The Flop Has Come Down

Jerry bets out and Jim calls. Now what do you do? A raise at t his point i s a great i dea. Clearly, you cannot fold right here, because the pot i s fairly large and you may stiil have the best hand. As l ong as you're going to play, you might as weH raise it and find out if you have the best hand. You already know that you probably have Jim beat, because he's a jackal who always raises when he has any kind of hand and he didn't r aise Jerry's $5 bet.

Assuming that you do raise, i f Jerry reraises you here, he probably has you beat, but it's not a certainty: he could have a hand like a pair-and-a-ffush draw, such as ' \ - " , or a straight-

n k and-a-flush draw with a hand like >|-| You should call his reraise on the flop, since it i s only $5 more t o you, and you want to see what he does after the next card is turned. If Jerry then bets out after the next card, where t he limits are now doubled ( he can bet $10 now and on the l ast round of b etting), t hen it i s t ime for a decision. You have to analyze what kind of hand Jerry is likely to have.

Does he have a drawing hand that you can beat or a hand like A-Q (a pair of aces; r emember the flop is A-10-4) that beats you? Did the flush card or a king or queen hit the board on the turn? (Note, by the way, t hat even though a jack on the turn would appear to be a great card for you, because it would give you three j acks, it could also present s ome danger, if it is the j ack of diamonds, or if someone had K-Q and has now made his straight.) I f s o, then can you beat anything anymore? Perhaps a "blank" card (a harmless card that helps neither a straight draw nor a flush draw) li ke t he comes off and Jerry checks his drawing hand to you. Why has he checked? Because your raise on the flop scared him of from betting t he |_*J. ( If so, t hen your raise on the flop has accomplished its mission!) I f he does bet here after a "blank," then you must watch the way he makes the bet ( look for body l anguage t hat might show confidence or fear) and make your best decision.

On fourth street ( after the fourth up card is dealt), if something in your head (intuition or i nstinct) tells you that J erry is bluffing, then call. I f you feel that he has a real hand, then fold. Trust your i nstincts and you wiil find that t hey keep improving as you continue to play Hold'em.

You wiil also find that your ability to read others wiil get better as you gain experience, especially if you work specifically on watching how people bet t heir hands. One of t he best times t o do this is when you have folded your own hand and so no longer have to concentrate on your own tactical considerations: you can focus entirely on studying your opponents ( and the outcome!) for i nformation that wiil come i n handy l ater.

The Flop Is

pn

K

pn

A

Jerry bets out $ 5, and Jim raises it t o $10 to go. I n this c ase there is no flush draw, and it's hard to imagine that both of your opponents have a straight draw with a hand like Q-J, Q-10, or J -10. Although one of your opponents might have a hand like t hat, what does the other one have? Almost certainly the other opponent has a pair of kings or a pair of aces, because people holding high-rank cards like that tend to stay in hands. I n this case, the two over cards on the flop make folding your hand an easy choice. This i s one of the worst possible flops for a pair of j acks, especially in a t hree-bet pot where your opponents probably hold A-something or K-Q, K-J, or K-10.

"But wait a minute," you might ask; " "f my opponent c an get l ucky by hitting the ace he was drawing to on the flop, why can't I get l ucky and hit a j ack on the t urn or the r iver?" If one of your opponents does have a pair of aces or kings, then you can win only by hitting a jack (don't even factor in the extremely unlikely chance of hitting two perfect c ards in a row to make a straight); and because there are only two jacks l eft i n the deck, the odds against that happening are about 22 to 1 on the next card. Just s ay to yourself, " OK, I 've played this hand perfectly so far, so even though I've waited a l ong t ime for a pair of j acks, it's time to fold them. Next time I have a big hand, I hope I have a better fop to it." Then simply fold your hand and forget about the outcome of that one. ( But again, s ee what the outcome teHs you about J erry or J im.)

Of course, the j ack sometimes hits right away, and sometimes you would have won the pot because your opponents have

Q-10 and \. (Obviously the jackal has this hand!) But regardless of the outcome, y ou made the right move by folding. Sometimes people drive themselves crazy by second-guessing their plays. The next thing you know they're staying in pots trying to hit the shots that are 22 to 1 against them, and virtually giving their money away! Sometimes poker wiil drive you batty or, i n poker t erms, p ut you on "tilt."

If you can keep your emotions in check when bad luck smacks you hard—if you can avoid letting a bad break in one hand affect the way you play your next hand—you wiil have an excellent chance to become a winning poker player. But if you find t hat y ou can't g et t he l ast hand out of your mind, and you're vulnerable to tilt, you wiil probably find it impossible to win over the l ong haul. I n the l ong run, I ' d rather invest my money in a "good" player who never goes on tilt than in a "very good" player who is vulnerable to going on tilt.

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