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A POPULAR variation found in poker in American card-rooms is the "kill pot". It increases the stakes by half after someone wins a decent-sized pot.

So if you are playing say, $10- $20 limit raise Hold 'em, and a player takes down a pot worth $150, the stakes are raised on the next hand. The winner posts an extra blind of $15 (which he may raise in the normal way when the betting gets round to him) in addition to the regular $5 and $10 blinds (forced opening bets). Kill pots encourage everyone to get involved, and peps up these low-level games. Everyone wants to gamble, after all.

What's more, because of the long odds offered in limit games, you are more or less bound to come in with anything remotely playable. In Hold 'em, a hand such as A-8, which should normally be junked unless you happen to be in one of the last seats, is well worth a call. If five people call a raise in a 10-20 game (as they often do in these casino games) there will be $150 in the pot before the flop. You can have a go with a hand such as 9-10 off-suit and still get reasonable odds to hit something.

Of course, most of the time you will miss. But if you can make such a hand stand up even once in a while, it will win $300-$400. Here's a hand I misplayed in a $10-$20 game at Foxwoods, the Indian casino in Connecticut. (It has 59 tables, mainly stud and Hold 'em, ranging from $1-$2 to $75- $150.)

With A-J I raised the kill pot and got five callers. The flop came down A-10-7 rainbow (mixed suits). I bet and got three callers. A queen fell on the turn. Here I checked (probably wrongly) fearing a raise, someone bet, and the man on the end raised.

I put him on A-Q and saw no reason to stick in another $60, with 30 more on the river. Someone else saw him down and he showed A-J, the same hand as me! It cost me half the pot. This incident taught me that in low-level limit games, when there may be 12 or more big bets in a kill pot, it's best to see it through. Because everyone else will be doing so.