Third Street

Heads-Up Versus Multiway

Let’s talk a little more about heads-up versus multiway. The main thing to remember is that as the number of players increases certain hands go down in value. For example, suppose you have:


In a loose wild game, this is not a good hand. In fact, this hand usually should be thrown away (in this type of game), unless the two tens are in the hole.

As should be obvious from our previous discussions, big pairs are better heads-up, while drawing poker hands are better multiway. This means that you should raise or reraise with big pairs, unless your raise or reraise is unlikely to thin out the field. As we have already explained, if a jack raises, everyone calls, and you are last with


it may be better to just call and see what develops. A problem with reraising in this situation is that you make the pot so large that your oppoments who otherwise would play badly by calling from fourth street on are now playing correctly. Also, not reraising disguise your hand so that it is easier to thin out the field later. In addition, it introduces an element of randomization your play.

Of course, there is an exception to this, and it is an important one. You still should raise for value if your hand is extremely strong and completely live. For instance, in the example just given, you have a suited ace instead of the four as a kicker and none of your cards are dead, you probably should go ahead and make a big pot.

Another factor to consider is that there is a good chance you will lead on the next round because of your large upcard. This is a reason to consider raising since it is less likely you will be able to thin out the field on fourth street. If the kings were hidden, calling would be correct. (Of course, if first to act and one of your kings is up, and you can check and then raise if a bet comes from a late poker position player.)

If you have a big pair and only a small number of people are in, you should just about always raise (or reraise). Sometimes you should reriase even with a small pair in multiway pot. Here’s an example. Suppose you are low with:


Five people call your bring-in, and then a jack raises. You usually should reraise. The reason for this is that your reraise is a better play than either calling or folding. First, you most likely will knock out everyone but the jack. Second, the pot is large enough that folding is wrong.

And, as we have stressed, the hand plays better heads-up against a probable pair of jacks, especially with all that “dead” money in there contributed by the other callers.

Even if you are 100 percent sure that the raiser has a pair of jacks, you still should reraise. And unless your opponent poker pairs jacks on board, you should be prepared to go to the raver.