A major point to consider when playing shorthanded (four or fewer total players) is that pairs go up in value while drawing hands go down.  That’s because in a shorthanded game you almost always will have fewer opponents in each pot than in a full game, so you probably won’t be getting the proper odds to draw to straights or flushes.

Your knowledgeable opponents will adjust their play more heavily in favor of pairs, just as you should.  Don’t expect them to be playing drawing hands.  The less astute players won’t take the shot handedness of the game into consideration and will play the same way they do in a full game.  Here again, knowledge of your oppon ents is helpful in determining how you play.

Poker authorities disagree as to whether you should ante steal more often in shorthanded games.

Those who say “more” believe that the much quicker pace of the game will eat up antes at a faster rate.  Those who say “less” point out that there is less money to steal because there are fewer antes.  You are therefore risking the same size of raise as when the game is full, but for a smaller return.

Under either of these conditions, I want my ante-steal to have a high probability of success.  So how often I attempt to steal depends on my opponents-specifically their poker knowledge and their aggressiveness. Knowledgeable players realize that most opponents will do more ante stealing in a shorthanded game, and so give less credence to a third-street raise as indicating strength.

They are more likely to call or even play back at you (reraise). Aggressive players become even more aggressive and will almost certainly play back at you. I have observed that the dynamic and the psychology of the game changes when shorthanded.  I’m not certain why, but my best guess says that it’s because shorthanded games almost always have few or no tight/ conservative players in them.

And what does that leave except loose and aggressive players? The tights players usually will pick up their chips and leave when they see the game about to become shorthanded. They realize that the game is about to become much faster and much more aggressive. They don’t like having to ante at a much faster rate, and they don’t like calling all those third street raises that are about to come.  So they go.  If you stay, be ready for a much faster and more aggressive game.


Third street is so important that I’ve devised a special review for it.  I want to be sure that you have the specifics, and the concepts, down cold.  So let’s take a moment during our poker course to look back at what we’ve learned so far about seven-card stud strategy on third street.

That way I can make sure you’re getting all of this.  Because if you don’t get it, I’ve wasted my time, and I hate to waste time. If you hate tests, take this one anyway.  Cheating is not only allowed, but recommended, because I want you to get this any way you can.

Here’s what will be happening for the next few pages.  You’ll see the chart representing a poker table.  The numbers inside the line of the chart, circled, and the seat numbers, which always start to the left of the dealer and go clockwise around the table, just as in actual play.

So the player in the number two seat is at the end of the table to the dealer’s left.  The player in the number seven seat is at the opposite end of the table from the number two seat.  And so forth around the table.  This is how table seats are referred to in every public poker game in the country.

You’ll notice that next to the circled seat numbers at the table, I have put a card.  This is the third street upcard (the doorcard) for each player.  I’ll put you into several of the seats, one at a time of course, and tell you the cards you have face down to go with the upcard at that seat.  Then come the questions.  Ready?  Let’s do it.

You are in Seat 2.  In the hole you have a jack and a seven. The suits are not important for this question, just that you have a pair of split jacks.  The 2 in Seat 8 opens. The 4 in Seat 1 folds.  You’re next.  What to do, what to do.

Yes, a pair of jacks at third street is a raising hand. But wait! Look to your left.  There you see an ace, a king, and a queen in the other players’ upcards.  Too many overcards are yet to act after you.  Too much possibility of a reraise that you  couldn’t call.  Just limp in.  If those overcards all fold, you’ll say, “Hey, I could’ve raised!”

Yes, but the same thing was accomplished anyway, without your risking an additional bet. Be happy. Remember what we talked about earlier if there is only one overcard to act after  you, put in the raise.  Two or more, limp in.

If one of those overcards does raise after you are in the pot, you don’t have a call when the action gets back to you.  You would if your jacks were hidden, but not when they are split.  (Remember the surprise value of hidden poker pairs.)

If you had raised with your jacks and had been reraised by an overcard, you would have no call there either.  Some players will continue to play because they have already invested in the pot.  Forget that nonsense.  Once your chips are in the pot, you have no claim on them unless you win that pot advanced stud poker

And there’s a fat chance of that happening if you’re going to run uphill chasing an overpair. And besides, your hand is transparent.  Your reraising opponent will have little trouble putting you on a pair of jacks, knowing that he has you beat, and will make you pay dearly to try to beat him by betting heavily at every opportunity. Okay, let’s move on.

You are in Seat 8.  In the hole you have another deuce (your other card doesn’t matter). You have a split pair of deuces.  After you toss in your forced-bet money, the A in Seat 3 raises.  You know from long hours of playing against him that his raise definitely means he has a pair of aces.  Do you call?  Mercy, no! Your hand not only is not hidden, it also is as far from its opponent as it can be in terms of strength.

Now try Seat 4.  In the hole you have another king (your other card doesn’t matter).  You have a split pair of kings. Again the A raises and again you know that he as a pair of aces. Do you call? Get serious! Certainly not.  But in a survey I took a few years ago, many players thought that they should call.

