The Essence of Set Mining – Playing Low Pairs in Hold’em

Low pocket pairs. Easy to muck yet the key to a goldmine. Most books rightfully put them on the list of unplayable, or marginal hands. Yet time and again you’ll find people playing them, raising them, and somehow making money from them. Admittedly some of those players are getting lucky, but some have a very specific goal: set mining. That is, playing a low pair and hoping for three of a kind on the flop. If done right it can be lucrative. If done wrong it is an easy way to lose money.

The Surprise

Imagine you are Chris Ferguson, it is late 2008 and you are holding pocket aces. To your right Phil Helmuth has raised and Phil Ivey has called. You put in a solid reraise. Helmuth folds and Ivey calls. The flop comes 5♥ 3♠ 9♣ and Ivey checks. You put in a 2/3 pot bet and Ivey reraises pot. You call and the turn comes 9♠, to which Ivey announces all-in.

The difficulty in such a situation is Chris having to decide whether Phil has a set or is playing a high pocket pair, queens or kings, aggressively. It’s highly unlikely Phil has a nine, but is possible that he was just making a bluff on the flop. It’d be a rather risky play, but not something impossible for this calibre of player. In this case Chris called and lost, but with pocket aces on that board it might not have been the wrong action.

This of course demonstrates the potential value in playing small pairs. If the flop turns up a set there is a large amount of money to be made. How the flop is played is vitally important, and it hinges very much on how the pre-flop action played out. Making this play can be hazardous.

Leading Preflop

In preflop action a player with a small pair may lead out with a small bet. Perhaps 2-3BB. Should they only get callers the situation on the flop becomes difficult. Their opponent could be playing some other small pair or any ace. If the flop doesn’t hit, the low pair is now quite a weak hand. It should be folded versus any reasonable bet. A player who is checked to in last position may however make a bluff. That is of course just added value in playing any hand from late position.

Suppose however that the flop does show a set, how should it be played. Consider first that this occurs only 11% of the time. This is important for odds. Pushing too aggressively at this point and knocking out the other players will make for poor odds. A player putting in 3BB preflop will need to get at least 30BB in the pot to be worthwhile long-term. Given very light action preflop however, even a modest bet would likely send the other players to the muck. Slow-playing is required in this case to make money, but it has the inherent risk of giving free cards.

In this situation a player with a high ace making a pair is the best chance of getting paid off. Given the low preflop action they will likely think top pair top kicker is good. Thought it won’t be good enough to slow play so they will likely be betting. A player who flopped a set would rather let their opponent build the pot for them.

A missed flop, or low preflop action, is a common situation with low pairs. It is the primary reason why most books advise against playing them. If the flop doesn’t make the set then the low pair is likely dominated. If the pair does improve to a set, there is a good chance that the weak pre-flop callers will simply fold to any bet.

Raising Preflop

In contrast to a a single bet, a reraise preflop indicates strength in the player’s hand. Sometimes it may win the pot outright, which is a good outcome for small pairs. The raise also gives a few more options on the flop. In particular, if the flop is showing only low cards it is unlikely the other player improved their hand. Anything less than a high pair and they will fold to another bet. Strangely this tends to apply regardless of who made the raise. A player who calls the reraise is also announcing strength and has similar options on the flop.

So regardless of who raised preflop a player holding the low pair would likely fold versus any bet on the flop. In particular if the board is showing any high cards, or even a couple of overcards, the likelihood is simply that the low pair has lost. In addition to high pairs, the other player could have easily raised or called with a medium pair, such as tens or jacks, or a high ace and made a pair. Calling a bet with a small pair is losing proposition.

The most lucrative situation is to make the set when the other player holds a high pair. Again, if they are holding less than a high pair they will likely fold versus any moderate bet. But a player who repeatedly folds high pairs will be labelled a coward and frequently outmanuevered. Thus they are almost compelled to call a bet with a high pair. It is also possible to play against one high community card if the other player has paired up with AQ or AK. Though here caution is advised as there is a reasonable chance of three kings or queens.

Courage is also required for the player with the set. Ideally they wish for an opponent that will bet or raise their high pair. As the chance to flop that set is so low, a bit of pot building is definitely needed to give it long term value. It is very important to watch for possible straights and flushes. Keep in mind that a tight player is unlikely to be bluffing when the fourth heart comes up on the river and they move all-in. Though three of a suit is still normally safe, since a player holding a high pair can’t have the flush.

High Implied Odds

Set mining is a very risky activity with possibly high payouts. The immediate odds of playing small pairs are actually quite poor. Large pots coming from the perfect circumstances however can make up for this. The goal is to minimize the sacrifices such that the final payout represents a positive EV. Many players are not so good at making sacrifices. Too often they will be unwilling to fold their small pair against a mixed board. Worse, they’ll miss the flush or straight on the river and call an all-in move with their lowly set.

While lucrative, the danger is ever present. A player who has a hard time folding, or is somewhat less attentive, should heed most advice and simply not play small pairs. Proper set mining is, as with most strategies, a patient, delicate game.

Published in: on 2010/02/11 at 07:50  Leave a Comment  
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Why shouldn’t I play KQo? Pre-flop thinking in Texas Hold’em

In another article we mention that KQo is not a particularly great hand (well, KJo actually, but they’re about the same). This comes as a surprise to many players, in particular newer players. Two very high cards, how could that possibly not be a great hand? It’s not unplayable, but it isn’t great, and many poker books will back us up on that. But why? As a good poker player you shouldn’t be blindly trusting any books or articles you read. Here we’ll go over the thought process involved in evaluating such hands. Afterwards you can decide for yourself whether KQo is a playable hand.

In the tables

Avoid the trap of call-to-showdown stats!

In a full-ring game KQo has a 16% chance of winning should everybody call to showdown. You’ll see such numbers quoted often, but the truth is they aren’t so helpful unless people are going all-in. The raw statistical chance of winning with all nine players at showdown is unenlightening since you’ll never actually see such a showdown. Even a flop with so many players is exceedingly rare. Nonetheless it does place KQo as better than around 90% of all other starting hands, that means at least something.

KQo sits in Group 4 of the Sklansky Groups. That is outside those nice upper three groups, but still way ahead of a lot of other hands. Phil Helmuth, in Play Poker Like the Pros recommends usually playing KQ, suited or not, but that it is still a pretty weak hand. In Internet Texas Hold’em, Hilger doesn’t even include KQo in his list of playable hands from early position, and still recommends folding in late position to a raised pot. So the details may vary, but nobody is giving a strong recommendation to the hand.

