Draw What should you do

Answer: Check with the intention of raising a bet from late position. Betting out does not protect your hand. If you bet. any prospective caller will be getting over 11 -to-1, making it correct to call against your hand with weak draws like bottom pair, gutshots, or even as little as A434 (an overcard and backdoor flush draw). Since the most likely bettor, the preflop raiser, is on the button, it is likely that your check-raise will make three opponents face two bets cold."5

Missing your check-raise (because everyone checks behind you) would be unpleasant. You have a vulnerable hand, and giving a free card is dangerous. But remember, you are check-raising because betting does not protect your hand. Someone with a decent chance to draw out would usually not fold for one bet. So missing the check-raise only rarely costs you the pot. (Though it will cost you a few bets if you go on to win the pot.)

On the other hand, succeeding with the check-raise is frequently the difference between winning and losing. Since the pot is large (raised preflop), you should follow those strategies that improve your winning chances. The button will probably bet, and that is enough reason to try a check-raise.

Some players, fearing that the preflop raiser has a big pair or ace-ten. might be too timid to check-raise. Do not always fear the worst. If the preflop raiser has a big pair, your aggressive play will cost you an extra bet or two. If he does not have a big pair, however, passive play allows weak draws to call profitably. That could cost you the pot. Those times your check-raise wins you the hand more than make up for

115 See "Protecting Your Hand."

the extra bets you lose when behind. Hold 'em generally rewards aggressive play. This is a good example.

4. You are in a game full of loose and passive opponents. You have K444 on the button. Four players limp, and you limp. The small blind calls, and the big blind checks (7 small bets). The flop is J#7¥4*, giving you bottom pair. Everyone checks to you. What should you do?

Answer: Bet. Betting is right for two reasons:

  1. It improves your winning chances. If you have the best hand, betting is obviously correct. Even if you do not, you still want people with hands like queen-ten to fold. If you catch a king on the turn, queen-ten picks up an open-ended straight redraw. Betting might even get a better hand like pocket sixes to fold.
  2. Against passive opponents, betting will likely buy a free card on the turn. Your draw is not strong, but the pot is big enough that it is worth investing a small bet to try to get a free look at the river. Against passive opponents (when the free card play is most likely to succeed), if you are on the button, you should usually try for a free card with any hand that is worth calling one bet. Since you definitely would have called here (getting at least 8-to-1), you should probably try for a free card on the turn by betting the flop.

Ifthe game were aggressive, our recommendation would change to a check. Aggressive players check-raise more and give free cards less often. For a bet to be right, your free card play has to work most of the time. Since it will against passive opponents, you should bet.

5. You limp under the gun with 7V74. Two players limp behind you, the small blind calls, and the big blind checks (§ small bets). The flop is The small blind bets, and the big blind calls. What should you do?

Answer: Fold. The pot is small. Two players like their hands enough to bet and call. Two more are yet to act. If anyone has a jack, you are drawing to at most two outs. You could be drawing to only the 74, since the 7* makes a flush possible. Even if you have the best hand now, your hand is very vulnerable, since so many overcards can beat you. Your predicament here is relatively common. Specifically,

  1. You have a marginal made hand that may not be best.
  2. You have little chance to improve if you are behind.
  3. Your opponents have many opportunities to outdraw you if you are ahead.
  4. The pot is small.

In general, when these conditions apply, you should fold. If you return to Hand No. 1 of these quizzes, you will see that these conditions also apply to that example. We recommended that you fold that hand, and we recommend that you fold this one as well. (Important: There is a big difference between betting and calling. Pocket pairs just above the second highest flop card exemplify this point. In this example if the hand had been checked to you, you should definitely bet.)

6. You are in a very loose and aggressive game. Your opponents are prone to raise and reraise on the flop with draws and pairs as well as big hands like sets and two pair.

you are on the button with A¥8V. The player under the gun raises, and four people cold-call. You call. Both blinds also call (16 small bets). The flop is TV9V24, giving you the nut flush draw. The small blind bets, the big blind calls, and the preflop raiser raises. Two more players call, and the other two fold (24 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Reraise. You have a big draw to the nuts. By the river, you will make the nut flush 35 percent of the time, and you will also sometimes win just by spiking an ace. With five remaining opponents, you will win far more often than seventeen percent of the time, so you have a huge pot equity edge. Reraise for value.

