Miscellaneous Topics

We want to pause here and talk a little more about calling versus raising. This is a decision that constantly comes up which most players don't handle very well. Earlier we talked about seemingly good hands that because of the multiway pot nature of the situation you should only call with because they had less than a one-in-five-chance of winning, but still more than one-in-nine. Depending on the situation, that can be a lot of hands, perhaps as high as 20 percent in unraised pots.

Let's suppose that you are again in that $ 30-$60 game, three players call, and you are last. You should call liberally because you are getting 8-to-1 from the pot. But you shouldn't raise with many hands since you are only getting 3-to-1 on your raise. Furthermore, some of the hands that appear to be worth raising really aren't because the future action may be detrimental to them. Consequently, if it has become apparent that you can't get heads-up, you should limp with many hands that other players will frequently raise with.

For instance, if a deuce brings it in, three people call the bring-in, and you're last, when you don't fld you should limp at least two-thirds of the time. In these spots the typical pro will probably raise two-thirds of the time if he plays his hand. But he's wrong because he cannot stop players from coming in behind him since he is already last.

Here's an example. A deuce brings it in, a five calls, a seven calls, and a nine calls. You have

                

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 Theory 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 oponent will fold small pairs if you catch an ace or a king or if you pair your door 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 strategy, the type of hands that your opponents 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:

                    

and are next to the bring-in. You should just call. There is little to be gained by raising. If instead of the 8 your kicker was the

giving you a stright flush card, you could go ahead and raise because your hand plays much better multiway. However, if one of your queens was dead, you would be back to just calling even if you held a straight flush kicker.

On the other hand, you should in general raise with more hands than most people do as long as the pot is not multiway and you are not last to act (before the bring-in). This includes most of your playable pair hands, especially if your cards are live, because getting heads-up is a almost always better than not getting heads-up. Many people think that a hand like

                

is the kind of hand where you want to see what you catch on fourth poker street. But if you hold this hand and there is a player with a nine up behind you, it is better to make it a full bet and have him reraise you than it would be to just call and have him make it a full bet if this allows callers behind him, and you now have to play multiway. If that happened you would be in bad shape. But heads-up, your pair of fives with a ten kicker against a pair of nines, is not in that bad of shape.

Now we are not saying that you should call if a nine raises and you have 5T5. In fact, you should frequently fold. Only call if everyone else is out and you are fairly sure that it will be a heads-up pot. We are just saying that you should make the original raise yourself if your biggest fear would be a reraise from a nine showing.

So whether or not you should raise often has to do with how effective your raise will be in knocking people out. And this includes some hands that typical players will just call with.

There are very few hands where you don't gain much by knocking people out.

                

is an example. But they are few and far between. Because of the "dead" money in the pot (the aents and bring-in) most hands do better against one opponent. To take an extreme example, say an ace raises, you have

                

(notice that the king is up), and you think that the ace may be ante stealing. You may be better off reraising in an attempt to limit the pot to the two of you. Allowing other people to play can easily be more costly than the extra bets risked against a possible pair of aces.

Continuing with this example, suppose there is a queen behind you. It is important to knock him out if he has two queens because the ace might be bluffing, and most important, if you make two pair and the queens also makes two pair, but the ace does not, you can still lose. This is why it is important to have the king up. If an ace raises and a king reraises, it will be very difficult for anyone with two queens to call.

On the other hand, suppose in this situation your hand was:

                

That is, you really do have two kings.

It is now not nearly as important to knock someone out because if your first opponent has aces you still have to make at least two pair to win. Now the player with the queens will have to catch a third one to beat you. Notice that we have described a situation where you would want to knock out the player behind you if you only have a pair of kings. As you can see, seven card stud can be a very complex game.

If you think you have the best pair, whether it is showing or not, someone else raises and several people call, you should frequently not raraise if no one will be knocked out. Furthermore, your decision of whether to take it to two full bets should be influenced by your position. Obviously, if a queen raises, a jack calls, and you are next with a pair of kings, you should reraise to get everyone out behind you. But if you were last and only the bring-in was behind you. But if you were last and only the bring-in was behind you, you are probably better just calling (This is something that virtually no one else will do.) The difference is not the number of people in the pot, but the number of people that still might come into the pot.

You need to be aware of how different hands do against different numbers of players. Let's say you hold a hand that does much better heads-up than multiway. You should try to get heads-up if possible. If you know you can't get it heads-up, you have to consider how well this hand will do multiway. Now you have to decide whether to call or to fold. Typical poker players will often just call in this spot. They will call when the expert raises, and they will call when the expert folds.

The hands that you want to play heads-up are pairs, high cards without pairs, and high straight draws especially if they are higher than everyone else. For example,

                

definitely plays well heads-up against a seven. If a seven raises and you have this hand, it is an almost automatic reraise. If a seven raises and a four calls, now it's close, but it still might be worth a reraise. But if a seven raises, a four calls, and a trey calls, you should only call. One other time not to raise a seven with that Q J T is when you are against a player who will only raise with a small card up when he has a big pair in the hole. You don't want to go heads-up against a higher pair.

(By the way, this last example illustrates one reason why you often raise with a hand like:

                

If you didn't, your opponents could almost correctly put you on a big pair in the hole when you raise with a small card up. Thus, you would be giving away too much information. To finish this chapter we want to discuss two times when you should limp in early.

The first time is when you have a hand that's much better off multiway than heads-up against an overcard. For instance, suppose you have:

                

There is an ace and a king behind you, and a lot of low cards behind them. Here you clearly should not raise. The problem is that if you make it a full bet, one of the big cards can make it two full bets, meaning a heads-up pot, when you don't have an ovrcard.

It would be different if you had

                

and there was a jack and a nine behind you. You could go ahead and raise. Even if you are reraised it is okay since you have an overcard.

The second time that you want to limp up front is when you have a hand that prefers to get in as cheaply as possible because you are willing to give it up on fourth street if you don't catch a perfect card. But if you catch just right you could like it a lot. An example would be a three-card-straight or a three-card-flush when a couple of your cards are out. There will are enough cards left that fourth street could come good, and it is well worth trying if you can get in cheaply. Another example would be a live small pair with a straight fulsh kicker. (Note: If you are raised on third street after limping in you may want to fold.)

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