Don’t push the tables aside just yet, we need some information in there. Specifically, look at all those hands that appear before KQo. There are a lot of face cards, aces, pairs, and a few suited connectors. Keep this in mind. These are the hands you’ll be up against.

Pre-flop and flop

Understanding what is happening pre-flop is the key to choosing starting hands. Who is in the hand, and how much did they bet? Has the tight player made a raise, or is it the maniac again with a steal attempt? What about that guy in middle position who flat called, or the small blind putting in a min-raise? All of this has important consequences, obviously not just for KQo, but in a way vitally important for KQo. This is incidentally why somebody like Hilger says KQo is unplayable in early position, since you simply won’t have enough information yet to make a decision.

Once you’ve weighed in all the actions occurring pre-flop you are ready to make the next step. No, it isn’t deciding to call or raise. It is considering what happens on the flop. Deciding how you will play on the flop will make it easier to decide how you play pre-flop.

The Tight Player

Know this: the tight player likely has KQo beat.

If you have a tight player who has put in a bet, or called a raise, you can almost be certain at this point that they have a better hand than you. They’ll only be playing the first couple of Sklanksy groups, so high pairs, high suited connectors, and high aces. Other than the connectors you already have the worse hand.

First consider a completely missed flop, like 2♥ 9♦ 7♠. What are you going to do here? Other than the suited connectors your tight opponent’s hand has you beat. Perhaps a bluff might work if they are holding a high ace, but if they happen to be holding a pair, they’ll likely push back. If you check they’ll may rightly bet sensing they have the best hand. In either case would you be willing to call knowing you have only king high?

Then consider a very good flop for you, like K♥ Q♦ 9♦. If you tight opponent has queens or kings then you’ll be paying dearly here, or do you feel comfortable letting go of top two pair when he raises? You have to bet here to find out what they have. When they call you have a problem. Did he happen to play JTs and flop the straight, or perhaps he has a flush or a straight draw. In any case, they’ve likely bought themself a free river card with the call. Those two extra cards have a good chance of hitting one of their outs.

It may be less than half the time that you get a call or raise. Perhaps most of the time he’ll simply fold. But what have you won in that case? You’ve not gotten any more than the preflop action, which likely wasn’t high if you hold just KQo. More disturbing however is that in order to collect the pot you had to risk a significant bet knowing that if called you’re likely beaten.

The Loose Player

Consider this time that you’ve put in a small pre-flop bet and are raised from late position by a loose player. Though you consider it a likely bluff to steal your bet, you can’t really be certain. Even maniacs will statistically get better hands than KQo about 10% of the time. You’ll be going into the flop in this case a bit blind. Also, is that a passive player, or an aggressive one?

Let’s consider again the same missed flop as before 2♥ 9♦ 7♠. Are you comfortable at this point trying to bully the loose player? You shouldn’t be. If they’ve been paying attention to how you play they probably assume the flop has completely missed your hand, and they are right. Suppose they were playing total junk, no card above a nine and unpaired. That doesn’t sound bad until you realize it gives them just over a 30% of having made a pair — stronger than KQo at this point. A loose aggressive player will likely bet here regardless of what they had pre-flop. Are you willing to call? Keep in mind that any ace also beats you at the moment. Suppose instead it is a loose-passive player. This now works like the tight player, you can bet and he’ll either fold or call with the better hand. It’s hard to make money when that happens.

Now the flop is K♥ Q♦ 9♦. Against a loose player KQo is most certainly the favourite here, but not always. A loose player could easily call any bet with a straight or flush draw. Worse, the aggressive player, should another diamond come on the turn or river, will represent the flush with a large bet. But perhaps they already have nines? Knowing this player at this point would be a great boon. Most aggressive players alter, sometimes very slightly, how they bet with a monster hand, drawing hand, and junk. The loose-passive player at this point will fold a weak hand, but the aggressive player could make it very costly for you. Having courage at this point will be necessary. Just as important is not going on tilt when he makes his lucky suck out and takes your money.

Against a loose player you’ll likely have to bail out unless you get a perfect flop. Even when you hit that perfect flop the pot could grow quickly and test your comfort limits. So before you decide to call preflop, decide whether you’re truly willing to go all-in against the loose player with a good flop. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to, but if they sense you won’t, they’ll push it.

Thinking ahead

The previous examples are not meant to demonstrate how weak KQo can be. They are meant to illustrate a bit of forward thinking in your starting hand selection. Don’t just think about whether you have a good hand now, think additionally about how you are going to play that hand on the flop. You can see that under some situations a good hit won’t necessarily make the play any easier nor risk free. In several cases you can just fold, but if you do that too often you’ll be losing a lot of pre-flop bets. For any hand you should be thinking about what will happen on the flop. Look around before you bet pre-flop and consider who might be coming with you. Will it be played heads-up, or multi-way — an even more stressful situation we didn’t consider here. Are you likely shy away on the flop and fold a good hand, or are you more likely to stubbornly stick to a loosing hand? If you aren’t going to be comfortable playing the flop then it is better to get out pre-flop. That is often the destiny of KQo.

Published in: on 2010/01/28 at 09:15  Leave a Comment  
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The 4 Steps to becoming a poker shark

Poker seems like an easy game. There isn’t much equipment involved and the structure is simply a matter of deal, bet, deal, bet, and so on. Still, the apparent simplicity of poker is deceptive. There is a reason this game has continued to fascinate people from all walks of life for over 200 years! The truth is that poker mastery requires a great deal of skill. Here we’re covering the four basic steps you need to master to become an expert poker player!

1. Learn the rules

Knowing the Poker hands is a good first step.

You need to learn the rules of the game. If you are completely new to poker it may take a a little while to get it at first, but rest easy knowing that the basic rules of poker are shared among virtually all game variants. Once you’ve picked up your first game the others tend to be only minor variations.

Still, before you play any hand of poker you need to know the specific rules of that game. Do you have any wildcards, or bugs? Who bets first? Hi-Lo split? What’s a completion? Ace-five or 2-7 Lowball? Not understanding some of the particulars can lead to some spectacular failures.

2. Learn the numbers

Consult various poker tools.

Some basic mathematics and statistics are essential to becoming a good poker player. While you may not need to know the precise values, you will need to have a very good idea of the worth of every hand and the chance to make money with it. Each situation requires a slightly different calculation, but essentially it all comes down to pot odds and implied pot odds. In some cases simply knowing whether you are the favourite or the underdog is enough.

