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Stud Strategy Basic Concepts Part II - Playing Wired Pairs

Winning 7-card Stud

Ashley Adams has been playing poker since he learned it, literally, at his grandfather's knee 42 years ago. He's been a winning casino poker player for the past 11 years, playing primarily at Foxwoods Resort Casino but also in poker rooms all over the world. He has won at ring games and tournaments, at Stud, Stud8 and Hold Em, limit and no limit. He is the author of Winning 7-card Stud (Kensington, 2003) and over 100 articles about poker. He is due to publish Winning Baby No Limit Hold Em in 2006 and has recently been working with numerous charities on fundraising poker tournaments.

In the last column we learned about how to play Premium Pairs on Third Street - your first three cards. There are other pairs you can play, but you have to be thoughtful and selective about them. There are a few concepts to help guide you to playing those other hands.

Wired versus Split Pairs

Wired pairs are pairs that are concealed. If you have a pair of {8-Spades} in the hole and an Ace up that's a wired pair of {8-Spades}. Split pairs have one of the pair in the hole and the other pair exposed. ({8-Hearts}-{a-Diamonds}){8-Spades} is a split pair.

Wired pairs are more valuable than split pairs. Why do you think this is? Think about it for a few seconds.

If you have a split pair of 8s and then get another 8 what is your opponent likely to think when you bet or raise? Let's look at it graphically.

You have ({8-Diamonds}-{a-Diamonds}){8-Spades} and then have, after getting your fourth card ({8-Diamonds}-{a-Diamonds}){8-Spades} {8-Clubs}. Your good opponents will think that you must have started with a pair of 8s and now have trips. True, your bad opponents may not think this. They may not even notice what you have. But your good opponents surely will fold when you bet or raise unless they can beat trip 8s.

Accordingly, having a split pair isn't as valuable as having a wired pair. With a wired pair, (8s-8c)Ac for example, when you get another 8 your opponents won't know what you have. They'll be more likely to call your bet or raise since they won't see the clue to the true strength of your hand. Any time you can bet your hand for value and your opponent is unlikely to know the true value of your hand, your hand goes up in value.

A wired pair is deceptive for other reasons. You can make trips and convince your opponents that you are really just going for a flush or a straight. Let's say you have the abovementioned hand and get an 8c. If you bet your opponent may very well assume that you are betting on the come (betting with the prospect of catching a good card) with only a 4-Flush. Until they see another club they may mistakenly believe that you haven't improved your hand. Meanwhile you'll be sitting on trips and maybe even a full house eventually and they won't have a clue.

So, with a wired pair you can call sometimes on Third Street. But you don't want to call every time with a wired pair. There are some other considerations that even a beginning stud player should make before playing these hands.

A non-premium wired pair should be played, ideally, against at least a few opponents. That's because it's a drawing hand - it needs to draw cards to improve if it is likely to be the winning hand. Your pair of 4s or 9s or 2s, for example, are highly unlikely to win in a showdown unless they become trips (or at least a very high two pair like Aces Up). So you don't want to call a raise from a Queen, for example, unless there are many other players who are also calling or likely to call the hand. That way you are getting a very good price for your call. (I'll explain basic pot odds in another column. But for now, take my word for the fact that when you have a drawing hand you want lots of money in the pot for you to win to make your drawing worthwhile). If it's just heads up with your wired pair against a likely higher pair, then the pot you would win if you were fortunate enough to hit your trips would not be large enough to make the longshot draw worthwhile.

And not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but you generally want to fold these non-premium wired pairs if they don't hit a matching card on fourth street. (unless there's no bet obviously in which case you can draw a fifth card for free).

You can't do this automatically either, however. Just having a wired pair doesn't make your hand playable even if the pot is multi-way. You have to be pretty certain that you're playing only for the bring-in or, at most a single small bet — $5.00 for example in a $5.00/$10.00 game.

So, for example, if you are playing with a bunch of very loose players who don't raise much and the $2.00 bring in isn't raised then you can call the $2.00 as well with your wired pair. But if you expect that one of the players after you might raise or if everyone has folded to the player in front of you and he raises to $5.00, making it likely that it will be just you two, or if someone has raised to $5.00 and player remain after you who might re-raise, or if the pot has been raised to $5.00 and then to $10.00 before the action gets to you, then fold that wired pair.

And of course, even in the optimal circumstances where you think you'll only face one bet and the pot will be multi-way, if your wired pair and your kicker are not completely live - meaning that others of their rank are out elsewhere - then certainly do not play this hand. You need for all of your cards to be live so you will have the maximum possibility of improving on your next card. The only exception I'd make to this is if your kicker is weak to begin with and it is slightly dead and the pot is multi-way and you're fairly certain that it won't be raised. In that circumstance, since you know you'll need to get trips to play further and will fold your hand even if it improves to two pair, then a call is warranted.

The final consideration in whether you play your wired pair is the size of your kicker. We'll cover kickers in our next column.

Summary: A wired pair is better than a split pair and can sometimes be played against a likely higher pair if there is only one bet and the hand is multi-way and your cards are fully live.

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