First I asked over 200 medium and lower-limit poker players if they would play that same pair of deuces against a known pair of aces, sixty percent said they would.  When I asked why they would play the kings were much stronger than the deuces.

They soon saw the foolishness in it when I pointed out that although the kings were stronger than the deuces, it didn’t matter because kings will always lose to aces. Are you getting the idea that you don’t want to take any pair against a larger pair?  Good.

But don’t forget the exceptions to this rule: When your pair is hidden, or when your sidecard is higher than your opponent’s pair.  Having both factors working for you would be even better. For example, suppose you’re still in Seat 4 but now your kings are hidden.  The known pair of aces in Seat 3 again raises.

Now you have a call because of the surprise value when you make three kings at fourth poker street.  Your opponent with the aces won’t know you have three kings and you’ll get plenty of action.  If you don’t make trip kings on fourth street, you haven’t invested much. Get out.

When you do make three kings at fourth street (and the player with the aces has not caught another ace), just call when he bets unless you perceive that players behind you are drawing to flushes or straights.  You want them out.  Raise-make them pay a double bet if they want to draw.

When seat 3 with the unimproved aces bets on fifth street, raise.  Get more money in the pot or drive him out.  Either way is okay.  But if you’ve seen another or both of his aces fall on the board, reducing or eliminating his chances of making three aces, just call.  Give him the chance to make two pair and bet at sixth poker street.  Again, just call.  Then raise him on seventh poker street, or bet if he checks.

Now let’s put you in Seat 1.  You have 8 9 in the hole.  Do you play the hand?  Why or why not? If you’ve been paying attention, you won’t play this hand.  First, it’s a small (non-quality) flush draw in extremely early position.

There is too much possibility of a raise from one of those big cards yet to act-a raise you cannot call because you have no overcards. Second, count the clubs showing in the other players upcards: three clubs.  One too many to try for a flush draw with a non-quality start. 

Again you are in Seat 1.  You have 4 4 in the hole.  The low card opens.  You’re next.  What do you do? I hope you said “Raise,” because that’s what you do to protect this hand of very  small trips.  Don’t let those players with small but higher pairs than yours come in to make a larger set of trips. If you get a reraise from one of those big cards yet to act after you do, what then? Raise again.

You’ll get it heads up with the raiser while you are holding the best hand, plus you have driven out the straight and flush draws. If the reraise comes from the Q in Seat 6, you won’t necessarily have tipped the true strength of your hand. There are two pairs higher than his queen with which you could be reraising, as well as with trips fours.

You are in Seat 8.  Let’s give you another set of trips, but with a different question.  You have 2 2 in the hole.  How do you play?  You play the same as with the three fours from the example above-you raise.  Yes, you can raise yourself in this situation.  If you are the forced low, you can open for the regular low-card bet, or for the amount of a raised bet.

You are not denied the opportunity to protect a hand just because you are the low card. Let’s keep you in Seat 8 for a moment and give you a pair of aces in the hole.  How do you play? This is the same question you just answered, but with two aces instead of trip deuces.  Same answer.

When you have any big pair face down while you are also the forced low, bring in the hand with a  protection raise-assuming that there is no more than one overcard yet to act after you.  If there are two or more overcards yet to act, just limp in Low to Medium Poker

If you are raised by an overcard, you can still call the raise and take off a card, trying to trip up on fourth-street.  Even though your 2 is a worthless kicker,you have the advantage of hidden strength.  If you don’t make trips on fourth street, get out.

Seat 3.  Hop over there to the three seat and I’ll give you a pair of aces in the hole.  Wow, trip aces!  After your heart settles a bit, it’s your turn to act.  The low card in Seat 8 opens.  Seat 1 folds and Seat 2 calls with his J.  What do you do in Seat 3? You just call. Trip aces down through trip 10s, you’ll recall (I hope), should be slow-played at these limits.  Trips nines down through trip deuces, however, should be protected with a raise.

Seat 6.  Now move to the six seat.  You’ll find Q Q in the pocket.  The A in Seat 3 has raised.  My, oh my, what do you do now?  You reraise, of course! Your reraise announces the strength of your hand (what else could you possibly be raising with?), but that’s okay because it will knock all of the drawing hands out of the pot.

But your reraise will get a call from the aces.  A call from the aces?  Yes.  Kings too, maybe.  Jacks, certainly not. Recreational players at these limits get married to a pair of aces.  Those wonderful bullets seem to inspire their holders to believe that another beautiful ace is just waiting to fall into their hands.  dreamers.  Gotta love ‘em.  Gotta.  Without dreamers there would be no poker.

Seat 3.  you’re probably tired of moving all over this table, but do it once more.  put your bottom on the three seat.  You have Q 7 in the hole.  The J in Seat 2 has raised.  Your reaction?  You can call his raise because you have two overcards (your ace and queen) to his likely raising pair, plus three to a quality flush with only one of your suit showing on the board.

You also have one overcard to the king and the queen behind you, in case they enter the pot.  You won’t get rich playing this hand, but it will show you a long-range profit if you play it conservatively. That’s enough review of third street. I know you’re eager to move on to fourth street strategy.  Let’s move.

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