If you are playing online at home don’t hesitate to use charts and tables of odds. Reference cards are excellent ways to pad your knowledge until you gain enough experience to have an intuitive feel for the cards. Working through the examples in books also accelerates the learning process. Often a real game will be moving too quickly for you to properly deduce your chances. Be sure to review some of your big losses and big wins to see whether you made the correct decision.

Keep in mind: The numbers from game to game can vary wildly. For example, a pair of kings is much stronger in Hold’em than in Omaha. Approach each new variant carefully and play cautiously until you understand the differences.

3. Learn the people

Poker is a people game. It’s not about the cards.

Knowing the rules and the numbers is only half the game. Poker is truly a game about people. In front of your seat at the table will be a pile of chips, some cards, and most importantly several other people. You’ll have to assume they know the rules of the game and understand at least something of the numbers. Perhaps it may be surprising then that everybody plays differently. Do they understand the game differently? Or are they simply bad players?

Players, all players, make mistakes. It’s a matter of what kind and how often they make mistakes that decides their skill level. Occasionally you get people who forget the basic rules, but more commonly you’ll get people who don’t have a good understanding of the numbers. Knowing these people and understanding their mistakes is a key skill.

But even players with perfect grasp of the numbers play differently. Each of them has a particular strategy which they believe is going to make them money. Some of these players have gradual stack changes while others have large swings. Some people are cowards and some are bullies. It’s your job to identify each player. Label them. Tag them. Describe them. Knowing their style will assist you in knowing their cards; and that will help you avoid making mistakes.

4. Manipulate the people

A thoughtful player may win, but a clever player will dominate.

Knowing people is the key to not losing money, and at certain stakes, with a good deal of patience, it can also provide for a steady income. But to get better returns you’ll need to take it to the next level. You need to play your opponents against themselves.

Just taking advantage of mistakes isn’t enough. No, you want to push your opponent into a corner. Learn the situations where they make bad calls and create them. Force on them scenarios where they feel uncomfortable. Your goal is to explore their shortcomings and cause them to make mistakes.

At this point you should also be well aware of being manipulated yourself. This is where the arms war starts: a continuous cycle of learning and manipulating. As you progress in ability you’ll need to start learning how your opponent views your own strategy, and abuse that knowledge as well. But be careful, if your opponent is stuck at step 2, too much thinking might do harm. Always think to the level of your opponent — there is no need to trick somebody who willingly walks into traps. Of course, once you’re at step 4 this will just be second nature.

Now you’re on your way to becoming a real shark!

Published in: on 2010/01/06 at 07:48  Leave a Comment  
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The 4 Faces of Patience – the essential poker skill

If you could define an expert poker player with just one word, that word would be patience. A good player has to wait a lot, remain calm at all times, and be satisfied with the gradual path. These are all aspects of patience. Here we’ll go over the four aspects of a patient player to give you a better idea of what this means.

A Patient Observer: Wait for the right cards

You can’t control which cards you get, but you can decide which ones to play. Regardless of the strategy you intend to follow, playing too many hands will bring only failure. Each starting hand has a specific worth in the game being played. Some of them are premium hands, whereas others are clearly junk. Both of those classes are easy to deal with; those in between are the ones which tend to cause trouble.

Poker experts David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth have assigned each possible poker hand to a group (known as Sklansky groups); the idea is that all hands in the group can normally be played similarly. Stronger starting hands are identified by a lower number. Hands without a number are the weakest starting hands. The numbers go from 1 to 8. AK and all face card pairs belong to group 1 for example.

Rita finds herself at a rather loose hold’em table. From the books she knows she should play rather tightly here. She also tends to get pushed around by bullies, so it makes sense to tighten up her game. She’s decided she can play Sklansky groups 1 and 2 (so high pairs and aces), but will only play group 3 at opportune moments. Everything else she’s going to throw away.

A Patient Actor: Wait for the right time

Position (the order in which you get to play) is everything — a mantra repeated through virtually all poker books and echoed by any serious player. Beyond just having playable cards you need to be in a good position to act on those cards. This doesn’t just mean being on the button; you need to consider who has bet and raised before you. More information improves your ability to make the right decision. Being impatient will lead to making uninformed decisions, which leads to losses.

Every action has an optimal timing. A bluff will only work if you suspect your opponent will fold. Value bets only make sense when you’ll get a call but not likely be beat. Remember that when you call, you are going to have to follow through on further streets. Folding at the right time is also an essential aspect of patience. You can’t let the lure of a big pot drag you along. If the timing isn’t right you need to get out.

Rita is in the cutoff (late position) and finds herself with pocket jacks, an excellent hand! The loose player under the gun (first to act) has put in a small bet and is called by another loose player. So far this would still be okay, but the very tight player to her right has just put in a raise. There is a good chance she is already beaten, plus the two loose players will make this a very expensive pot and one of them may get a lucky flop. She reluctantly folds her jacks.

A Patient Temper: Endure the unfortunate losses

You can’t stop a donkey from making a good hand on occasion.

You can’t win them all. Poker, though not a game of pure chance, contains a random element. There is no way to avoid this. Having a 10% chance of losing a pot means that you will lose 1 in every 10 times you are in the same situation. Even a 99% chance of winning means you’ll lose 1 in every 100 hands. And since you will be playing thousands of hands, these unlucky losses will happen often.

Worse still are the donkeys. They stick around with ridiculous holdings and make unbelievable suck outs. They’ll even gloat about it trying to provoke a reaction. If you go on tilt, you’ve lost. Continual level headed play will ultimately win versus the donkey. Acting on tilt however simply increases your chances of losing, if not to the donk, then to the other players at the table — who are rightfully taking advantage of you at this point. Bad beats are par for the course in poker. You must remain calm.

Rita finds herself on the button with pocket kings. Randy, a loose player, leads out with a small bet and is moderately raised by Matt, a solid player. To discover Matt’s strength Rita puts in a further raise. Randy calls and Matt folds. The flop comes 9♥ K♣ T♦ and Randy checks. Likely a misguided check-raise attempt. Rita obliges and puts in a half-pot bet. Randy immediately shoves — about twice what is in the pot. Rita calls and Randy shows A♣ 9♣. Rita is momentarily happy until the flop and turn come J♥ Q♦ giving Randy the straight to win the pot. Rita knows she did the right thing so calmly buys more chips and hopes to get another shot against Randy in a later hand.