Also, since you have position, reraising may allow you to take a free card on the turn if you so choose.116

7. You have on the button. Three players limp, and you limp. The small blind raises, and the big blind and everyone else call (12 small bets). The flop is K>54»2T, giving you a gutshot, an overcard, and a backdoor flush draw. The small blind bets. The big blind calls, and the first limper raises. The next two limpers fold (16 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Reraise! Individually, each of your draws is weak. Taken together, however, you have a relatively robust hand with decent winning chances. Getting 8-to-l, folding is clearly wrong. The pot is almost big enough that you would call with only a gutshot (e.g., six-four). You are just under

116 n

Uo not automatically take the free card, though; betting may be better. It may induce someone to fold a hand like ace-queen, buying you two wnportant outs in this huge pot. Even if no one folds, you will be getting 5-to-l on your bet (because you have five opponents), and you will be only a 4-to-l underdog to make your flush. If the turn card weakens your and> though (for example the T4), you should take the free card.

11 -to-1 to complete your straight on the turn. In a pot this big, if you make your straight, your opponents are almost certain to pay you off for several big bets. Since you should probably call with just a gutshot, you should definitely play with your gutshot, overcard, and backdoor flush draw. Thus, the only question is whether you should call or reraise. Reraising has two important advantages over calling:

  1. If you reraise, the small blind might fold a better ace. Since he raised preflop, he could easily have a hand like ace-queen or ace-jack. If he folds, it could buy you two more outs. For only one more bet, even with those weak hands, he will probably call. Fortwo bets, he might fold.
  2. Since you have the button, reraising could buy a free card on the turn. If you do not improve, you should almost certainly take it if you get it. The player who raised this ragged Hop likely has a king. Do not expect him to fold.

So, unless you are very unlikely to get a free card, you should probably invest the extra small bet and reraise.

8. You have J*9* in middle position. Two players limp, and you limp. The button limps, the small blind calls, and the big blind checks (6 small bets). The flop is KVT44*, giving you a gutshot and a backdoor flush draw. The blinds check, and the first limper bets. The next limper raises (9 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Fold. You are getting only 4.5-to-l, you arc unlikely to win by spiking a pair, and there are several players still to act. The previous example (Hand No. 7) showed that, even if it is two bets to you, there are some times that you should play a gutshot. This is not one of them.

In fact, more often than not, you should fold a gutshot if it is two bets to you.

9. You have AVJ* on the button. Two players limp, and you raise. The big blind and the limpers call (8.5 small bets). The flop is 946454, giving you two overcards. The blind and the first limper check. The second limper bets (9.5 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Fold. You have just the overcards with no backdoor draws. You have six outs to improve, but those can be counted only as partial outs. If you catch an ace, you will sometimes still be behind to someone with ace-nine, ace-six, or ace-five — ace-rag hands are commonly played. If you catch a jack, two overcards can beat you on the river. The A4 or J4 may make a flush for someone, or at least set up a river redraw for anyone with a single spade. These considerations devalue your draw; it is probably worth no more than a clean three-outter.

Getting 9.5-to-l, the pot is not big enough to draw to such a weak hand. There are two other factors that should dissuade you from continuing:

  1. The board is coordinated. While unlikely, if someone flopped a straight, you arc drawing dead. More importantly, a seven or eight puts four to a straight on board, which is very dangerous.
  2. The bettor is on your right. The players who checked may have strong hands. You will sometimes call the first bet only to run into a check-raise. A check-raise is particularly likely since you raised before the flop and players tend to check to the raiser.
  3. Three players limp to you, one off the button, with

You raise. Both blinds and the three limpers call (12 small bets). The flop is J46444, giving you an overpair. Your opponents check to you, and you bet. The small blind check-raises, and two players cold-call (19 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Call. Getting 19-to-l, the pot is far too big to fold. While it is possible that one of your opponents has a flush, you cannot be certain. Do not fold decent hands in big pots on mere suspicion of the worst. To fold, you must be quite certain with specific, compelling evidence that you are drawing dead. In this hand the small blind could easily have just top pair or the A4. If the cold-callers are loose, they could have almost anything. You absolutely cannot fold."7 With three players against you, your hand is quite vulnerable. There is almost certainly a flush draw (if not already a made flush), and each of your three opponents probably has at least a few other outs against you as well. If you are ahead at this point, your winning chances are probably no better than thirty percent. If behind, you are drawing almost dead. This is certainly not a good spot to reraise. Call now. planning to evaluate all three options (raise, call, or fold) on fourth street.

11. You have 7*6* in the big blind. The player under the gun raises, and three players cold-call. You call (10.5 small bets). The flop is K«£8V4<£, giving you a gutshot and a Hush draw. What should you do?

