the pot.
Bomb pots can be a great way to liven up a dull poker game. They create larger pots preflop, keep everybody in the hand until the flop arrives, and force many players out of their comfort zones.
Hand reading starts with the flop betting, and understanding how each player is likely to act with hands of certain strength based on the texture of the board.
With smart adjustments, you can make sure most of the shrapnel lands on your opponents and not yourself.