Last Position Play

Last Position Play after Your Rival Has Checked

Your rival will either check or bet when you are in last position. When your rival checks, what would you do first? Some of them will reply that you should bet if you think you have the best hand. However, it is not the case. Your chance of having the best hand may be high than 90 percent or better, but you should not bet. In a seven card stud, we have taken the following hand:



Your chances of having the best hand are large with four jacks, but either in first or last position you cannot just bet the hand on the end for an easy reason that your bet has no positive expectation. As your four jacks have been exposed, your rival will fold each hand he can have except four queens or a straight flush in hearts. With any of those hands, he will raise. That means you gain nothing with your bet but lose everything.

This situation represents the distinction between play in the final betting rounds and in earlier betting rounds. Just one card to come, you will surely bet the four jacks to prevent giving your rival a free card to outdraw you. Your bet will force him either to fold and therefore give up any chance to outdraw you or to call and pay for that light chance. But, when all the cards are out, betting to prevent giving a free card no longer applies. Thus, if you decide to bet your hand, you will not ask what your chances are of having the best hand but rather ask what your chances are of winning the last bet when you are called.

This difference would be like quibbling but it is assuredly not so. Truly saying, it is vital for successful play - that is, to win or save extra bets when you are heads-up on the end. Generally, taking the common situation any poker game you have three-of-a-kind and you guess your rival is drawing to a flush but has nothing. The odds against that rival's making the flush on the last card are suppose 4-to-1 which means you're an 80 percent favorite to have the best hand. But, if your rival checks, you must certainly not bet because, as in the case of the four revealed jacks, a bet has no positive expectation. Your rival will fold if he hasn't made the flush and he will possibly raise if he did. So even if you are an 80 percent favorite to have the best hand, you then become an underdog if you bet and get called. For a repetition the decision to bet a legitimate hand for value on the end should rely on your chances of winning the last bet when you are called and not on your chances of having the best hand.

When you bet for amount on the end after your rival has checked, you must know your hand has 50-50 chance of winning when you are called. Naturally, a good poker players should be aware it has at least about a 55 percent chance of winning to reimburse for those times when your rival plans to check-raise. Having three-of-a-kind against a flush draw, you are definitely the favorite, but you are not the favorite if your rival calls. Though, to earn a profit on your last rounds of bet, precisely you must be the favorite even when your rival calls.

However, you should not follow this rule to such an extreme that you bet only when you have a lock because then you will not win more of final bets you should win. If you bet on the end after your rival has checked, it is important, while playing poker, that you are the favorite when your rival calls. Therefore, if you figure you are only a 60 percent favorite when called, you should surely bet even though you think there is 40 percent chance your rival will beat you if he calls. Your bet has a positive expectation. After ten bets, you will win six bets and lose four bets for a net profit of two bets. Even if any of four losses is a check-raise which you call, you still win six bets while losing five for a one-bet profit.

Let's take an example of such close decisions, suppose you are playing a draw poker game and your rival stands a pat and then checks to you when you draw one. As your rival stood pat, it is certain you are facing a straight, a flush or a full house. Yet your rival checked to you. You are sure he will call with any of his hands. So you should bet an ace-high straight or even a queen-high straight, because the rival will come out betting himself with a small flush or better. Chances are, then, he has a straight smaller than yours. In fact, you may lose in the showdown, but you are enough of a favorite with a queen-high straight to warrant a bet.

Last Position Play after Your Rival Has Bet

Let's take your chances in the last position when your rival does not give you a free call but comes out betting. When he bets, you can fold, call, or raise.

It is clearly straightforward to decide whether to fold or call. The question would be: Are your chances of winning the pot better than the odds you are getting from the pot, either because your hand is better hand your rival's or because the rival is bluffing? If you figure your chances are better, you call. If not better, you fold.

If you think of a raise after your rival bets, you should ask the same question you had asked before betting when your rival had checked: What are the chances of winning that extra bet when you are called? You should not raise without knowing you are at least a 55 percent favorite, as there is a possibility of a re-raise. In fact, one way to look at raising a rival on the end without the nuts is that you lay about 2-to-1 odds on that last bet, mainly when the rival is competent of bluffing on a re-raise. When you raise and your rival raises back you generally lose two bets, but if he calls, you just gain one bet. Obviously, this rule does not apply against a player who will never bluff on a re-raise. If such a player raises you back, you can simply throw your hand away knowing you are beat.

Before a raise on the end, you should even judge the capability of your rival. If he places an initial bet, an average player will call your raise every time. Thus, you should not try a bluff raise. Therefore, you can raise with any hand you consider a favorite to win the last bet because you are certain of getting paid off. On the other hand, rigid players will often come out betting, but they are competent of folding and not paying you off if you raise. Thus, a bluff raise has some chances against them. However, if you are raising for amount against rigid players, you should have a better hand than you require against average players because when they are anxious to call your raise and thus pay you off, they will possibly show down a strong hand. With a close decisions you should not raise rigid players on the end as often as you would weak or average players because you do not win that extra bet often to make a profitable play. Rigid players either throw away a hand you would beat or call with a hand you might not be able to beat.

Paradoxically, yet, a raise may sometimes be correct against an expert player when you have a hand which is reasonably better. The essential factor is whether a raise will make your rival throw away some hands which are better than yours. Suppose you have a hand that gives a 55 percent of winning if you call, but less chance of winning if you raise and get called. However, it would be correct to raise if you think your rival will then throw away some hands that beat you. If your estimation is correct, a raise may move from a 52 percent favorite to 65-70 percent favorite and if there is a big pot it will add to 13-18 percent giving you raise a positive expectation. Recall, this play is worth considering only against experts. Against average and good players and also against experts many times the general poker tricks for raising on the end tends to be the same: Raise only if you are favored to win that extra bet when your rival calls.

To review the play in the last position after your rival has bet, you have three options - fold, call, or raise. You should usually fold when the chances of winning are less than the pot odds that you get. Therefore, if your hand has only a 15 percent chance of winning and when the pot is $80, you cannot call a $20 bet. Nevertheless, your chance of winning should not be more than 50 percent to justify a call. The important thing is that the pot odds you are getting are better than your chances of winning in the showdown. Thus, if you think you have a 30 percent chance and when the pot is $80, it will be correct to call a $20 bet because the pot odds that you are getting are better than the odds against your showing down the best hand. When you decide whether to call or not with your underdog hand, you have not reduced the option of raising. Against an expert player, you may even consider raising with some average hands if a raise has large expectation than a fold or a call - which means, it will make your rival give away enough hands that would be better than yours. If you are last and then your rival bets, you have three options - fold, call or raise. For a good play, the one which is right is the one that gives you the highest mathematical expectation.