Stud Poker Strategy: Points to Ponder -- Answers
In my last column I gave you some questions to ponder, promising answers in the subsequent column, which you're reading here. I'll repeat the question and then provide each answer in bold face.
All games are $10 with a $1 ante and a $3 forced bet from the low card.
1. You are on fourth street. Third street looked like this, going around the table clockwise as you read down:
You called, and the jack, held by a tight player with whom you are familiar, raised to $10. He rarely bluffs. The bring-in called, as did you.
On fourth street you saw the following:
You are high. The king is high. He is a very loose and passive player. He bets. What should you do?
Since he is a passive player, it would be very unusual for him to initiate betting action unless he truly had a hand. There's always a chance that he is just messing around with an aggressive move since he is high on board, but you have to think that he probably hit a king in the hole here. He probably is ahead of you. So you might think that a fold is correct.
But with your ace kicker, and with aces and your tens live, he isn't very far ahead. You are also fairly sure that your other opponent, the tight one, who completed the bet on the last round with an exposed jack, has a pair of jacks. Against both a pair of kings and a pair of jacks you are a big underdog.
You think about folding. But you realize that your more profitable future, considering the money that is already in the pot and how close your winning chances are to the player with the likely kings, would be to go heads up against him. He will almost surely pay you off if you hit aces up or trips, since he's loose.
Your best move then is surely a raise.
Score ten points for a raise, five points for a fold, and zero points for a call.
2. The same facts as above except the king checked. What do you do?
A check may appear at first to be the best move. You are behind the pair of jacks and you want to see what he is going to do before you decide whether to play your hand or to fold. On the other hand, following the reasoning in the explanation of the answer to question #1, you might conclude that you should show aggression by betting – hoping to knock out the timid player with the pair of jacks.
But even a tight player is unlikely to fold to your bet on fourth street in a situation like this. Unless the man is an absolute rock who crumbles to any action, he'd probably call for the half bet on fourth hoping to improve on fifth. Similarly, his call of your bet would almost surely entice the player with the king to call for the half bet – since he is so loose.
With all of that in mind, the best answer is for you to check. There's a chance that the player with the jacks will also check – fearing a check-raise or just no longer as confident with his pair of jacks as he was on third. If he checks you're happy because you get to see a free card that may put you into the lead on fifth. If, on the other hand he bets, you can see what the player with the king does. If he raises, then you can safely fold, since his check-raise signifies that he is really loaded. It would take at least kings up to prompt this loose-passive player to do that.
More likely, however, he will call, since that's what he tends to do with most hands as they develop. Then you can raise – for a check-raise – most likely accomplishing just what you accomplished in the first scenario when you raised the betting king, getting the pot heads-up with him. Except in this instance you'll be in even a better spot because you'll be heads up with a hand that is likely to be weaker than yours, not a pair of kings.
The jack will almost surely fold to your check-raise. He might have called your bet on fourth but he's highly unlikely to call your check-raise. Even the loose-passive player might fold to such a move, though he will most likely chase you until the river.
The correct answer is check. Give yourself ten points if you got that right and five points if you chose bet.
3. You raised the king, the next player folded and the first player called. Remembering that he is a loose-passive player, you received the following hands on fifth street. He checks. What do you do?
You may be tempted to check as well here. You feared that he had a pair of kings on fourth street. Since he is checking he may be setting you up for a check-raise – or just falling back into his loose-passive style by not betting – even if he has the kings.
But a check would be wrong. When you raised on fourth you were indicating strength. He may well have just been betting with the high card on the last round. You don't want to give him a free card. Many loose and passive players will call a raise after they initiate the betting, even when they are semi-bluffing or overbetting their hand, but then will fold to a bet on the following round – convinced that you really have them beat and not wanting to call the full bet when they double on fifth street.
The correct answer is to bet. Give yourself ten points for getting that correct and five points for a check.