" At least you cannot fold yet. If the turn is a diamond or another dangerous card, or if one of the Hop callers wakes up and raises on the turn, you can seriously consider folding.

Answer: Check with the intention of raising a bet from early position. You have a big draw that will often win. With small cards you do not have much chance to win by pairing, so eliminating opponents will not significantly improve your winning chances.

Since your draw is so strong, you should bet or raise for value. If you bet, one of two things will likely happen:

  1. The preflop raiser will raise (usually with a king) and face the field with cold-calling two bets.
  2. The preflop raiser will just call, and a couple of others will call behind him.

Neither of these scenarios is optimal. The first scenario eliminates players, leaving you against an opponent with top pair. This does not maximize the value of your big draw. The second scenario will often only get one bet in on the flop.

If you check, the preflop raiser (on your left) will usually bet a relatively ragged Hop like this no matter what he has. Loose players behind him will call the single flop bet with many hands. Then you check-raise, trapping everyone for two bets. Use the position of the likely flop bettor to help you choose between betting and check-raising with your strong hands and draws.

12. You have 2V24 in the big blind. A very loose and aggressive player limps under the gun. Three more players limp, the small blind completes, and you check (6 small bets). The flop is K¥7424, giving you bottom set. The small blind checks, and you check, hoping to raise a bet from the aggressive player on your left. Unfortunately, he checks, and •t is checked to the button who bets (" small bets). The small blind folds. What should you do?

Answer: Call. While you should rarely slowplay in loose games, you should here. You checked, hoping to trap the field for two bets, but your play backfired; the player on your right bet.

Remember the three questions we told you to ask yourself at the end of the "Slowplaying" section:

  1. If I give my opponents a cheap card, will it improve them only to a second-best hand or unprofitable draw, or will they sometimes beat me or make a profitable draw? (Again, a draw is profitable only if its implied odds are greater than its odds of being completed.)
  2. Am I Willing to risk losing the pot occasionally for a chance to win an extra bet or two?
  3. How likely are my opponents to call if I do raise?

When the flop is this ragged (no straight or flush draws possible), almost no one will have a decent hand or draw. Even so, loose players are often willing to call one flop bet to see if their hand develops on fourth street. For instance, many players would call a bet with queen-jack to see if they pick up a straight draw or a pair on the turn. If it is two bets to them, though, they fold.

Your hand is so strong that most of your opponents arc already drawing nearly dead. You may have over an eighty percent chance to win, even if all four of your remaining opponents see the river. The pot is small, so you do not risk too much by encouraging your opponents to remain in the hand.

For instance, say the player with queen-jack calls one bet on the flop, and a jack comes on the turn. Now he is drawing totally dead (on the flop his only chance to beat you was his backdoor straight draw). Yet he will likely pay you off for at least one big bet on both the turn and river. If he gets "lucky" and makes two pair or trips on the river, he will probably raise, and you can reraise, winning two extra big bets from him.

If you raise him (and the others) out now, you improve your chance of winning from, say, 85 percent to 95 percent. But in a pot this small, improving your winning chances by ten percent (assuming no more betting action) is worth less than one small bet (10 percent of the seven bet pot is 0.7 bets). Allowing your opponents to draw nearly dead against your monster hand is worth far more.

By the way, even though you just called on the flop, you should probably bet out on the turn, no matter what comes. Slowplaying on the flop does not obligate you to try for a check-raise on fourth street. If you check the turn, one of two things will probably happen:

  1. Everyone will check to the button, who will bet. You will again have to choose between calling, missing the chance to get value for your monster hand, and blowing away the field with a raise.
  2. Everyone will check to the button, who will check. Obviously, that is even worse than the first scenario.

Betting out is better than either of these scenarios. It will confuse your opponents, making them more likely to call even if they are drawing dead. Someone with a lesser hand may even raise. Betting out also ensures that you do not give a free card. Your attempt to trap the field for two bets failed on the flop. On the turn it is even less likely to succeed. Abandon it and use a different plan.118

This hand is an example of an important general principle. If you check and call with a monster when the bettor is on your right, you

This hand exemplifies a concept that appears repeatedly throughout this book. To win the most possible playing hold 'em, you must maximize your expectation for the whole hand. Usually this means that you bet or raise immediately with your good hands. But sometimes it means that you play your hand in a different manner.