A Patient Income: Accept slow gains

Poker, even with no limits, is not a quick money game. Players who show up and pull in a ton of cash quickly tend to be met with equally quick, and usually larger, downswings. Profit in poker is made over the course of thousands of hands; looking at the gains from individual hands or sessions is misleading. Without outright gambling there is only so much that can be made from poker. You’ll simply have to accept this.

You’ll hear people speak of something called “big bets per 100 hands” (BB/100). This is how many times the “big bet” (generally equals 2 times the value of the big blind) you are earning, on average, over the course of a hundred hands. Any positive value is okay. In fact a value from 1 to 3 is good. Even with spectacular play this value will only go up modestly, indeed 8 or 9 are considered an unlikely lucky streak.

Rather than take greater risks you are better off increasing your limits while maintaining your BB/100 rate. In other words, your rate of winning hands will remain the same on average, but since the limits are higher, you’ll be winning more actual money. It’s like the difference between the tip a server at a high-end vs. lower end restaurant makes: 15% on a $20 meal is $3. But the same 15% on a $200 dollar meal is $30 for the same amount of work!

Unlike the very loose table Rita had earlier, she is now sitting at a tight table with solid opponents. She’s not sure if she is outclassed or simply receiving bad cards. After about 300 hands her buy-in of $50 is now just $52. She’s nonetheless happy since it is a positive value at a table where she thought she was weak player. She checks her bankroll later and notes that her BB/100 for the past several months is about 2.5. At that rate of income her bankroll will be high enough move up to $100 buy-in in about 1 month. Rita sees no reason to rush to the goal.

The Timid One – A perplexing player who doesn’t bet

They sit there, fearful of the pot. Bets and raises are flat called with monster and marginal holdings alike. When they do finally show their hand you’ll shake your head thinking, “Why didn’t he take more money from me?” These are the timid players.

The Timid Playbook

A timid player doesn’t like to increase the pot. They are nervous about leading out and would prefer to call somebody else’s bet. The pots in which they participate are driven by another player. Perhaps in no-limit, if nobody bets first, they might put in the minimum. Perhaps not.

Timid players prefer small pots but aren’t afraid of large bets.

The primary motivator to their play is keeping the pot small. It feels as though they are opposed to gambling and are limiting the wager until absolutely certain they will win. This certainty doesn’t come often though, and usually only on the final streets. By this time however their opponent has become suspicious and isn’t willing to donate any more money.

Keep in mind that a timid player need not be a coward. While they may not bet often they aren’t going to get scared away easily. This is the most curious aspect of such a player: Obviously they have a good enough hand to call, but they will never defend or value bet. A bully will find themselves wasting a lot of money trying for the fold. This is also not to say this type of player is overly brave. If the wager is too high for their holdings they will fold. An attentive player will however realize it’s uncertain whether the timid player has a weak hand or a monster. Just because you’re playing against a timid player, you don’t want to throw large bets around carelessly.

All this leads to the timid player having little control over the pot size. Their opponents get to decide entirely how much it costs to go along. Any player can easily take a free card when up against a timid player. Occasionally a timid player may put in a minimum bet to block this, but if the pot is already sufficiently large it won’t do anything at all. Timid players rely on an aggressive opponent to drive up the pot. Many will even fail to bet on the final street, even while holding a very strong hand. This is perplexing to say the least.

Dominic has again called a pre-flop raise with a junk hand. He is at a rather tight table and has been bullying people on the flop. This time however he’s up against Jill, a very timid player who has called. Dominic mistakes her for a coward and when the flop comes up a rather dry 7♣ 8♦ 2♣ and puts in a pot-sized bet to knock her out. The preflop raiser folds but Jill flat calls. The turn throws up a scare card, the A♥ and again Dominic fires out. Jill flat calls again. Dominic relents to a blank on the river and watches Jill show pocket jacks to take the pot.

It must be restated that timid players aren’t simple calling stations. If the timid player does not have a decent hand they will fold. They will not stubbornly go along with garbage, but marginal hands will often have them sticking around. The biggest danger against a timid player is that you can’t tell whether they have a marginal hand or a strong hand.

Ammy is holding A♣ 2♠ and tries to steal the blinds with a raise on the button. Jill calls in the big blind. The flop comes A♠ 9♥ T♠. This is a problem for Ammy. Perhaps Jill has an ace, which would guarantee a better kicker. Or perhaps Jill has kings or queens. Indeed Jill may even have J♠ Q♠ and be looking at a straight and flush draw. Even calling with tens or nines in the big blind isn’t impossible for Jill. Ammy is unlikely to get a fold. A moderate bet would bring nothing since Ammy already knows Jill will call. Ammy reluctantly checks.

Dominate Them

Timid players tend to be tight players.

Assuming that the timid player is also tight makes a lot of sense. If they are to make any money whatsoever it has to be through strong hands, therefore they can’t afford enter too many pots. This represents a leak in the timid player’s information shield. They will only be playing hands they believe to have a positive expected value, even if marginal.

But that’s all that can be extracted from them. Since they only ever call it will not be possible to read their hand more accurately. As mentioned before, an excessively large bet might force them to fold, but it will also be very costly if they call. Therefore only moderate value bets make sense. There is no point in paying for information that just won’t be revealed.

No control over the pot is the biggest weakness these players have. This is almost funny since they will believe they are exercising a good degree of pot control. It is their opponent who gets to decide what to bet. A player who has absolute freedom to decide the wager simply dominates the board. They can take a free card for their weak hand or drive up the pot with a strong hand. This can even be decided on a street by street basis as the timid player will call in either case.

Mason has an open ended straight draw. Normally he’d bet at this point but his opponent Jill is a very timid player. A bet would neither get her to fold nor tell him where he stands. He checks and Jill checks behind him. The next street completes his straight. He knows that Jill won’t bet so slow-playing here is worthless. He puts in a half-pot bet. On the last card he sees ways his straight could be beat, but since Jill called early it is not likely. He can’t be positive though. He’ll simply play the stats, knowing that he will usually win with the straight, and put in a moderate value bet.

This is how timid players lose their money. They allow opponents with weak hands to improve or even sometimes hit their long-shot outs giving them monster hands. They fail to defend a mediocre holding and they don’t exploit a good holding. Against a bully they will likely earn some significant pots. However, against an astute player they will win peanuts with a better hand, but lose big with a weaker hand.

Betting into a flush draw with No Limits Hold’em

You’ve got a good hand but there is a possible flush draw on the board, or even worse a possible flush. What do you do? Okay, you know you should bet, but how much? Too little and you’ll get calls from players who have hands besides just flush outs. Too much and you’ll scare everybody away, leaving the pot rather bare. There is no easy answer, but we can try to see what happens in a few situations.

