Stud Poker Strategy - Exceptions to Rules of Thumb
In my last column I explained some good rules of thumb to help guide your play, in general, at the stud table. I explained that these rules can help the thoughtful player, keep him from becoming paralyzed with indecision from the many variables in stud, and give his play a general direction.
Of course there are exceptions. The skilled player will be able to alter these rules to suit the situation and optimize his strategic advantage. Let me help you along that path by walking you through some exceptions to two of the rules of thumb I presented in my last column.
Rule of Thumb: Don't draw to a hand if your opponent is representing either a hand that you can't beat if you hit your draw or a draw to a hand that will beat your hand if you hit and he hits.
Yes, this is generally a very good rule to follow. You don't want to be drawing dead. If your opponent has a hand that will beat your hand, even if you hit, then you generally can throw your hand away. However, there are some exceptions you should be aware of.
If your opponent is a chronic bluffer, who often represents hands he doesn't have, and if the pot is already very large, and if the cards that will make your hand are very live, then you can consider a call. Here's an example.
You're playing $20/40 Stud. Your raising opponent is one of those guys who nearly always raises the bring in, whether he has something or not. This hand was no exception. He did so with the . You're playing with a table of relatively aggressive players. This is a common move even with nothing but the Ace. Three guys call his raise, as do you. Five of you see fourth street.
On fourth you get another suited card. Your opponent does too. He bets. A third player raises. Two players fold. But your opponent with the exposed Ace calls. You have a flush draw in four cards and call as well. Three of you see fifth street.
On fifth street you all hit blanks. The Ace bets $40. You're still on a flush draw and the pot is very big. You call as well. The third player smiles, pauses, and folds. (He was trying to win it on a steal raise on fourth you figure).
On sixth street you pair one of your low board cards – but not your door card. Your opponent hits a suited card. You check your pair. He bets with his Ace high 3-flush. You have a decision to make. Should you call?
In my previous column I said that, as a rule of thumb, if you aren't drawing to a hand that can beat the hand that your opponent is representing – or that he is drawing to – that you should fold. But this is an obvious exception. Here there's $329 in the pot – much larger than normal for a $20/40 game because of the unusually large number of players on third, fourth and fifth street. Also, you have a small pair. It's not much, but you may be ahead of him now; you may hit trips or two pair on the river, and of course you may hit a flush.
True, he may already have the flush – a higher one if he has one. True, he may hit a flush bigger than the flush you're drawing to. But, in spite of the rule of thumb that says you should fold, you should make this call. When you add up the possibility that you may win the hand and then look at the large pot you will win for the relatively small bet you must call, it's clear that calling is the right choice.
Don't attempt an ante steal in a pot that's already been called.
Here's another good rule to follow – in general. Even so, there are rare exceptions. Imagine that you start with ( ) . The bring in, to your left, with the bet's $3.00. A raises to $10. A calls. The action is to you – all other players having folded.
In my last column I recommend that you fold as well. But here's a twist. The guy with the Jack is a very tight, solid player. And your image at this table is that of a rock. You haven't played any hand for nearly forty minutes. With those facts, you can sometimes attempt a resteal here, even with the caller in between.
Your rocky image, combined with your third opponent's style of play, may make this an excellent chance for a resteal. Your two observant opponents might well credit you with having the pair of Aces that you're representing specifically because it would be so unlike you to be reckless enough to try a steal.
Poker, especially stud, is a game with many variables. It helps to have general rules to guide your play. Even so, those rules are sometimes best honored in their breach.