Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Calling versus Folding on Seventh Street

If you are deciding between calling and folding on Seventh Street, it means that you do not like your holdings. One of the toughest decisions in Stud-Eight is whether to call on the end with a hand that finished “one-way,” meaning that the hand can only take half the pot. By Seventh Street, the pot can be very large, so losing even half the pot to an incorrect fold can be costly. In many cases, weak one-way hands can hold up for half the pot, if the action came from players vying for the other half. Here are some of the more uncomfortable circumstances to be in at the end.

A weak low versus a potential low: This situation arises with hands such as (5, 6) 7, A, K, 9 (8). By picking up an 8 on the end you are saddled with one of the worse possible low-hands and a terrible high-hand. Some one showing (X, X) 7, 4, 2, A (X) can easily have you beat. However, as a general rule, if you have a qualifying low-hand, and there is a large pot at the end, you should call because it never certain that four scary looking low-cards in an opponent’s hand are part of a qualified low-hand. An exception can be made, if it is a multi-way pot with a lot of raising, in which case it is not a bad play to fold. Good hand reading ability is vital in making the decision because there are times when the player with the low cards has a wired high-pair and little chance completing a low-hand. In heads-up play don’t fold if your opponent appears to be playing for low and you can beat the board for high. In the example above, the A, K might hold up for the high-pot if the other hand hasn’t paired. If the other hand has paired, it will be less likely to qualify for the low-pot.

Two pair versus a potential straight: If the straight cards are high and the player holding them bets or raises into a threatening board, you can confidently muck the two pair. Some one checking and calling with (X, X) J, 10, 9, K, (X) who suddenly bets on the end into a possible low-hand, made the straight. A more difficult situation is when the straight cards are low. For example, you have (A, 2) A, 3, 6, 2 (J) against a player with (X, X) 4, 5, 6, 2 (X), who bets out on the end without having made any prior raises. You lost your chance for a low-hand when the Jack hit, and there is a good chance your Aces-up are no longer good for high. Generally you should call here, unless it is a multi-way pot with a lot of jamming on the end, in which case your hand is clearly no good for high. Again, in making this decision, watch for the 4s and 5s and the connectedness of the cards. For example, your chances are much better for taking the high-pot if you have (A, 4) A, 4, 5, 6 (J) and your opponent has (X, X) 2, 3, 7, 9 (X), than in first example in which all your opponent needs is a hidden 3 to scoop.

One small pair versus a potential low: This is often an apparently hopeless situation, but surprisingly it might not be and you can give up a lot of equity by routinely folding. Suppose you have (3, 4) 5, 6, J, 9, (5) versus (X, X) 7, 3, 2, K (X) and your opponent bets. You missed both the straight draw and the low-hand draw and have nothing but a pair of 5s for a high-hand. However, if your opponent played only for low he might not have any paired cards, which means that your 5s are good for high. In fact, I’ve been in hands in which calling with the 5s scooped for me because the bet was a semi-bluff from an opponent who also missed the low-hand and had an even lower pair.

Trips or less versus another hand betting into a low-hand: A frustrating occurrence is to start with rolled trips or two small pair that do not fill up or make a low-hand. Finishing with (3, 3) 3, 4, 5, J (K) or (A, A) 2, 2, 5, 6, (Q) are frequent outcomes from promising starting cards. These kinds of hands are still strong, but qualify only for the high-pot which limits your implied pot odds on the end. In a heads-up pot, you would simply call. The difficult decision arises in multi-way pots in which a player bets into a potential low-hand, who either raises or might raise when her turn comes. What to do depends on your judgment of whether the player making the bet is representing a high-hand or a low-hand.

If the bettor is representing a high-hand, she has you beat because she wouldn’t bet unless she has better than a low straight. There are exceptions, such as players who bet two pair aggressively in this situation anticipating that for this board you and the other player each have low-hands. However, if you played your early cards aggressively, which you should have, that usually dissuades most players from betting into you on the end unless they hit a monster hand. As painful as it might be, it is better to fold in this situation rather than get jammed by the low-hand.

An extremely uncomfortable situation arises if the bettor is representing a better low-hand than the other player’s low-hand. If each opponent thinks that his or her low-hand is the best, each will want to cap the raising. In that case you will have to go along and hope that neither holds a low straight. Again your aggressive play early in the hand because of the strength of your starting cards means that the pot prior to Seventh Street betting is already large.