The setup

You have top hand, the board is suited.

A flush draw board occurs when the flop is showing two suited cards. It is not possible for any player to have made a flush yet. A player with a matching suited pocket will have the flush draw. That player may or may not have another hand – while this may be hard to ascertain it is a rather vital part of betting into a flush draw. This article concerns itself mainly with what the player holding the likely best hand does when there is a flush draw on the board.

Depending on the community cards the best hand may be top pair top kicker, or it could be two pair and the occasional set. Knowing what hands are possible on the flop is important in order to decide whether to bet. It’s not just a matter of knowing how to deal with the suited cards. A straight, set, or even two pair could end up dominating the hand. Betting has to be a subtle balancing act.

For example, a player holding J♠ 7♦ on a flop of K♥ 9♥ J♣ shouldn’t really be worrying about a flush. They have a bigger problem of the king and possible straights on the board. Assuming they can win with the jack is a mistake. In contrast, a player holding K♦ T♦ on a flop of K♣ 9♣ 3♦ has good reason to believe they are holding the best hand. They are in a good position to hook a flush draw player.

Don’t Needlessly scare them away

When a flush draw is possible many players have a tendency to chase away other players and secure the pot immediately. This may be a safe way to play, but it throws away a good opportunity to pad the pot. Consider that if a flush draw has only a 35% of completing by the river, that means 65% of the time the flush won’t show up. Those certainly sound like good odds to collect some calls!

An anxious player will make a large bet and scare away the flush draw. How much really depends on the opponent. Some tight players with a flush draw will strictly calculate their pot odds at 19% for the turn so even a half-pot bet could scare them away. Other players are banking on implied odds or maybe they’ve incorrectly considered their pot odds at 35%, so even a pot sized bet might not rattle them.

Toby has K♣ T♣ and the flop comes 9♥ K♠ 3♠. His lone opponent, Suzy, is an extremely tight player. Toby figures a large bet would only be called if she matched the King. His only chance to make some more money is if she hit the flush draw. The pot is $10 and he puts in a $2.5 bet. Suzy will rightly see these as suspect but if she has two spades she’ll likely call as it has a positive EV for her.

The fear in allowing people to chase is actually a fear of playing the turn and river incorrectly. Many players feel so uncertain of what to do if another matching suit comes up that they would rather just not see any card at all. Consider first however that the matching suit is only going to show up 35% of the time. There is no point in letting the that fear take over your game.

Toby has K♣ T♣ again and the flop is 7♥ K♦ Q♦. His opponent this time is Wiley, a highly aggressive player who figures implied odds are untapped gold mines. Toby knows Wiley will call any less than pot sized bet if he has any pair, but will only call the pot sized bet with a high pair or flush draw. So Toby bets pot and gets called as expected. The turn comes 8♦. Whether he bets or not he knows Wiley will make a move, so Toby checks and Wiley bets half the pot. There is still a good chance Wiley doesn’t have the flush, but he could equally well have made two pair at this point, or got lucky with trips on a pocket pair. Toby sees no value in calling and cuts his losses by folding.

The value of the chase

Remember, you aren’t just playing the odds, you’re playing the people.

Such calculations can never be perfect since opponents can be unpredictable. Occasionally they will hit a strong hand that isn’t a flush. There will always be some unanticipated risk involved, but as stated before, making plays out of fear is not a good option.

All other factors barred, consider a 65% chance of winning the hand. This comes from the fact that the person with the flush draw has a 35% of making the flush by the river. This is actually split into two steps however, the turn and the river. There is a 19% they will get the flush on the turn, and then a 20% chance on the river. Each of these two streets will have their own betting.

If a bet of $100 is made on the flop, and called by a flush draw, there will be $200 in the pot. The flush will be completed by showdown 35% of the time, so there is on average a $35 loss in this bet. On top of this there’s a bet on the turn, say $100 again. This $100 has a 20% chance of being lost to a flush, so another $20. The flush chasing player will likely fold any bet on the river if the flush isn’t made, so no further value need be considered.

Pay attention to an underlying point being made here. If the turn or river does show the card which completes a flush draw the betting situation changes completely. Simply putting in another bet and/or calling a bet may have negative expected value. There has to be a really good reason to distrust a player who has been representing a flush draw should the draw come up.

Pauli has read the Implied Odds for a Flush draw article. He holds J♠ Q♠ and the board is showing K♠ 2♥ 5♠. Tom has read this article partially and holds K♣ 9♥. Tom puts in a half-pot bet and Pauli calls, his pot odds aren’t good, but his implied odds are really good as he sees Tomi as a bit aggressive. The turn throws up a blank and Tomi bets half the pot again. Pauli is a bit leery but truly thinks Tom will fire again on the river, no matter what. The river comes up a spade. Tom now ruins his EV by betting again. He fails to realize that Pauli could only be calling with a flush draw or higher kicker to a King pair.

Published in: on 2009/12/18 at 15:14  Comments (2)  
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Pot and Implied Odds – Calculations for a flush draw in Hold’em

Working with pot odds and implied odds can be confusing at times. Which one should be used, and how to calculate it, are not always trivial affairs. Calling implied odds a calculation is also somewhat misleading. While pot odds are a strict calculation, implied odds require a lot of assumptions to be made. There is no strictly correct way to do the calculation and come out with the correct result. Still it adds a tool to your decision making tool belt.

The setup

We wish to address the situation in which you have a flush draw and are reasonably certain that anything short of a flush would be the losing hand. It’s rather specific but this situation does come up often. It also simplifies our calculations compared to a more more complex scenario.

Here’s an example: You are holding A♠ 4♠ and the board is showing K♠ J♥ 9♠. You are likely to get some action as there are a multitude of playable hands which now result in either top pair, mid pair high kicker, or a straight draw. You are likely the underdog at the table — even another player with just an ace-five has you beat at the moment. But if you make your flush you’ll have the nut flush. That possibility leads to very good implied odds.

Let’s consider three aspects of this situation. First, what happens if your opponent moves all-in on you? Next, how to play it and get a free card on the turn. Finally, how your expected value increases should you make your flush.

All-In on the Flop

An opponent moving all-in on the flop may not be what you wanted to see, but it does provide for the simplest calculation. Your odds can be calculated without worrying about what happens in further streets; the opponent is all-in and therefore has no more actions to take. The choice to call is a pure calculation that doesn’t require deeper thought.

