Texas Holdem Free Card

When you bet or raise on an early round so as to get checked to on the next round, you are actually getting a free card in texas holdem poker . In fact, you are getting a free card cheaply. If it goes well, it looks like as though you are getting a free card but that "free" card cost you a bet on the last round. If it does not goes well, the free card you are trying to get may become fairly costlier. (Your rival might re-raise and bet into you on the fourth street.) However there are certain situations where trying for cheap free card is profitable.

As getting a free card is advantageous when your hand is weak, it is clear that when you have a legitimate hand, and it is your disadvantage to give any free cards. Particularly, you can bet most of your legitimate hand to give your rival a chance to drop. This includes holdings like four-flushes or open-ended straight draws with two flush cards. You should be inclined to bet open-ended straight draws with two flush cards on board as long as there are two cards to come, unless you feel that there is fair chance that you will be raised. It is especially true that you can make your straight and run into a flush. But keep in mind that it is a hand that has only five cards that will improve it. Even if the flush draw is out, you still have six cards that will make your straight draw a winning hand and most of the time that winning hand will be the "nuts." (Of course six outs against a rival's flush draw is as good as five outs against a non-flush draw since you can catch that suit and might lose further.)

You should bet a high pair or an over pair on the flop, as long as you think your hand is the best holdem hand. The exceptions are when there is lot of raising before the flop (indicating that you may not have the best hand) and those times when you have decided to check-raise. (More of the discussion is given later in this site.)

Particularly, oppose to your inclination to check to the before-the-flop-raiser. Checking and calling is rarely a correct approach in hold'em, yet this is clearly the way that many weak rivals will play.

There are three situations where checking and calling would be correct. First it occurs when you are slow playing. The second situations comes when you are sure that your rival has a better hand and will not fold if you bet, but the pot odds justify your calling in the expectation that you have the best hand or you may outdraw your rival. The third situation comes when you are against a habitual bluffer. Now, even though you risk giving a free card, checking and calling is likely the best holdem strategy to follow.

Another concept is that even when you are a big favorite and want callers but you think everyone will fold if you bet, giving a free card still may be incorrect. In this situations, the next card might be a miracle card for someone else, but not likely to make anyone a second-best hand. A good example can be seen when you flop a small flush. A check would give someone else a higher flush and that player would not have called your bet. For example, you hold

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And three spades flop. If you bet someone with the 89T or J most likely will throw his hand away. If you check and a fourth spade comes, you may have cost yourself the pot.

These examples explain the fundamental principle of free cards. That is, if you check and allow someone who would not have called your bet to outdraw you, then you have allowed a "mathematical disaster" to happen. It is a disaster to give a free card to someone who would have called your bet and he fails to outdraw. This second mathematical disaster is as bad as the first one. It can also be profitable to give this free card if it makes someone misplay their hand.

There are other four general situations where it is correct to check on the flop. The first is when you are sure that you do not have the best hand and mainly sure that you will be called if you bet. This occurs when you have several rivals and the board flops either three cards that rank close to each other or two suited cards.
For example you are against several rivals and you hold

And the flop comes

It is normally incorrect to bet. There is little chance that everyone will fold and you have almost no chance of improving to the best hand.

The second situation where it is normally correct to check is when you think it is likely that someone behind you will bet. This occurs when you are in a two or three-handed pot and were raised by an aggressive rival before the flop. Some of these players automatically will bet on the flop when you check to them regardless of what cards have come.

When this is the case and you have flopped a strong hand almost always go for a check-raise and then again bet on the fourth street even when you have nothing.

The third situation is with a hand that should be slow-played. But we want to add that one of the deciding factors as to whether to slow-play is not just the strength of your hand but also the chance that the next card will make someone else a second best hand.

When you have flopped high pair either aces or kings, and you have a weak kicker it might be correct to check and call. Remember that if you do not have the best hand, you save money by not having the call any raise. Also remember (as it is important) that few free cards can hurt you. Particularly, when you have aces and, to the little, kings, you are not tensed about over cards beating you.

But suppose you have flopped high pair not aces or kings and you have weak kicker. (This generally happens when you get a "free" play in the big blind.) How will you play this hand?

The answer is somewhat difficult. Against a small number of rivals, you should bet so you are not giving a free card that could easily beat you. Against large number of rivals, you should check and fold especially if it is bet in early position and you have players behind you yet to act. This is because with many players to act, it is improbable that the bettor would bet a hand that you could beat. (The pot is said to be "protected.") Few players will bluff in this situation. Though your rival may be betting a draw, the combinations of factors should avoid you from calling, unless the pot is giving very good odds.

