Playing in Loose Games

The Horse Race Concept

One key concept that should always be understood about loose stud games is the horse race paradox that was discussed in getting the best of It by David Sklansky. That is, if you have a horse that runs a good, steady time; or a poker had that is good, but cannot improve, you run into a mathematical paradox.

Fox instance, if this hand has a 60 percent chance of surviving against a drawing hand, that is the drawing hand has a 40 percent chance of beating you, it’s only a nice situation to be in when you are against only one such drawing hand. However, if you are up against two such drawing poker hands, though you are getting 2-to-1 odds, your chances have dropped down from 60 percent to 60 x 60 percent, which is 36 percent. All of a sudden you would barely have the best of it.

Against three drawing hands, each of which has a 40 percent chance of beating you, your chances of beating all three go down to 21.6 percent. Since you are getting only 3-to-1 odds, you actually have the worst of the four hands. (Remember, this assumes that your hand cannot improve to beat those hands when they do make what they are drawing for. If you in fact could “draw back” on them, it would totally change things.) Notice that this has some serious implications for multiway poker pots.

In a nutshell, the idea is that if your hand is only fairly good, without too much chance of improving to a very strong hand, the more players drawing against you, the worse it is for you. A streight on fifth street against many fulsh draws is one example. A more common example would be a high pair on third or fourth street against many players. What this means as far as your stretegy is concerned in seven card stud is this: If your hand is simple good, but not great, it is important to try to thin the field down to one or two opponents. This is fairly easy to do in a tougher game; however, it’s not so easy if the game is loose or wild.

When you are in such a game you must reverse stratagys. Tough games require early raises to thin the field, but early raises in loose games just cause you extra trouble with these mediocre hands. The better poker strategy is to put in as little money as possible early on with some of these questionable hands. The idea is that since you are often going to be folding on fourth or fifth street, why commit too much money to the pot?

There is the second reason as well. It is that keeping the pot small early on may allow you to thin the field out on the next round. This is because:
1. If you do not raise with some of your merely good hands on third street, it is more likely that someone will bet into you on fourth street , allowing you to raise and now cut down the field.

2. The fact that the pot has been kept small means that it is more likely that other players will fld since they have so little invested.

An example of this type of play would be if you have


and another queen is out. A deuce brings it in, a seven calls, and a nine calls. It is probably right to just call, and then be ready to raise or check-raise on fourth street if no one catches a threatening card. On the other hand, if people do catch threatening cards and you catch nothing, you should just throw your hand away right there. For instance, if the seven catches an ace and comes out betting, your hand should be folded. Even if the six catches a suited five, you should be ready to fold your hand if it doesn’t improve and the pot is small.

So the idea is to merely call on third street, and to play from that point on (if someone bets) only under one of three conditions:
1. You improve on fourth street.
2. Everybody catches non-threatening cards.
3. You have the opportunity to get the hand multiway heads-up.

If none of these conditions materialize, be very inclined to fold on fourth street, and certainly fold on fifth street If you still have not improved, or cannot get it heads-up. This concept should not be taken too far, however. Remember, the idea is that you play this way if your hand cannot easily improve to a very strong hand. If, for instance, you have


you should raise or raraise, even in a multiway pot as long as all the aces and fives, and most of the hearts, were live. There is just too good a chance that you’re going to make a hand that will be able to survive the onslaught of many players. The same would be true for a hand like:


Again, in this case, it is not necessary to keep the pot small so that you can get it heads-up later. You have a good chance of winning if everyone stays in.