Use the Odds Helper to get these numbers.

With a flush draw on the flop you will need one more matching suit on the turn or the river. This gives you two chances to get one of the nine cards you need for the flush. Assuming you have no other chance to win than a flush, you have a 35% chance. With this you can make the expected value calculation. Add the amount to call to the amount in the pot, multiply by 35%, and make the call if the result is greater than what you must put in.

Martinique has a flush draw on the flop and her opponent puts her all-in with a $50 bet into a $100 pot on the flop. After a call the pot would be $200, 35% of which is $70. This is greater than the $50 needed to call so it makes sense to call. It has a positive expected value with a $20 return on investment.

This time Martinique faces an opponent who is all-in with an excessive $200 into the $100 pot. After she calls the pot would be $500, 35% of which is only $175. She puts her opponent on at least two pair so she is positive she has no other outs. Thus her call has a negative expected value and she folds.

Call for a free card

The calculation is quite similar should you manage to get a free river card by calling the flop bet. That is, your opponent bets, you call, and your opponent gets timid on the turn and checks. In this case you don’t need to pay to see the river card and your call provides a 35% value for the implied odds, exactly as if one of you were all-in.

But suppose you aren’t positive your opponent will check. You could for example put your opponent on two different hands, one which would make them bet again, the other which would make them check. Both hands are entirely reasonable so it’s a coin toss as to which one they actually have. We’ll also assume that you will fold should they put another bet in on the turn and you have not made your flush.

We have a few values to work with in this case. First off, there is a 19% chance you’ll make your flush on the turn, this it the base of your expected value. With the remaining 81% of the time you have two possibilities: you get a free river card or you don’t and fold. To simplify this, something you find you’ll need to do often, consider simply that 50% of the time you’ll get 1 card, and 50% of the time you’ll get two cards. Thus you have a 50% * 19% + 50% * 35% = 27% chance to make your flush by calling.

The board shows K♥ T♥ 6♠ and Bernd’s opponent Jose has made a $50 bet into a $100 pot. Bernd can put Jose on either top pair or mid pair. With top pair he assumes Jose will bet the turn; with mid-pair he assumes Jose will check. From the above calculation Bernd has a 27% expected value by calling his flush draw. Of $200 that is $54, making this a rather marginal call, but still, one with a positive return.

Making the flush for higher return

Implied odds allows making more calls than solely pot odds can justify.

The previous discussions focus only on the value of making the call itself. They don’t mention much of what will happen should you make your flush. Surely if you have the winning hand you won’t just sit around and collect the money already in the pot. Your opponent may not know you have the flush, so it should be possible to get more money from them. This is where the true heart of implied odds comes in.

Calculating your implied odds requires a good understanding of your opponent. We saw this with the free card already; you need to be able to determine whether your opponent will bet again. We now also wish to know whether your opponent will call a bet you make. Note that nothing here changes the chance you will make your flush; that will still be 19% on the turn. Rather it means the amount of money you stand to earn can be increased.

For example, if your opponent is very aggressive you can be certain you won’t be getting a free river card. They will likely make a similarly sized bet on the turn. If you do make your flush, you can comfortably call with the best hand, collecting more than the 19% indicated by pot odds alone. If they bet again on the river then your return increases further.

George is facing a $50 bet into a $100 pot with a flush draw. The better, Penny, is very aggressive, never one to give a free card. So George considers that if he calls he’ll be facing at least another half-pot ($100) bet on the turn. This means that while he must put $50 into the pot, he’ll earn both the current pot plus the additional $100 from Penny’s turn bet. That would be not just $200 from his call, but a $300 amount he’d win. 19% of $300 is $57 which justifies making the call. George is also being conservative here since he knows he’d likely get some more money out of Penny with a good value bet on the river.

An opponent unwilling to put more money in the pot won’t benefit you much should the flush card show up. Perhaps you are in a situation where a very tight player raised preflop and ends up with a marginal hand on the flop. It is quite possible they will make a bet here trying to get you to fold. A call will scare them and they’ll shut down completely, making it very hard to extract more money from them.

George is now facing a $50 bet into a $50 pot with his flush draw. The better is Tiny, a very timid opponent. Tiny would not likely bluff, but it nonetheless seems as though he’d prefer not getting a call from George. George can thus put Tiny on having a marginal hand, meaning that a call will make Tiny suspicious. A third matching suit on the turn would scare Tiny, who will not make any more bets himself and will likely fold all but the smallest bets coming his way. George thus calculates that he has 19% of $150, plus only two more small $10 bets which will earn him $48.50. This is not enough to call so George folds.

Published in: on 2009/12/14 at 14:56  Leave a Comment  
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5 Great Ways to lose your money in Texas Hold’em

Before you can think about making any money at the tables you first have to stop losing it! It may sound silly, but not losing money is actually a very difficult level to achieve. Even a well-read and trained player can lose money. Here we present a few of the quickest ways to lose a lot of money quickly. Avoid them!

Invincible aces

Aces get cracked all the time.

Getting pocket aces is great. They are a hand worth raising and re-raising pre-flop. But once those three flop cards are shown it really is a different story. A single pair of aces is not a particularly strong hand if there is a possible flush or straight. Even a two pair of anything will beat that pair of aces. Many people seem blind to the flop and assume their aces will win no matter what.

Blindly betting and raising with aces is a quick way to deplete a stack. Any opponent with a strong hand will simply call to the river and then make a move. The player with aces will likely call only to see their hand beaten. Once beaten the invincible ace people often get irate, claiming how unlucky they are. Sometimes they will berate the other player for making stupid calls. In any case, the aces lost and made a big dent in the player’s stack.

Pasi has pocket aces and raised preflop. The initial raiser, Henry, called. The flop comes Q♦ T♠ J♠. Henry makes a half-pot sized bet and Pasi raises him. Henry promptly goes all-in, Pasi obliges and calls. Now, Henry may have not made the best actions, but certainly it’d be consistent with pocket queens, tens, jacks, or ace-king, all of which would beat Pasi.

Monster blindness

Don’t bet a losing hand.

New players are particularly susceptible to getting overly excited about flopping a monster hand. In particular the straight seems to get them into trouble. Getting a made straight is something of a delight, and it often blinds a player to higher straights and flushes on the board. Such a player may even see those outcomes and discard them as unlikely possibilities. Of course statistics play little role when the other player is calmly calling the big bets.

