Third Street

The Number of Players in the Pot

The second concept that most people do not properly take into account is realizing how certain hands chance value depending on the number of players in the pot. Very few stud players fully understand this poker strategy concept.

In hold’em the value of a hand is less dependent upon the number of players in the pot. Furthermore, there aren’t any upcards to take into this account. Thus, hand values remain much more stable. This is why you can produce approximate hand rankings for hold’em, but you can’t for stud.

If you have a hand that prefers a small number of players rather than a lot of players, and you get a chance to knock people out, you should, of course, do it. However, if this is not possible, proper strategy now may be to play your hand much differently than if you were able to limit the field.

A hand that plays best by knocking people out doesn’t have to be especially good or especially bad. It just has to have a particular characteristic to it. That is, it needs to do better short-handed than multiway.

For instance, suppose you have a hand that, when played heads-up will increase your chances of winning from 20 percent to 40 percent. Then you should make an effort to achieve this status. But the same would be true if getting heads-up would increase your chances of winning from 60 percent to 80 percent. Notice that we are talking about hands that may be totally different in relation to how good they are. Nonetheless, they both prefer to be heads-up, as they each will have a higher expectation if you can achieve this.

This is a important poker concept that many inexperienced stud players have difficulty with. It seems counter intuitive to put extra money in with a hand that clearly is not the best hand. Yet in those situations, where achieving a heads-up or short-handed pot is desirable, that additional bet needs to go in.

In many cases if you have a good hand that has much higher expectation heads-up and you can’t get heads-up, you should how change your strategey. This usually means to call instead of raise because the hand will have lost much of its value. It can occur that you have a weak hand that you would rather play heads-up and if you can’t achieve this, you should actually now fold.

This last idea is very important. To be a successful stud player you must understand that there are many hands that you will be dealt which are only playable as long as you are heads-up (or at least in a short-handed situation). When this cannot be achieved, these hands should be quickly discarded.

A simple example is a small pair with a pretty good kicker. Heads-up against a larger pair, which is smaller than your kicker, this hand is profitable. For example, you would want to play.


heads-up against a probable pair of jacks. The reason for this is that you will frequently win when you improve to two pair. However, against many opponents two pair doesn’t do very well.

In addition, there are some hands which don’t appear to be good heads-up, but actually should be played that way, or at least they should be played in a way that thins down the field. This is true partially because it is better mathematically, and partially because it may help you get a free card.

For instance, if you have the low card, three or four people limp, a high card raises, and you have an ace high three-flush, reraise almost every time especially if your cards are live. We will see shortly that three-flushes normally prefer multiway pots. However, a live ace can make a difference. If you have two ovrcards over the raiser you should always raraise.

So why not call and just let everyone in? First of all, it’s always possible that everyone may call anyway, which is okay. Second, it is very unlikely that you will get reraised on third poker street. For example, suppose you bring it in and your hand is:


Now a seven calls, a five calls, a four calls, a jack raises, and you reraise. Whether everyone folds or not, the jack is not going to raise again with just a pair of jacks.

Furthermore, on the next card the jack will assume that you have a big pair in the hold and will almost always check to you. You should usually bet no matter what you catch. On fifth street, assuming that you are still low, he will again. (If you make a small open pair he might foold thinking that you have made two pair higher than jacks up.)

Notice that playing the hand this way will probably save you money in case you miss, and it increases the chance of winning if you catch an ace or make an open pair. This is an example of a hand that you should try to get heads-up with, even though it might at first appear to be a multiway hand.

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