Heads-Up on Holdem Fifth Street

In hold'em most of the pots, even though they may begin with many players, often end up as two-player contest by the time all the cards are out. Therefore, on the end, you occasionally should apply concepts that are completely different from those that were effective in earlier rounds of betting. Here, we will provide some basic guidelines as how to proceed. Let's first discuss the situations where you are last to act.

The common question which is asked by many players is when it is correct to bluff? The answer is that if your hand can't win by checking and the odds you are getting from the pot compared to the chance your rival will call are positive, then a bluff will be profitable.

This idea was discussed in an earlier section, so we will not go into much detail. But more of it depends on whether you have been the bettor or the caller. If you have been calling most of the time, only a miracle card that seems to help you but does not, such as a flush card on fifth street, may make a bluff correct. If, however, you have been betting most of the time, you might try a bluff on the end no matter what the last card is. Also, which is stressed much in the text, remember to consider whether your rival is capable to fold a decent hand.

A trivial mistake made by the inexperienced player is to bet when all the cards are out, only because they think they have the best hand. The problem with this play is that while you may have the best holdem hand most of the time, your bet may still be loser. That is, when you are called, your bet will lose most of the time - even though you expect to win a hand at the showdown. If your rival has already checked you should think you have the best hand at least 55 percent of the time that you are been called for your bet to be correct (51 percent is not good because of the potential that you will be check-raised)

For example you have

And you are against one rival. The flop comes queen high, with or without two suited cards. If two blanks hit and the action has not been pressurized then you should bet on the river. It is also possible that a lower hand might call you.

Again, suppose if everything is same as before except that the river card pairs the queen. If it is checked to you, a bet will be dangerous but however correct. But if the last queen makes three of the suit, two of which flopped, then a bet would be incorrect, even though you still have fair chance to win the pot. A bet in this case is incorrect not only because you are less likely to win, but also because you are less likely to be called by a poor hand.

If the board on fifth street is

Then you should generally bet. Even though you still may have the best hand, if you are called, it is unlikely that your hand is good than others. (If your rival bets, you should just call only if there is some chance for you to win the pot odds. This is a function of knowing your rival well and having lots of playing experience.)

Let's take an example when the call is almost always correct. Suppose you have high pair, you have been betting most of the time after your rival has checked to you on each round and the lowest card on board pairs on the river. Surprisingly, your rival bets. You should ask a question to yourself: "What would your rival have been calling with? Is low pair is a likely candidate? If it is possible that your rival has low pair, why doesn't he try to check-raise you on the end when this so called decent card hit? Notice that there is doubt in this case that when the size of the bet is compared to the size of the pot, a call is the correct play against all but the most observant rivals.

When you thinking to raise, you need to be approximately a 2-to-1 favorite to have the best hand on the end (except for bluff-raises) because of the possibility that you may be re-raised and the reason you might not get called unless you are beat. A raise would generally be correct when you think you will have the best hand 55 percent of the time that your raise is called.

The exception to the rule is if you think that your rival has the same hand as you and you believe that your raise will sometimes make him fold, then you should always raise. If he does have the same hand, this raise may make you win half of the pot. Even if he seldom beats you out of that extra bet, this raise can still be worth it as long as he sometimes folds when his hand is the same hand as yours.

When you are first to act, you should always remember what options you have in heads-up, last round situations. These options are:

1. To bet.
2. To check with the purpose of folding.
3. To check with the purpose of calling.
4. To check with the purpose of raising.

When you have a good hand whether to check-raise or come out betting depends on three possibilities. They are:

1. The possibility that you will be called if you bet, assuming that you will not be raised.
2. The possibility that the rival will bet if you check but will not call your raise.
3. The possibility that he will bet and then call your raise.

Check-raise becomes the correct strategy if the second possibility added to twice the third possibility exceeds the first possibility. This is one of those situations where the good judgment comes into the play, as you will not have the time to recognize the proper possibility calculations at the poker table.

We will discuss about some hints in order to help you to determine whether a check-raise is correct. First, observe the texture of the board. If the card on the river is likely to give someone a second-best hand that he might think is the best hand, then in that case you should check. A simple example is when an ace hits on the end after you have flopped a set, and from the way the hand has been played, you believe that your rival called on both the flop and the turn with two over cards.

