The Elements of Hold’em: Leverage
Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek polymath Archimedes said something to this effect: Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I shall move the earth. Archimedes was talking about the power of leverage, in the purest sense of the word. You can move just about anything with a lever, one of three “simple machines” that Archimedes helped develop, along with the pulley and the screw. It’s all about mechanical advantage – the amplification of force.
These days, we usually hear the term leverage used in financial circles. If you borrow money to invest in something, and you expect the return on your investment to be greater than the interest on your loan, that’s using leverage to your benefit. You can apply this concept to make hostile takeover bids of rival companies. You can also use leverage to make hostile takeover bids of your opponents’ stacks at the poker table.
Get the Most Use From Your Chips
When we talk about leverage in poker, we’re talking primarily about the ability to use large bets to move your opponent(s) off a hand. This is an incredibly important concept in “big bet” poker, especially in No-Limit Hold’em. If you want your opponent to fold what you think is a marginal made hand or a so-so draw, you have to bet large enough to make it too expensive for him to call.
You also have to pay attention to the stack sizes – both yours and that of your opponents. This can be surprisingly tricky when you’re playing online poker at Bovada and there aren’t actual, physical stacks on the table, just numbers that can easily be overlooked. How many times have you raised somebody as a bluff, either pre-flop or on the early streets, only to realize that they hardly have any chips left? You won’t get many folds when this happens. You don’t have any leverage.
Bet Size + Position = Winning Poker
The concept of leverage comes up all the time in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments. As a very basic rule of thumb, you should either push or fold when your stack gets down to 10 big blinds or lower. Otherwise, if you open-raise with anything less than a premium hand, your opponents can put in a big 3-bet and make you fold. You’re giving them all the leverage. Shoving those marginal holdings will instead force your opponents to either make a big call or fold – if 10 big blinds (or lower) represents a large enough portion of their stack.
When you combine leverage with position, the first element of Hold’em, you can put maximum pressure on your opponents. Generally speaking, big bets like this work best in position, when your opponent has already shown some weakness. To paraphrase Archimedes, give yourself some leverage and position at the poker table, and you shall move those mountains of chips into your stack.