In this hand, two important factors shape your strategy: the size of the pot and your position relative to the other players (particularly the aggressive player). If we had made the pot bigger, you should raise. If we had moved the aggressive player to your right, you should bet out instead trying for a check-raise. In either of these cases the aggressive strategy becomes best. But given the specific parameters of this example, a passive strategy maximizes your expectation.

Average players usually play the same way no matter what. They might always check and call to slowplay. They might always bet and raise. Expert players take all the parameters into account and choose the optimal strategy.

13. You have 8474 on the button. Two players limp, you limp, the small blind calls, and the big blind checks (5 small bets). The flop is K4TV9*, giving you an open-ended straight draw. The small blind bets, the big blind calls, and the first limper raises (9 small bets). The second limper folds. What should you do?

Answer: Fold. Your draw is open-ended, but it is quite weak. If a jack comes, anyone with a queen beats you. If a six comes on the turn, you may lose anyway if a jack or queen comes on the river. In fact, sometimes you will be drawing dead already to someone with queen-jack. You have no backdoor flush draw and almost no hope of winning by should not go for a check-raise on the next round if players called behind you. That play should be considered only when the bettor is on your left.

spiking a pair. Getting 9-to-2 is not enough in this spot. You should not fold many open-ended straight draws on the flop, but you should fold this one.

14. You have AVA4 in middle position. One player limps, and you raise. Two players cold-call, the small blind folds, and the big blind reraises. The limpers call, and you cap. Everyone calls (20.5 small bets). The flop is Q¥9¥9*. The big blind bets, and the limper raises (23.5 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Call with the intention of raising on the turn. This board is scary, and you might be beaten already. Still, you cannot fold. The pot is way too big. When you build enormous pots preflop with big pairs, you generally commit yourself to a showdown. While there are occasionally exceptions if things go very badly, this is definitely not one of them. Even if someone does have a nine, you have two outs to aces full and a backdoor nut flush draw that will sometimes bail you out.

Calling is probably better than raising. Putting in a third bet is unlikely to protect your hand; the only hands that will fold are hands that you have badly beaten. Also, the flop raiser is on your immediate right. He is likely to bet the turn as long as he is not reraised on the flop. If you call and let him bet the turn, you can then raise to force the field to call two big bets cold.

On this board your main target is someone with a gutshot. People with four-flushes and jack-ten (an open-ended straight draw) will not fold, no matter how many raises you put in. The pot is too large; you just have to hope that they miss. Someone with a queen or pocket pair has only two outs against you. A gutshot has four outs and is a legitimate threat. On fourth street the pot will probably be around fifteen big bets. A gutshot can call profitably for one bet, but not two. Thus, you should strongly consider raising the turn.

When the pot is this large, focus on maximizing your winning chances. Do not try to save bets, and do not try to squeeze an extra bet out of someone drawing thin. Protect your hand! The best chance to do that is to call now, planning s, to raise the turn.119

15. You have Q±Q£ in middle position. One player limps, and you raise. Two players cold-call, and the big blind calls (10.5 small bets). The flop is K49V74, giving you a pair much higher than middle pair. The big blind bets, and the limper folds (11.5 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Raise. It is a little unnatural to bet a king from the big blind into four players, including a preflop raiser. Most players would check: Passive players might check and call for fear that you have ace-king, and aggressive players might check, planning to check-raise. While the bettor could have a king anyway, he could also very well have a flush or straight draw or even a weaker hand that he decided to bluff.

Since the pot is large, you probably should not fold. Your winning chances are too strong. If you did not have the Q4, your decision would be closer. Having the Q± improves your hand in two ways:

  1. If you spike a set, an opponent cannot make a flush using the same card.
  2. It gives you a backdoor flush draw.

Without the Q4 you might fold against a particularly straightforward opponent who wouldn't bet a draw or middle pair. You should almost certainly not fold with it, though.

119 See the sub-section "When a Raise Will Not Protect Your Hand" in the section "Protecting Your Hand."

Since you are continuing, you should raise to protect your hand. Anyone with a gutshot or middle or bottom pair can profitably call one bet on the flop (getting 12-to-l), but not two (getting 6.5-to-l). Even though you are not sure whether your hand is best, you should still force people with weak draws to choose between calling unprofitably and folding.120