But if the bet comes from a late-position player after you have checked to a large number of rivals, you should raise. Even though you do not always hold the best hand, you should raise, there is a good chance that you do, and by getting the pot heads-up, you will maximize your chance of winning.
For example, suppose the flop is

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No one raised before the flop, many players are in the pot and you are in the blind with a queen and a weak kicker. You should check and if a late-position player bets, you should raise (irrespective of your kicker). You are trying to limit the competition to a small bet after all or most of the players checked there is a good chance that you have the best hand.

You should be aware anyway if you have high pair (with a weak kicker) that is below queens. This is true against aggressive players for some reason that normally is considered only by the poker experts.

The belief is that it is more likely for someone else to have high pair in an un-raised pot when the high card is a jack or lower. This is because good players are more likely either to raise or fold when they have ace, king, or queen in their hands (based on their other card) and less likely to just call. Hence, when no one raises before the flop, a flop like

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is not probable to make a pair of kings for someone else. So if you played

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in the blind, you should like your hand. But if you hold

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and the flop comes

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you should fear the possibility of a ten - un-raised pot or not - as most players will just call with a hand like:

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or

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Here unless you have a good kicker or the pot is big, or you have a back door flush draw, you should generally fold high pair when that high pair is jacks or lower. (If you do play, you should raise.)

An important concept that we have already emphasized is that you should avoid checking good hands to the before-the-flop raiser in most situations. But many players do check. So if you are the before-the-flop raiser in a multi-way pot, your hand is weak, and everyone checks to you, you should almost always take a free card rather than bet to someone else's hand. But in the same situations in a short-handed pot, you should bet because there is a good chance that you can win the pot right there.

This concept can be explained from the following example. Suppose you have

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And the flop is

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And everyone checks to you. If the pot is being played short-handed, you should bet. The good reason for this is that you don't want to give a free card to someone holding a hand like:

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This bet may also give you a free card on the next round. Betting or raising in late position with a hand that does not seem to justify it is sometimes correct if you think this may affect your rival to allow a card to drop off at no further charge. Though remember that if you take the free card, some rivals automatically will bet on the river, no matter what they have or what the last card is. Against such kind of players, it is necessary to call with as little as ace high after you have shown weakness by checking on fourth street.

In the above example, if you hold AK and you don't bet the flop after it is checked to you be inclined to bet the turn not only if an ace or king hits, but also as a bluff if a queen or perhaps a jack hits. If the small card hits and it is checked to you don't bet in a loose holdem game as it will not be possible that you can pick up the pot. However, in a tight holdem game, this bet may be correct. This play would have been much stronger if you hold a hand like QJ (as they are afraid of AK). You will have six legitimate cards to bet - your pair cards and eight cards to bluff with.

It is often correct to raise in the late position on the flop with a four-flush. If the game is not tough - that is, you are not afraid of a re-raise and your raise will force your rivals to check to you on the next round - you should raise more than 50 percent of the time. However, you want players with such kind of flop. Moreover, if there is a bet and several players remain to act behind you, it is better to call. (You should consider raising if the pot is big enough especially if you have over cards.)

Even if you don't get a free card with your flush draw, as the poker odds against making your hand are about 2-to-1, your raise would be correct if you are sure that at least three players will call. But not when a pair is flopped. In that case, you can make your flush and still lose the pot, so you should usually just call. (Refer "Part Three: Miscellaneous Topics - "Staying With a Draw.")

Remember that any time you are in a late position on the flop and have a hand that is worth a call, you should really raise. Sometimes it is worth raising when you are fully sure that the bettor has you beat.
For example five players have put in three bets each before the flop. You are in a late position with

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And are confident that no one has aces or kings as you put in the last raise. The flop is:

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If the player to your immediate right bets after everyone else has checked, you should raise, even if you are sure that he has two tens. As the pot is very big it is important to maximize your chance of winning it, even if often cost yourself a few more bets. In the above example, your raise on the flop has increased the chance from about 15 percent (had you just called) to about 25 percent. By knocking the players out, you have made it possible that you will win if a queen or a jack comes. Though this play may cost you more money, it is well worth it. Furthermore, it may save you money if your raise has frightened the bettor into just calling and then checking on fourth street. As far as your back-door flush and straight chances are concerned, you would win with these hands, even if you let everybody in. However, the extra back-door chances are what made it wrong to fold initially, and as just shown, if you don't fold, it is better to raise.

There is one example of how back-door potential can improve your poker hand and make a raise correct. For example, you hold

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And the flop comes

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Notice that the flop includes an ace and one of your suit. If someone else bets, you should raise. Now bet on the turn with the purpose of just showing down on the river if you do not improve. If you get check-raised of fourth street, you should fold generally, unless you helped or picked up a flush draw. You don't have enough chance to draw out against legitimate hand to make it worth calling the check-raise. But if your rival may be bluffing or semi-bluffing, you have to make him truthful. Had you not flopped a three-flush with your pair of aces, a raise on the flop is less likely to be correct. In reality, without the back-boor flush potential, it may be correct to fold.

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