4. Same fact pattern as above. Only the king bets. What do you do?
If the king bets after calling your check-raise on the prior round then he is almost surely far ahead of you with kings up or trips. Now is the time to fold.
The correct answer is fold. Give yourself ten points for this and zero points for either of the other two answers.
5. On sixth street, you get the following hands. Your opponent is high and bets. What do you do?
Your opponent has made an exposed pair and bets. He almost surely has kings up, though though there's the infinitesimal shot that he's made a full house or trips by having the case six in the hole. You might be tempted to play it safe and call, since you're not completely certain that you're ahead. But you'd be wrong to do so. Poker is not a game of certainty but of probability. His betting indicates that he has kings up or worse, while you have aces up and would therefore dominate him if your deductions were correct. Raise him.
Give yourself ten points for a raise and zero points for a call or fold.
6. On sixth street, instead of the above, you get the following hands. Your opponent is high and bets. What do you do?
Ah, I see the good players among you afraid of the paired door card, which often means trips. So you might be tempted to fold. You'd be wrong to do so, however, since your opponent was the forced bet. He didn't call with the deuce; he was the bring-in and called a completion, meaning he may well have only had a high card or two in the hole and no pair. His bet now probably means the same thing as his bet with an exposed pair of sixes in the prior question. He probably has kings up. You should raise him since your aces up will probably be the boss hand.
Give yourself ten points if you chose raise, five points if you chose fold, and five points for a call.
7. Same as the above, only this time your opponent is high and checks. What do you do?
This is an easy one. If you opponent checks you're almost surely ahead and should bet.
Give yourself ten points for betting and zero points for either folding or calling.
8. You and your opponent have the following hands on the river. What do you do when he checks to you?
YOU: () ()
I hope you wrote "bet". His check means he is unlikely to have improved on his hand, which means that if your reads have been correct, you're ahead. When you're ahead you want to get as many bets as possible.
Some of you might be thinking that you don't want to bet, just in case he had two pair on sixth street and caught a full house on the river. Sure, that can happen. But it's going to happen infrequently. Much more frequently you'll bet and he'll be behind and call you anyway, making you money. Don't miss the opportunities to make money, just because there's some small possibility that you'll lose money.
Score ten points for betting and zero points for checking.
9. Same hand as above only your opponent bets into you. What do you do?
His bet probably indicates that he's made trips or a full house or some well-hidden straight or flush. So you're probably beaten, and you might conclude you should fold. But there's surely a chance, small though it may be, that he is either overplaying his hand, bluffing, or misreading yours. So you may have the winner.
The pot contains many multiples of the bet you need to call, meaning you have to be close to certain that he's got you beat for your fold to make sense. Since he's a loose-passive player you can't be sure enough that he has you beaten for a fold to make sense. (I've only known a couple of mega-tight players out of the tens of thousands I've played against whom I could identify as being so tight that a fold made sense.)
Score ten for call and zero for fold or raise.
10. Same hand as above. Let's say he checks, you bet, and he raises you. What do you do?
Following the same logic as the answer in question #9, the obvious answer is to call him. However, this is a loose-passive player. I've never seen a player who overplayed his hand in this way – unless he literally misread his cards. This would have to be a check-raise bluff, which is almost surely not part of this type of player's arsenal. Still, the pot has three extra large bets that it didn't have in the prior example.
I promised no "it depends" answers. But as you know there are no absolutes in poker. If you judge yourself to be 90% sure or better that he actually has the hand, then you can safely fold. If not then you should call.
If you have the stones to actually fold here then you deserve the full ten points. If you called, nine points. A raise is insanity and worth zero points.
That's it. How'd you do? If you scored 99 or better, give yourself an A and think about writing a column of your own. If you scored an 80 or better you're probably doing well enough to break even if the rake isn't too high. If you scored less than 80 I suggest you read or re-read a copy of my book Winning 7-card Stud or write for private lessons.
Oh, and if you disagree with any of my answers please feel free to rebut by writing to me at email@example.com. I'll submit any of your good rebuttals for publication on this site.