Third Street

Ante Stealing

First, let’s define what we mean by “ante stealing.” We mean trying to win the antes by raising with a hand that figures to be in trouble if it is called.

Understand that in most games you are getting pot odds of about 4-to-3 on your ante steal. This means that your steal has to work about 40 percent of the time to show an immediate profit. However, your chances actually don’t need to be that good, because you may win later on. Only if your hand has absolutely no chance to win, except on the steal, would the 40 percent figure be correct.

Thus, it is usually worth a try to steal the antaes, even if your chances for success are less than 40 percent, and particularly if the next card can win you the pot immediately. An example would be when you raise with an ace and catch an ace. This will happen about 6 percent of the time.

In addition, catching this ace has allowed you to win an additional bet. You may also be able to win the pot on fourth street if you catch a card like a king suited to your ace.

There are other ways of being able to gain equity on the next card. Suppose it gives you a hand strong enough that it would be wrong for someone to call your bet on fourth street if he knew what your hole cards were. This is an important concept.

Here’s an example. You raise with

                

and a pair smaller than kings calls you. If you catch an ace or a king and your opponent knew that you had one of these cards in the hole, he should fold, providing that he does not improve.

(See The heory of Poker by David Sklansky for more discussion of this idea.) Notice that your chance of catching an ace or a king is about 12 percent. Plus you have another 6 percent chance of making open nines. So you have almost an 18 percent chance of winning the pot on fourth street if your opponent will flod small pairs if you catch an ace or a king or if you pair your doar card, and you do even better if he doesn’t fold against the ace or king.

Another idea to keep in mind is that when you catch a scare card, the type of hands that your oppoents are likely to throw away are those hands made up of lower pairs than your board cards. Suppose that on fourth street, your board is:

                  

Your opponent is likely to throw away any hand up to two jacks. This means that when you are on a steal, also consider how high your opponents’ upcards are.

So what’s the bottom line? In general, raise with hands that have about a 30 percent chance of stealing if the game is at least moderately tight. This usually means having the highest card showing, with fair cards in the hole. But as the game gets looser, your hand needs to be progressively better to try to steal even with the high card. And if you are inexperienced you should steal even less yet.

Of course, the best highest card to have showing is an ace. The reason having an ace up is especially good is that opponent, with the exception of being rolled up, never can have the hand that you are representing, beat. That is, you are safer as far as not getting reraised. If instead, for example, your jack was the highest card showing, someone may have a bigger pair in the hole.

If you don’t have the highest upcard, you risk being reraised by the person who does. And if he is a good player, you may be reraised even if he does not have what he is representing. Therefore, be less apt to steal the antes without the highest card showing, especially if there is one or more aggressive or tough players showing higher cards yet to act.

However, the second highest upcard showing is frequently a better stealing hand than it appears. Suppose one of the remaining players holds a small pair. He may be quick to play against someone who raises with the highest upcard, especially if several players have passed, because he is unwilling to give that person credit for a hand. However, if you raise (as a steal) with a higher card still to act behind you, it will appear that your hand is real. You raised into a higher card, didn’t you? Thus, if you get past the player with the highest card showing, you may also get someone with a small poker pair to throw their hand away. So if the high card is held by an unimaginative, predictable, or timid player, and you hold the second highest upcard, your hand may become a candidate for a steal.

On the other side of the coin, you should also be willing to reraese when you hold the highest upcard, but don’t necessarily have the raiser beat. For example, suppose you are in a tough game, your opponent raises with a ten, and you have a queen up with a three-flush or any of the other playable hands that you should at least call with. Now you should sometimes reraise. Notice that if your opponents is “semi-blufing,” you often will win the pot immediately. (He might even fold two tens,) However, this play is correct only because you are holding a legitimate hand that has a good chance of beating your opponent.

What if you are in an early postion? Is it correct to steal up front? The answers is, “occasionally,” but only if the game is tight, and generally only when you have the highest card showing. Furthermore, you should usually limit your steal raises (in an early position ) to those times when you have an ace or a king up. If the game is loose, trying to steal up front is usually a mistake. In these games you need a legitimate hand to raise when many players still remain to act behind you.

If the highest card is held by a player who folds a lot and doesn’t reraise without a bigger pair than he possibly faces, you can raise as a steal with the second highest card from an early position. However, be sure that you are correct in your evaluation of that player.

Also, regardless of your position, do not make these raises at random. They should be based on the strength of your hand and on the other upcards. In addition, you can raise more when you are facing duplicate upcards.

Here’s an example incorporating this last idea. Suppose your hand is:

                

The game is moderately tight, you are in an early position, and there are two aces behind you, but they are not held by strong players. Be inclined to raise with this hand. (If you get reraised, meaning that you are against a probable pair of aces, you should usually fold.)

