Third Street

More Discussion on Playable Hands

As we pointed our earlier in the text, you must always take into account the cards that are out. For example, if a queen raises and another queen calls, you should be very inclined to play against them because it is so likely that two pair will win, especially if they both catch bad cards on fourth poker street. So when you take into account the cards that are out, you don’t just consider how live your hand is, you also consider how the other upcards may impact your opponents’s hands as well.

Here’s an extreme example. Suppose a deuce brings it in, a trey folds, a nine calls, another nine calls, you’re next with


and behind you are an eight and two sixes. You should fld. Not only is your hand dead, but one of the limpers with a nine up could easily have a hand like jack-ten-nine which your hand won’t play well against. Also have too many oppoments.

Here’s an example from the opposite point of view. Suppose you have:


You are against someone who holds a pair of aces, and one of the remaining aces as well as one of the aces’ kicker is out. If you deal out all the cards you will beat the aces approximately 45 percent of the time (depending on exactly what the other upcards are) which is more than enough to make your hand playable heads-up.

But your hand is actually better than this. If you make an open pair (except for maybe your doord card), your opponent will keep coming. But if he makes an open pair you can fold. Furthermore, your opponent might check on a later street giving you a fre cared.

So if you have live cards and your opponent has a dead card to his big pair it is correct for you to play heads-up with a hand like a small pair it is correct for you to play heads-up with a hand like a small pair and a straight flush card. However, this same hand in a three-way pot becomes a disaster because if you make two pair you will frequently beat the player with the big pair, but lose to the third player. This means that you should frequently reraise in this spot if you believe that the extra bet will get the pot heads-up.


You may want to pause and think about what we have just said. We are suggesting that with a small pair and a straigt flussh kicker you should reraige a big pair, not a possible big pair, but a definite big pair, if one of your opponent’s pair cards is already out, your hand is live, and no one else is in. If this is what you have to do get this pot heads-up, then by all means go ahead and do it.

Here’s another example. Suppose a ten raises, you have


and a jack has already called. You should usually fold. The exception would be if you were last and your cards were live. If the jack had not played, your hand becomes playable and you should at least call.

If, however, you were between the ten and the jack you could try to make it heads-up for one extra bet. This is an expense that you should not worry about. Thanks to your reraise, your hand has become playable. However, if there were many high cards behind you, instead of reraising, you should again fold.

If a ten raises, a jack calls, and a seven calls you shouldn’t play 5 Q 5 unless you had a two-flush, every card you need is live, and you are against bad players. The problem is that your chances of poker winning are going down faster than the size of the pot is going up. (If you make two small pair it is very unlikely that it will be good enough to win.)

So the fact is that a hand like 5 Q5 should usually only be played heads-up. Many players think that you would rather play these hands multiway hoping to catch a perfect card, but that’s not really true. A large part of your profit comes from winning with two small pair. This contribution pretty much disappears once it becomes multiway.

What you must do at the beginning of any hand is to look at your three cards and decide if your hand has been helped or hurt by the cards that are out. You must also take into account how many players you are likely to be up against. For example, if you have


all you normally do is see how many other hearts are in the other players’ hands. However, if you have a medium high three-straight, all types of information can change your decision. You need to consider what the upcards are, whether your cards are dead, how many people you will be up against, whether their cards are dead, will hitting a pair figure to win, what will likely happen on the next round, and who will act first on the next round.

So while some hands don’t require much thinking, other hands do, since there are all kinds of information that can change your streategy. However, you should always be looking to play as many hands as you profitably can. If you can find six extra hands an hour to play and average winning $ 3 on each of them, that is $ 18 an hour additional profit. On the other hand if you play these marginal hands poorly, and it costs you $2 a hand, then you are looking at a $ 30 an hour swing from what an expert would do. It doesn’t do you any good to play them if you don’t play them right.

This is why some players do very well at stud, and why the best stud players can make a little more than the best hold’em players. In hold’em, only a few hands can change from being right to play being wrong to play based on the situation. Perhaps 10 percent of the hands are debatable, and whether or not you should play them depends on how many people are in the pot, and on how good the other poker players are. But in seven card stud, at least twice as many starting hands are susceptible to these changes because the upcards and number of players against you makes more of a difference.

Typical players, some of whom are even small winners, do not do a good job of adjusting the value of their hands to the particular situation. However, the great players, some of whom appear to play very loose, are well aware of these poker strategy concepts and are constantly adjusting the value of their hand (on all streets as well as on the first three cards) to make their playing decisions.