Monday, February 28, 2011

Betting versus Checking on Seventh Street

The usual rationale for checking on the end is that in many circumstances, it risks money for no gain. If you believe that your opponents are on a draw against you, they will fold if they miss, or raise if they hit. In high-only poker variants, players check on the end for this reason. But, in high-low games, a hit draw might be for only half the pot. In these cases a raise does not necessary mean you lose everything. This is why having a good read on the end is so important. It is always dangerous to bet with a high-only hand into a made low-hand because your opponent has nothing to loose by raising and could have you beat. However, not every hand that shows low cards on the board represents a qualified low-hand. Many times these are high-only hands that will still call your bet when you have them beat. Here are some cues for reading hands.

Suited cards: Obviously, an opponent showing four, or even three suited cards on the board is a threat to make a flush on the end. However, two suited cards can be threat if one of them includes a high door card, especially if that high door card was either dead, or an under-card after the deal. For example, a person playing a Queen, when other Queens are exposed and/or higher cards such as Aces or Kings are exposed, is almost always playing three suited cards. Even though, in most instances this is a bad play, three suited cards is an irresistible starting hand for most players. If a second card with a suit matching the door card appears, that person will stay to the end looking to complete the flush. Pay attention to how live your opponent's flush draw remains when deciding if you want to bet into this kind of hand at the end.

Sequential cards: Opponents showing sequential mid-range cards, such as 8, 9, 10, or even cards with a gap, such as 7, 9, 10, are usually on a straight draw because that is one of the principal reasons for continuing with mid-range cards that have little value for a low-hand and are often dominated for high hand. Often the straight-draw is backed into from a hand that started as a potential low-hand. Many times these straight-draws can be live and open-ended, so proceed with caution on the end if you do not finish with a qualified low-hand, and cannot beat a mid-range straight.

The exposure of 4s and 5s: As pointed out in a previous post, the completion of a straight that simultaneously qualifies as a low-hand requires 4s and 5s. If you do not see any of the 4s or 5s, any two exposed low-cards in an opponent's hand can be a threat to make a low straight on the end, because most likely the straight-draw is live.

Paired door cards that prompt raising: A hand such as (X, X) 5, 7, K, 5 (X) in which the player suddenly started raising on Sixth Street when the second 5 appeared, has usually made trip 5s. The hand cannot qualify for low on Sixth Street and if there are trips 5s it will not qualify for low. Unless you can beat 5s-full you should probably check to this hand on the river.

Paired door cards that are high in a hand that did not raise on prior streets: Consider a hand such as (X, X) K, K, 7, 5 (X). When a high door card such as this is paired, the possibility of trips must be considered, but usually the player will begin raising immediately. If a raise does not occur when the card is paired, that is often sign of a wired pair, and the player now has two pair. Players with two pair are often aggressive when there are no potential low-hands, but if there are one or more potential low-hands, two pair is a vulnerable holding and many players check and call while hoping to fill-up. What this means is that if you finish with two pair, you need to be able to beat a hand with two pair that includes the pair on the board.

Paired door cards that are low in a hand that did not raise on prior streets: A hand such as (X, X) 4, 4, J, 10 (X) that checked and called all the way, most likely went to the river as a pair 4s with hopes of making two-pair or trips on the end. Most likely this hand started as three small cards but never improved for low. If you can beat two small pair you should bet because this player will call with any two pair, no matter how small, and might even call with the pair of 4s if the 4s beat the board.

Paired cards for Fourth Street and later: For hands such as (X, X) 3, 4, J, J (X) or (X, X) 3, 4, Q, 4 (X) it is unlikely that the player had anything better than the single pair going to the river. The player is hoping to make two pair, or trips on the end, or complete a low-hand. If you have a two pair that can beat the pair on the board it is usually worth it to bet.

Low door cards that remain in the hand after picking up high cards: A player with a hand such as (X, X) 5, J, Q, K, almost always started with a low pair, either split or wired, because if the starting hand had been 4, 5, 6, it would have been abandoned. This player is hoping make two pair, or trips on the end. You should not have to worry about the straight. If you are heads-up against this kind of hand and have two small pair, you should check. This is the kind of hand that will often fold to a bet unless it makes Jacks-up or better, in which case you are beat.

Any two exposed wheel cards, especially on early streets: A player with (X, X), 5, 4, J, Q (X) is going to the river looking to complete a low-hand at the minimum, and possibly a low straight. You should check to this hand unless you have a high hand that can beat a low straight because you have nothing to gain from a bet. The player will fold to any bet unless he completed a low-hand.

Four exposed low-cards in a hand that did not raise on prior streets: Hand such as (X, X) 2, 5, 6, 7 (X) that did not raise earlier have not qualified for the low-pot before the river. Clearly the hand could be a qualified low-hand after the river, but frequently the last card is a brick, especially if many of the low cards are dead. If the hand is not already a qualified low-hand before the river, it is because low hole cards paired, resulting in two small pair, or there was a wired pair to begin with that did not make trips. Often in these situations the wired pair is high, which meant the player never expected to get a low-hand. If you have a hand with a reasonably high two pair or better, you should bet because often you will scoop in this situation, even with all the scary looking low-cards.