The first error is something known as the idiot end of a straight. A player with T9 who sees the flop of JQK often fails to see that AT would beat them. Worse, on the river the ten comes up and now anybody with a single ace has a higher straight. This tends not to sway the player intent on giving away their money.

Just as common is colour blindness on the flop. Say that the cards on the flop are suited such as J♠ Q♠ K♠. It is quite possible that somebody has a made flush, or at very least a flush draw. Even if somebody doesn’t have the flush now, an aggressive player could make this a very expensive pot. The reckless straight holder may even slowplay in this scenario, or put in small bets, further encouraging an opponent to stay to complete his draw.

Pasi has bet preflop with A♠ K♠ and has one caller. The flop comes J♦ T♦ Q♦. Pasi slowplays and checks. Henry puts in a half-pot bet and Pasi calls. The turn comes 2♦ and Pasi checks again, delighted to see Henry put in another half-pot size bet. The river brings a blank and Pasi finally puts in a bet. Henry is uncertain, he doesn’t believe Pais has a flush, but he’s not sure. He calls and his 7♦ is enough to win the pot.

Chasing a dime with a dollar

Random chance does not play favourites.

A flush draw is certainly a respectable drawing hand to have on the flop. It is however just that: a drawing hand. No actual hand has been made yet, meaning more cards must be drawn. Incomplete hands imply risk and thus loss. Chasing a hand is okay, but only if the pot odds are acceptable. Calling with negative expectation guarantees long-term losses.

A proud holder of a flush draw will likely be thinking they have a good chance to make their hand on either the turn or river. First off they are just wrong. Second off, very good is not really a workable strategic term. Their chance to complete the draw on the turn is just 19%, 20% on the river. Those aren’t good odds. Only calling a small bet can be justified.

Pasi has a flush draw on the turn and Henry puts in a $50 bet into a $100 pot. Pasi foolishly makes the call. He has a negative expected value here. He will make his flush only 20% of the time, of $200 this is only $40, which is $10 less than the amount needed to call. He hasn’t even considered that Henry may also be on a flush draw.

But there are two cards left, so the chance to make the flush on either the turn or the river is actually 35%. True, but those odds still can’t justify sizeable calls, and to truly understand the expected value here requires venturing into implied pot odds territory. A player can only use the two card chance with careful consideration as each additional card will cost more money. When in doubt, only the one card chance should be used.

Playing too many hands

Many players come to the game after having watched a bit on television. On TV it looks as if people are playing every hand, nobody ever gets a walk, and the hands almost always go to showdown. Add the occasional 2♠ 7♦ win and you get a very skewed perception of the game. So along comes Mr. Excited. He sits down at a table and attempts to replicate the TV experience.

Lo and behold, hand after hand his money is taken from him. He’ll scream foul, call the system rigged, and talk about the incredible luck the other guy is having. Even when smart enough to fold bad hands on the flop, his stack is still being depleted by all the pre-flop limping and betting. Of course he will get lucky sometimes and take down a massive pot. This will only encourage him to continue in his bad habits.

Certain starting hands have a better chance of winning, and more importantly, are easier play on further streets. This is simply a fact. Being very selective is a point repeated in virtually all poker books, and the selection criteria are very tight. The vast majority of hands should simply be thrown away.

Pasi is excited to get two face cards: K♠ J♦. There is one 5BB raise before him and one call. Thinking his face cards are good, he calls. This may come as a surprise to Pasi, but this card combination is not even listed as playable in most beginner strategy books (for a variety of reasons we won’t go into here). Even against that one bet it is not a great hand. With that one caller this hand suddenly has a negative expectation.

Assuming the other guy is bluffing

From pre-flop to the turn the betting has been aggressive and now the river comes up. The guy from the far end of the table now pushes his whole stack in. Our new player figures it is one last attempt at a bluff and calls in turn. The cards come up and the guy at the far end of the table takes down the pot.

In one of Dan Harrington’s books he mentions the chance that an opponent is bluffing is at least 10%. Often new players get this backwards, thinking that bluffing is the key to the game and that their opponent is only being truthful 10% of the time. They fail to notice that they themselves have set up that all-in move on the river. Their opponent does an honest bet on the flop and gets raised. Another bet on the turn and this time a call. That player now has every reason to believe that if they go all-in they will get called.

The new guy didn’t just misread the river, they thought the bet on the turn and flop were also bluffs. This isn’t reasonable. A player who bluffs the flop, the turn, and the river will most likely lose in a spectacular fashion on many occasions. Sure, it may work a few times, but it is so expensive when it fails that it just isn’t a winning strategy.

Pasi calls Henry’s pre-flop raise with A♠ J♦. The flop comes 3♦ 7♥ 8♠ and Henry makes a half-pot bet. Pasi figures Henry missed the flop and calls. The turn comes J♠. Henry now puts in a pot-size bet and Pasi happily calls, thinking that Henry may have caught the jack, but Pasi’s ace kicker will be good. The river comes T♦. This time Henry puts in a two-pot bet, wondering – with good reason – whether Pasi is crazy! Pasi wrongly reads this as a bluff to having a straight while rightly noting that earlier betting from Henry would not be justified with a J9. Pasi calls and watches Henry flip over pocket kings.

Published in: on 2009/12/10 at 14:37  Comments (11)  
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Same flop twice in a row – common impossibilities with millions of hands

One game has just concluded and the flop for the next comes up. Whoa! You get a strange sense of deja vu. The flop is the same as the last flop. These things are supposed to be random. How can it happen twice in a row? Something must be up. But in fact such things happen so commonly that you shouldn’t even take note of them.

A mistaken calculation

What is the chance to get a particular flop twice in a row? First just ignore the card ordering and consider all the possible flop combinations. The order of the cards doesn’t interest us since all the cards are flopped at once. There are 22100 combinations of 3 cards from a deck of 52. The chance to get one particular combination is thus 1 in 22100. So that chance to get it twice in a row is 22100 * 21100, or about 1 in 500 million.

Even given the volume of online play that is a rare event. Except that an error has been made in the calculation. An honest mistake that many people may not immediately see.

The solved question has been restated as “the chance to get a particular flop twice in a row” which is actually quite different from “a flop being the same as the one before”. There is no particular starting flop in the desired calculation; any flop will do. Thus to duplicate any particular flop has merely a 1 in 22100 chance.

That still seems rare

While a 1 in 22100 chance seems unlikely still, it is by no means in the category of rare events. In the brick and mortar world hands aren’t dealt so fast, but in an online world a player can easily push through 50 hands even on a slow table.

A professional multi-table player online could easily put in 16k hands a week.