It is important to understand that if someone else has already limped in, you should usually not try to steal. However, an exception might be if a really tight poker player who probably has a medium pair such as a pair of eights limps in, and you know this person is capable of folding when you raise with something like a queen up. It is better to make this play against a person over whom you have good control. Furthermore, you normally should have a little something extra-like an ace in the hole.

One time not to steal with the highest card showing, even when you are not in an early position, is when the game is loose and you have terrible hole cards. Another time is when your upcard is duplicated elsewhere. Having your upcard duplicated presents three problems:

1. You must now worry about the opponent with the same upcard.
2. Your other opponents know that it is now harder for you to have the hand that you are representing.
3. Even if you do have this hand, it is harder to improve. Good players will reach to your upcard being out elsewhere by “bombarding” you with chips.

Another important concept is that you can ante steal too much. Suppose you are in a game where at first you can steal the antes virtually every time. If you overdo it, your opponents will begin to realize what is happening, and this can create problems. First, you will be called a lot. Second, and even worse, some (if not all ) of your opponents will start to reraise you. (Whether you should call these reraises is addressed later in this section.) Always remember, when ante stealing, that many players want to believe you are doing exactly that as it give them an excuse to play.

So what’s the conclusion as to how often you should ante steal? It is this: Steal slightly less frequently than what might appear to be correct. That is, throw away your worst hands (when you have the high card up) to keep your opponents trained to fold more often than they should. If possible, try to get a feel for what the optimum stealing frequency is for your game. Some games are very different from other games, in that you will be able to steal the antes much more often.

Following are some examples of minimum ante-stealing hands. The first is three high cards higher than the next highest upcard, such as

                

if no one else has a card as high as a seven. Other stealing hands are any kind of gut-shot draw and any kind of two-card flush draw, such as

                

if all of your cards are live and your upcard is big. However, keep in mind that to play this loose, your opponents must be folding a lot. Even if this is the case, it usually is best not to play these hands from an erly position.

Now let’s suppose that you are on a steal or a semi-steal, and someone reraises. Should you throw your hand away? The answer depends on what your cards are, what your opponent’s upcard is, and on how the reraiser plays. Suppose you raise with

                

and a seven reraises. You definitely would call. Similarly, if you have

                

you would call the seven. But if you raise with

                

and a jack reraises, you should fold.

And if you have

                

and a king reraises, you probably should fold. However, if your opponent is prone to bluff, or if your hand is extremely live, you might call in this spot.

If you raise with

                

and a five reraises, you should call because you may have three overcards. But if you raised with a ten up (and something like seven-six in the hole ) and a queen reraises, you should fold since you have no ovrcards.

Going back to the 9 8 A , should you ever not call the reriase from the five? The answer is that you should fold if you think you probably are against a pair in the hole. This is one of those spots where knowledge of your opponent can be crucial in determining what play you should make. The earlier your positions, that is both you and your opponent, the more likely he will have a big pair in the hole.

Now suppose that after the low card brings it in, everyone folds and you are last. How often should you raise? The answer is that you should raise approximately 85 percent of the time against a typical player, but somewhat less against an expert play. The other 15 percent of the time you usually should call. Fold only if:
1. You have absolutely nothing, and your opponent is extremely loose and aggressive. (If he checks a lot, you can play.) Or.,
2. You have nothing, it is obvious, and you oppoment is a very good player.

Here’s an example of the second condition. A six brings it in. You have a seven up. Two sevens are out. It comes around to you, and you have absolutely nothing. Fold against a good player. If you have next to nothing against a bad player, you should just call (when he is low and you are last) if this player will almost always call if you raise. Your call is correct because you are getting more than 4-to-1. Thus, folding is wrong just as raising would be. This is especially true against a very aggressive player who will either reraiser fold.

Suppose you are last and have:

                

No other king is showing, a five brings it in, and everyone else folds. You should call a loose player but raise a tough player. However, if a couple of kings are out, you usually would just call against the tough player (although folding isn’t that bad a play).

Even when your hand is terrible, the reason you would usually call instead of fold is that you may get the opportunity to catch one to two scare chards, which could allow you to win the pot with a bet. However, with your worst hands, whether you just call or raise, you must be prepared to give up quickly if your opponents bets. Failure to do this is one of the more costly (and common) mistakes.

Finally, we want to point out that ante stealing is part of winning stud play. If you believe that an ante steal will show a profit, then you should do it.

If you do try to steal more than you should, you still don’t cost yourself much money as long as you know when to give it up. However, if you have raised on third street, get called, and you don’t have much on fourth street, you should either be betting, or checking and folding. It is almost never right to be checking and calling in this spot. The only time that you should be doing this is when you have a pretty good hand but your opponent has caught the type of card that makes it correct to check and call. (Thee will be more discussion on this later in the text.) For example, if you raise with an ace, someone calls with a queen, and on fourth street they catch an ofsuit five, you should always either bet or check and fold. Never check and call.