16. You are in a loose and very aggressive game. You have A±J± in the big blind. Four players, including the small blind, limp. You raise. Two limpers call, and then the button reraises. The small blind calls, and you cap. Everyone calls (20 small bets). The flop is KVQ*7±, giving you a gutshot, an overcard, and a backdoor flush draw. The small blind checks, and you bet. The first limper raises, the second limper reraises, and the third limper caps. The small blind folds (30 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Call. You are getting 30-to-3 or 10-to-l immediate pot odds with no chance to be reraised. Three more bets (the two impending calls) are almost certain to go in as well, lifting your odds to 33-to-3 or 11-to-l. You have a gutshot to the nuts, as well as an overcard (admittedly it is probably not good, given the action), and a backdoor nut-flush draw. Folding, even though your draw is weak, would be a blunder. The pot is too big.121

120 See "Protecting Your Hand."

For an explanation of the preflop action, raising and then capping from the big blind with A*J4, see Hand No. 10 in "Hand Quizzes — Preflop Play." To maximize your expectation in small stakes games, you must become comfortable with building huge pots with your premium hands. You give up a lot if you insist on keeping the pot small.

17. You have Q454 in the small blind. Three players limp, and you call. The big blind checks (5 small bets). The flop is

You check. The big blind and first limper check. The second limper bets, and the button calls (7 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Fold. You are getting 7-to-l to call, which is close to the threshold for a five out hand that also has a small chance to be best at the moment. A few factors tip this hand to a fold:

  1. There is a two-flush. Catching the Q4 or 54 will sometimes give someone a flush and will almost always set up a redraw for anyone with a lone diamond.
  2. Any queen puts three Broadway cards on board. Straights and two pair (bigger than queens and fives) are more likely than usual with three high cards. Also, a queen gives anyone with an ace or nine a gutshot and anyone with a jack an open-ended straight draw.
  3. You must count on improving to win. Even if your pair of fives is the best hand right now (which is relatively unlikely), you have to dodge flushes, straights, overcards, and bluffs you cannot call to win.
  4. You have 443£ in the big blind. Three players limp, and someone in middle position raises. The button cold-calls, the small blind calls, and you call. Both limpers call as well (14 small bets). The flop is AVJV44, giving you bottom pair. Everyone checks to the preflop raiser who bets. The button calls (16 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Call. Your draw is very weak. There is a two-flush. There are two Broadway cards on board. You could be drawing almost dead against a set or to two outs against ace-jack. Catching the 4V or 3V could give someone a flush. Even if you catch one of your magic cards on fourth street, someone could outdraw you on the river. If you make two pair on the turn, any ace or jack on the river counterfeits your hand. You do not close the action; someone could check-raise.

Despite all this, you should call. The pot is just too big. Your draw is dubious, and you could lose even if you get there. But that is not quite enough reason to fold a potential five-out draw getting 16-to-l. Put the money in and hope for the best.

19. You have A4K4 on the button. Three players limp, and you raise. Both blinds and all the limpers call (12 small bets). The flop is K49464, giving you top pair and a backdoor, nut flush draw. Everyone checks to you, and you bet. The small blind check-raises, and three people cold-call (21 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Reraise. You probably have the best hand, and you have a backdoor nut flush draw just in case. No overcards can beat your pair. With flush and straight draws available your hand is somewhat vulnerable, though. Even so, this hand is strong enough to win significantly more than its share (twenty percent against four opponents).

Notice that something a little unexpected happened. The small blind check-raised, probably hoping that your other opponents would fold. Instead, three out of four called. Normally, you could count on the flop check-raiser to bet the turn. Here you cannot; the unwanted callers might scare him into checking.

You have too much equity to miss a raise. If you knew the small blind would bet the turn if you just called, then you would prefer waiting until then to raise. But do not wait unless you are confident your opponent will bet. Here you are better off taking the sure thing.

20. You have 6V64 on the button. Five players limp, and the player on your right raises. You cold-call, both blinds call, and all the Iimpers call (18 small bets). The flop is T4646* giving you quads. Everyone checks to you. What should you do?

Answer: Bet. Checking is absurd. Your opponents are clearly very loose (tight players do not make nine-handed pots). Since the pot is large, they will find any excuse they can to call: a flush draw, a gutshot, two overcards, one overcard, a backdoor straight draw, a backdoor two pair draw, etc. Do not be surprised if all eight of your opponents call. They do not know you flopped quads. They do not know they are drawing dead. Even if they did know, half of them would probably call anyway.

Your pot equity is nearly 100 percent. That edge is way too big not to push. If you would bet pocket aces here (and you should), then definitely bet quads as well.

Slowplaying is useful only if the pot is small, and you expect most or all of your opponents to fold if you bet. In this example expect six or seven of your eight opponents to call. But they can't call if you don't bet!

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