Playing Three Straights:Third Street
Quality and Non-Quality
Playing three-straights are much the same as playing three-flushes: big cards, overcards, live cards, your upcard and your position.
Three combinations of straight cards are recommended to play as starting hands – 8-9-T, 9-T-J and T-J-Q. And the 8-9-T is marginal. With that starting hand, there is only one possibility of pairing a premium card, the ten, and that's the bottom end of the premium-pairs range. The 9-T-J combination gives you two premium cards to pair and the T-J-Q gives you three. And that makes it much more powerful than the 8-9-T start. Therefore any combinations below that are non-quality.
However, what about the rule which says that the smallest straight start should include an eight, so that a 6-7-8 is a playable start? It is just the old rule. Keep playing it if you don't like money.
What about K-Q-J or A-K-Q? It comes under the “overcard” category. We shall discuss it later on.
Big cards give you a way if you don't pull out the straight; by pairing a big card. But if you pair then that pair should be good enough to win. This is the reason for overcards.
We shall discuss the live cards with the help of 9-T-J example. Your primary needed cards with this starts are eights and queens. The secondary needed cards are sevens and kings. Primary needed cards that you see on the board are worth one point each; secondary cards are worth a half-point. If you see a total of more than two points, too many of the cards that you need for your straight are dead.
In the above example, if you see an eight and a queen, that's two points. Or two queens would be two points. It is same with two eights. It is playable. If you see one queen and one seven – one and a half points, two sevens – one point, it is also playable. Any combination of two points or below gives you a playable hand. One queen, one eight and one seven: two and a half points. Not playable as a straight or perhaps as an overcard hand.
With a close decision whether to play or fold, a two-flush gives added value to your three-straight starting hand, assuming the flush cards are live. And we want them completely live, because in the direction of making a flush, we have only two for a start. Therefore instead of needing two more suited cards for a flush, we need three.
But what about raising with three-straight? You don't like it to do it because you will be knocking out the very players you need to get the right poker pot odds to play the hand. An exception would be as an ante steal.
If one player has limped in while you hold your big three-straight and if you are in the late position with no higher cards than yours behind you as a danger of a re-raise, you will go for the ante steal i.e. by re-raising. You should more likely fold your low cards at these medium or lower limits. The experts at the higher limits are very likely to play back at you with nothing knowing that you are on a steal.
If the limper calls the raise, the steal didn't work, but you are not in that bad position. It is unlikely that he is setting a trap for you at these limits. You might guess his most likely hand to be a medium stud pair unless he has other information about his play to the contrary. There is no substitute for knowledge of your rivals. You have ways to go because of your tendency for playing only the bigger three-straights.
What about calling a raise with your big three-straight?
If a player raises early showing a big card and if you can almost put him on that pair then you would like to have two overcards to that pair – and they had better be live.
You also need to consider what he raises with. If his raising pair is also one of your big cards, your hand's “power” is much reduced, as far as making one or two pair goes.
If the raise comes from a late position with no one having called the bring-in and if it looks like an ante-steal, try a re-raise if you have cards bigger than his doorcard and if there is no scary hand behind you. This will work better if your biggest card is your upcard, especially if it is an ace or king. The raiser-stealer cannot be sure that you aren't re-raising with a legitimate hand, or if you are re-stealing. If he does decide to call your re-raise, it doesn't mean that he has a legitimate hand. He may not trust that you have a legitimate hand, but he doesn't want to risk another raise. So he decided to take off a card and look what happens.
If he does have a pair, you are not in bad position with your live overcards.
If you have been the only caller and then the late position raise comes, try the re-raise – unless the low-card forced bring-in calls or re-raises. He might be suspicious about the late raise being an ante steal but because you are still in the hand as an unknown quantity, he is more than likely on a legitimate hand. He could have anything – and it means anything, from trash to trips. You don't want to get caught between these two hands without more power than you now hold.
Against any raiser from any position, you have no call unless you are holding what you can determine to be overcards to his possible raising pair, or his biggest card if he is raising with drawing hand. There is an exception if you figure him to be on a pure steal.
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