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TEXAS HOLD'EM LESSON #1
Before the River
After the Turn, when the fourth community card is open, we already know 6 out of 7 potential cards, that is more than 85%. Only the River last card may improve our or our opponent's hand. How to make a decision in this situation, what to do with that or other card combinations?... we'll figure out today on live examples. It depends not only on the force of your card combination, but also on your course of trade, the history of trade in the previous circles, your estimate of force and game style of your opponents and other factors. As always in our publications, all examples are taken from real game in limited Holdem.
Example 1 (game $20-$40): After the blinds we have A hearts 3 spades and start trade with attacking Raise. Only The big blind Calls, and the pot has $90 and two players are left in the game. The Flop comes A spades A clubs 8 hearts, the opponent Check, we Bet, and opponent responds. Pot is on $130 level, and the Turn brings 2 clubs. The opponent Called. And what about us?
The answer: we Raise. Though there is a chance, that the opponent has A too, it is considerably more probable, that he half-bluff with 4-card clubs Flash or something like that. Let him pay more for an opportunity to collect this Flash. If 2 diamonds comes on the Turn, not giving any Flash expectations, there would be possible to try simply to balance the bet, expecting further increase of pot after the River.
Example 2 (game $15-$30): From an Average position we open trade by Raise with A hearts Q hearts. The small blind responds, the other players pass and we have two players and $75 pot. The Flop brings 10 clubs 7 clubs 2 spades. The opponent Check, we Bet, and he responds. The pot is at $105. K spades comes. The opponent Bet. What should we do?
The answer: we Fold. We shall estimate what cards the opponent has. A-K? Only J could save us, and not J clubs as the opponent may have 2 clubs. 2 weak spades? It is improbable, because he Called before and after the Flop, so if there are peaks, then A-Q, A-J or Q-J. So our chances of receiving necessary pair or Straight are weak, and spades do not suit us. Another variant - the opponent has a strong pair, and only A (if he does not have two A) could help us or Q (the same), or J. E.g. any of the cards that suit us may theoretically involve us in serious troubles. And in order to balance the bet, we need to add $30 to the pot, that is now at $145. That is not the ratio we should necessary fight for.
Example 3 (game $30-$60): we are on the big blind with Q clubs J spades. The player in an Average position begins with Raise. Everybody, except the small blind and us, Folds. There are $180 in the pot and 3 players. On the Flop: Q hearts Q diamonds 10 hearts. The small blind Checks and we (expecting to increase the pot by Check-Raise) Check too. Our forecast comes true - the opponent increases the Bet, the small blind Calls, and here we Raise. Everybody Calls, and the pot has $360. 9 clubs comes on the Turn. The small blind Checks. Besides set with Q we have two-sides open Straight, and we Call. The opponent, who attacked before the Flop, Raise, and the small blind re-Raise. What it should be done?
The answer: Call, although that is not a simple decision. Our set of Q may not be the strongest hand any more. Somebody may have Q with the better second card, Straight or Full House. Against the Q with a better card we would feel save with J (3 possible card), 8 (more 4 cards) and, if the opponent does not have K-Q, then K (more 4 cards). If any 9 or 10 comes the pot will be shared (2 Full Houses). 10 will suit us against Full House (any J, 10, 9 and Q). Against Full House 3 Q-2 10 we need 3 cards to win and 2 cards for a draw, and 3 Q-2 9 - 3 cards to win and 5 cards to a draw. We will win Full House with 2 Q if one of the 7 cards comes. With any other opponent's combinations (providing the lowest hands or bluff would hardly be possible with such bets) our chances to win are from 1 : 4 to 1 : 11. The current bet to pot ratio is 1 : 6 and the Call is justified. And what will the opponent do if we Raise? Re-Raise? Bet to pot ratio will decrease to 1 : 4 and we would have the lass chances to win on average. So, just Call. However, Pass does not seam to be the wrong decision too.
Example 4 (game $10-$20): From penultimate position with K hearts Q spades we Called after five other players. Those who sits on the button has Passed, and the small blind also has Called (without increase). We have the total of 8 players and $80 pot. On the Flop 10 diamonds 7 clubs 3 spades have come, and after the series of Checks the player to the right of us Called. We have balanced (Call), as we need the ratio of Bet/pot to be 1 : 9, and chances to win are approximately 1 : 7. The others have Folded, the pot has $100 and two players are in the game. On the Turn Q diamonds has come, so we have a senior pair with a fine kicker (the card following the combination). The lonely opponent Bets. And what do we do?
The answer: Raise. The Flop does not suggest a strong combination of the opponent. If his hand is better - it is necessary to look at it even for additional money.
Example 5 (game $20-$40): After the player in an early position and the opponent on the right we have come in the game with Q diamonds J clubs. The player after us and the small blind have made the same. Now $120 are in the pot and 6 players are in the game. The Flop of Q hearts 6 diamonds 5 diamonds has given us the senior pair with a decent kicker and a backdoor ((two cards required) Flash. Before us: Check - Bet - Pass - Call. We Raise. Pass, Pass, re-Raise, Pass, we Calls, and 2 contenders for the pot of $260 are left. 4 Hearts comes, and the opponent Bets. How we shall act?
The answer: Pass. When the opponent re-Raised on the Flop, we could expect, that he has Q with the senior kicker, or 2 pairs, or a set. 2-3, 3-6 or 7-8, that gives him an invincible Straight, we do not even consider - he would hardly start playing with such cards. With a set of Q, we do not have a chance to win. If the opponent has Q with senior card we will rescue with J (3 cards), and with two junior pairs 8 possible cards will suit us. So, 0 to 8 maps may help us and it is necessary to put approximately 1/7 of the pot. It's too much.
Example 6 (game $15-$30): After the first player we enter into the game in Early position with K diamonds Q clubs. After us: Raise, two blinds, the first player and we has Called. There are 5 players and $150 in the pot. On the Flop: 10 clubs 9 clubs 3 hearts comes. That gives us a holey Straight and a backdoor Flash. Everybody Checks, and on the Turn Q diamonds comes. We have high pair with an excellent kicker. The small blind Checks, the big blind Bets, the player before us Passes. What are we going to do?
The answer: Only Call, we should not increase the bet. There are Q-10-9 on the table now, J on hands gives the opponent excellent chances for a Straight, the attacking player may have the second pair (Q), and the player after us has Raised before the Flop. He may have A-Q, and on the Flop he does not dare to Raise against four players. However, there are no reasons to Fold.
Example 7 (game $20-$40): With Q clubs J clubs we enter into the game after 2 other players, two more behind them has Called, the small blind Passed. There are $130 in the pot and 6 players. 8 hearts 8 diamonds 2 spades on the Flop, and everybody Checks. The Turn - J hearts - gives us the senior pair. The big blind goes all-in (all staying bets) on $10. The following player puts full of $40, the player before us Passes. What do we do?
The answer: Pass. The opponent has safely put all money - he would hardly bluff. The following might answer with $10, but he has increased the bet, and there are two more players after us. Let them play among themselves. Two 8, two J with kicker Q are not such a strong cards in this situation. The third 8 or the senior kicker are not so improbable.
First published: Magazine "Casino Player", Russia, #5, June 2001, translated by SmartPlayers.net, August 2003.