Second hint would be to consider your rival. Is he a kind of player who would always try to pick up the pot if you check but would not call with a weak hand in case you bet?

Third, consider whether your rival fear of being check-raised. If he is, then your big mistake would be checking to him. Many players have this same perception, especially if even an un-scary card hits on board.

And finally, consider your previous play in the game. If you have done some check-raising then be ready to bet out. However, if you have not been check-raising, then now you can try for it. Keep in mind that in hold'em it is crucial to mix up your play somewhat little so as to throw your rivals out. But as said earlier, do not mix up your play too much. You should do it rarely to achieve the best result.

For a check-raise bluff, it will normally work against few rivals in few situations. Even against good players, it is better to bet rather than trying for a check-raise bluff. The best time to consider the play is when you have checked an average hand expecting to win at the showdown. If now your rival bets out with a hand that you think is only better than yours then a check-raise bluff may be profitable play.
For example you begin with

And the flop comes

Notice that your holding is now average, as the flop contains an ace. You bet on the flop and the turn and are called by a playing rival, which makes you think he has an ace but fear of his kicker. You also think that if you bet on the river, your rival will with his ace. Hence you should not go for betting. But if your rival bets, he might be doubt to a check-raise bluff. So it doesn't mean that you should go ahead and raise but it is one of those times you should consider doing so.

When is it the best strategy to check and call? The best strategy is when your rival will bet with any of the hands that he will call with, plus with some hands that are worse (especially bluffs).

The example would be against an aggressive rival who has been just calling after two suited appeared on the flop and you are betting high pair on the flop and fourth street. This rival may have either middle pair or a flush draw. (Your rival might not have raised with the flush draw because he think that you will re-raise if you did have a legitimate hand.) If your rival is on a flush draw and then a flush card does not come he might to try to bluff if you check. Further, an aggressive player will bet with a middle pair for value. Here in this situation, a check would often be correct no matter what the last card is.

A check will also reduce the possibility of a raise. This is profitable when your rival has middle pair and last card, which seems to be a blank, may have given him two pair. When this is the case, he will raise frequently if you bet, particularly the board is not too scary.

On the contrary, against a rival who will call your bet more frequently than he will bet himself; you should bet. This is correct even if you are an underdog when he calls as long as you were going to call his bet or when folding would be close decision if you check and he bets. In the last example, you would bet if, instead of an aggressive rival, you are up against someone who was timid and would not bet middle pair but would call with this hand. In this situation, it may seem as though the 55 percent rule has been opposed but that rule applies only when you are second to act and your rival has already checked.
For example, you hold

And when all the cards are out, the board looks like

Notice that when you bet, you can lose to a ten with a better kicker, a flush, or even a full house. However, when you bet there would some timid players to call with a queen or an over pair, which they probably would have bet. (A bad player can call with his poor hands.) Hence it is better to bet here, even if you think you are a little underdog if you are called, rather than to check and call as even a big underdog.

Eventually, you should check and fold when you are an underdog, think a bluff would not be profitable and do not think the possibility that your rival is bluffing warrants a call. Such situation arises every time. A simple example is when you have middle pair and have not improved. You should fold against a rival who rarely bluffs and would not bet with less than high pair.

Strategic Concepts

Addendum

Most of the ideas have been discussed along with a reasonable amount of playing experience against fair competition, you should be well on your way to becoming a great hold'em player. But also remember that to be successful in hold'em poker game, you have to maintain lot of discipline. This is much difficult to hold specifically in Texas hold'em.

Be cautious that the knowledge you have gained can be your breakdown. Frequently players adopt complicated plays at the wrong times and it also appears that some players try for complicated strategies and play too many hands, just to show off their rival. This is clearly true in hold'em as your chance of drawing out on your rival are not as great as they are in many forms poker game. Never allow yourself to go into this trap.

Keep in mind that no matter how well you play, you might have losing games. However, if you start playing poorly, either by losing your discipline or by trying for complicated plays when it is wrong in doing so, you might lose a lot more.

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