Third Street

Playing Three Straights

The next class of starting hands we will examine are the three-straights. Obviously, they are not usually as good as the three-flushes. However, three-straights in the right spots can be profitable poker hands.

When deciding whether to play a three-straight, you must consider the following eight factors:
1. How high your cards are.
2. How live your stright cards are.

3. How live your pair cards are.
4. Whether you have a two-flush.
5. The other cards on board.
6. Who is already playing.
7. How much it is to you, that is, whether you can play for the bring-in, one bet, or two bets.
8. The ability of your opponents.

Needless to say, the more favorable these factors are, the more you should be inclined to play. In fact, if the factors are extremely favorable, you may even want to raise.

Sometimes with a three-card straight it is worth calling one full bet, but not two full bets, cold.

Here’s an example. Suppose you have:


One seven and one queen are out, but no jacks or sixes are gone. Now the queen raises and an aces calls. Go ahead and call for a full bet. However, if the ace had reraised, you should throw the hand away.

By the way, this hand is not as good as it appears. This is because it looks as though two queens are out. So if you catch a jack, you now have just five straight cards left. This is one of the reasons why this hand should not be played in this situation for two bets.

Occasionally, however, a three-straight can be played for two cold bets. This occurs when the conditions outlined are favorable and particularly if you have high playing cards (overcards to your opponent’s probable pairs) and/or a two-flush.

Keep in mind that when you have close decisions with hands like straight draws you should always consider how well your occonents play. For example, if your opponents is the type of player who gets “married” to a high pair, you know that if you make your hand you will get paid off all the way, even if it is obvious that you have made a straight. So this is a small extra enticement to call, as long as you don’t go overboard.

Now suppose you have a small, three-card “gut-shot” straight, such as:


When is it correct to play this hand? The main thing to consider is how live your cards are (especially the eight in this case). Also, be more inclined to play if everybody else has small cards and you have an ovrcard. However, even with this being said, these hands usually are not playable. (For exceptions see the section on “Playing Weak Hands” on page 66.) And three-straights with two gaps generally should not be played at all.

The problem with gaps is that unless your cards are high, you must catch that specific “gut”card. And don’t forget that you may make your straight and still lose.

Here’s an example. Suppose you have:


You must catch an eight. But if you are holding


there s no specific card that you must catch to become part of your straight.

If your gut shot is bigger, such as


you should be somewhat more inclined to play, since your straight, and more importantly your pairs, will probably be bigger.

If you have a consecutive three-straight but three of your straight cards are dead, you definitely should not play unless you have a good chance to steal the antes. If two of your straight cards are dead, you probably should not play, especially if other considerations (such as how high your cards are) appear unfavorable.

But there is still more to consider. Let’s assume that a card you need is shown by someone who has stayed in on third street. This means it is likely that he has additional cards you need. For example, if an opponent has a ten up, he may have another ten or other cards-such as nine or a jack- that you may need.

If an opponent just calls bring-in, you have at least two cards higher than his upcard, and there is no more than one higher card behind you, then it is okay to raise with your three-straight.

If there are two or more high cards behind you, play it cautiously. That is, don’t raise. In addition, it is rarely correct to reriase with a three-straight. (One exception is covered in the chapter on “Playing Big Cards Against a Medium Pair” on page 113.) Another time to reraise occurs when you think the original raiser may be semi-bluffing.

Three-straights made up of the small cards are not very good hands. They generally should only be played when you can get in cheaply and when your hand is live, or when you have a chance to steal the entas. One of their problems is that by the time you have the multiway action that you think you like, you can make your hand and lose to a higher straght or flussh. Play them with caution.

Keep in mind that with an open end three-card-straight the cards directly next to them (i.e. six and ten when you have nine-eight-seven) are more important than the other two straight cards (i.e. five and jack), as they are more likely to be needed.