A modest hobby player who puts in only 10 hours a week will end up seeing some 2000 hands in a month. After a year they will have put in over 24000 hands. We can reasonably expect that such a player will have seen this duplicate flop occurrence at least once in a year. Consider now a slightly more dedicated player putting in 2 hours a day and playing 4 tables simultaneously. At the lower rate of 50 hands per hand per table they will be getting in well over 100k hands per year. They can expect to see a duplicate flop about 5 times in the year.

It actually becomes even more likely for a multi-table player. They would reasonable consider any duplicate flops on any of their tables to be a match. That means for a four table player, on any flop there are not just 1 in 22100, but a 3 in 22100 chance that another table matches. Add to this that the player may consider the following flop on any of those tables as well, which now means a 7 in 22100 chance. So in the year this multi-table player can expect to see the duplicate flop about 35 times, or almost once a week.

Far too common to even notice

Thousands of players ensure uncommon things happen often.

Despite the numbers an individual player may do a double take and make a comment about their duplicate flop. It doesn’t mean anybody else will take notice however. As shown above even the modest player will see it often enough not to care. Consider further that popular online poker rooms can easily reach 20000 players. With this volume of players, even if they are all only playing a single table, the duplicate flop will happen to somebody about 50 times an hour, so almost once every minute.

At these volumes of play even the impossible becomes common. Instead of flops which have the same cards, what about the flops where the order of the cards is identical as well. Two flops with the exact same cards in the same order will surely get a comment from a player. With the order kept, there are still only 132k different possible flops. So again with those 20k players playing 50 hands an hour, this will happen about 8 times an hour.

An even more unlikely case is a player receiving the same pocket cards and flop two times in a row. This has only a 1 in 26 million chance of occurring. For an individual player this is truly rare indeed. Though here again, with a million hands being played online every hour this rarity occurs about once a day.

The final lesson here is that seemingly rare events happen quite frequently given the number of active players. Such information can be used to quell one’s fears that the system is cheating or has a serious defect. This is no to say there aren’t truly rare events that do infrequently happen. To brag about those one should do a few quick calculations first, lest they celebrate the mundane.

Published in: on 2009/11/23 at 08:45  Leave a Comment  
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Counting Outs – Calling with straights and flush draws – Lesson 2

In Lesson 1 we covered the basics of counting outs. From the discussion it should be clear that you need to know not only what hands you can achieve, but also what hands would beat your opponent. You might think knowing your opponents cards requires mind reading abilities, but here we’ll see that in many cases a simple educated guess is enough.

Straight to it then

Straight draws come up all the time in hold’em.

Some situations happen often and are useful for study. A straight draw is one of those situations. It occurs so often that, without needing to count, you will simply know how many outs you have. Despite being a strong hand, a straight is susceptible to being beaten by both higher straights and flushes. There is also the occasional win by a full house or higher, though hopefully the opponent’s greedy betting would give that away.

One case which is beautiful for a straight draw is the so called rainbow flop: three different suits which makes getting a flush quite unlikely. So let’s consider this flop:

kh jd 5s

You are holding

qc th

and call a single bet pre-flop. Though there is no guarantee that your opponent flopped a pair, but those two face cards make it a significant possibility. No having any pair yourself you have little chance to make three of a kind. Thankfully the rainbow of suits makes a flush quite unlikely. Thus you can be fairly confident a straight would win.Your cards form what is known as the open ended straight draw: you can get a card at either end, either the ace or nine, to complete the straight. There are 4 of each of these cards, thus you have 8 outs to complete the straight.

Be leery should the board be a single colour; somebody may have already made their flush and might trick you into thinking your straight draw is good. If they have just one of the suite, or the board has only a double suit, they may have a flush draw. If you suspect a flush draw you may wish to put in a larger bet to discourage any chasing. More on this next lesson.

What about a pair of Queens?

Potentially pairing up on the queen would also give you the pot, since your opponents pre-flop bet could be any number of hands: AX or a suited connector like JTs. Those hands would likely even call a moderate bet on the flop. Matching your queen you would win against those hands. In this case you have what are known as potential outs: outs which could potentially win the hand. Here you have 2 of them, the queens.

Flushing the set

Consult our reference for hold’em outs and draws.

You get A♣ T♣ pre-flop and put in a bet only to be raised by a tight aggressive player behind you. You decide to call and get a look at the flop. These cards are turned:

ts 9c 5c

You check and he puts in a small bet. This seems highly suspicious as he is an aggressive player post-flop. You are facing the possibility that he hit a set with either the nines or tens. Your only likely chance to beat this would be to complete the flush. We know from last lesson that you have 9 outs to complete the flush when holding a flush draw.

Should you make the call though? This is now a question of pot odds and expected value. We can look more at this next time, but let’s do it briefly here. With 9 outs you have a 19% chance to hit your card on the turn. Therefore your expected value is 19% of the pot, plus your call. If the bet is less than this value then it makes sense to call.

The pot is currently $70 and Vim put in a $15 bet. Sam has a flush draw with 9 outs, so a 19% chance of winning. If he calls the pot will be $100. Since he expects to win 19% of the time the value of the call is $19. This is greater than the $15 needed to call, so Sam can call knowing that he’s made the right decision. That is, if he makes this call every time in this situation he will be making money in the long-run, even if he loses this particular hand.

Counting to a known hand

Occasionally you will play an opponent and have a really good idea of what cards they have. For example if the ultra-tight player has called your pre-flop raise you might put them on a high pair or ace-king. Say that you called with Q♣ J♣ and the flop comes up:

qs 9d 8s

The betting plays out so that you are reasonably certain he has pocket aces or kings. Thus your queens won’t be good enough. You will need to improve. Another queen would give you the set, so 2 outs. You also have a chance at the straight if a ten comes up, so another 4 outs. A second pair, with the jacks, would also win. That adds another 3 outs. That gives you 9 outs in total.

You see that In this lesson we’ve done basically the same thing as last time. We are simply counting the cards required to make a certain outcome. We’ve gone a bit deeper into dealing with specific hands and compared that to our opponents. The following practice game will help you count outs in such specific situations.

Practice Counting Outs

You’ll never know exactly what your opponent has, but it is good to count outs as though you did. In some cases simply counting your guaranteed outs for the flush, or straight, may not give you good enough odds to call. If you were however to add in the cases for a set, or two pair, you may find that calling is the right option. We’ll go more into this in a future lesson.

Published in: on 2009/11/06 at 08:00  Leave a Comment  
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