7-Stud Poker: Fourth Street & Beyond
If you start with a drawing hand in 7 card stud poker and improve your draw on fourth street, you are likely going to play it all the way. The pot will be larger after fourth street, and you will have a better chance of hitting your hand if it's improved. That combination will largely leave you stuck to the hand. Even if a lot of your flush cards are out while you're chasing that illusive fifth card to your flush, putting another bet into a large pot is rarely a catastrophic mathematical error. When you do not improve your drawing hand on fourth street and your opponents have managed to catch a lot of the cards you are looking for, it may be time to abort mission.
Suppose you start the hand with (QhTh)9h. If you hit another heart on fourth street you should be prepared to check-call with it to the end. If you have four to a decent flush, the number of bets that the pot has in it by fourth street, along with the implied odds of the bets you may collect on future betting rounds if you do make your hand, will usually leave you pretty well committed to playing the hand 'til seventh street. In small stakes 7-stud poker games you can typically just check and call with your drawing hands. There's no reason to mix up your play when most of the players aren't really paying too much attention to what you're doing anyway.
In higher limits you can sometimes play your draws more aggressively. In high limits you can, and must, mix up your play by check-raising some of the time when you're drawing, sometimes check-calling, and sometimes just leading out when you have a drawing hand. The higher the limits you pay, the more value deception has, especially as it applies to "betting on the come." Some of the value that comes from check-raising or leading out with a draw comes from the chance that your opponent will fold his hand.
In low limits you will rarely see a player fold to a check-raise. Your bets have less "fold equity", and it is often correct to simply draw to your hands as inexpensively as possible. When you play smaller stakes, the money you lose by making the nonstandard play is unlikely to be made up for on later streets or later hands in deception. You can just play pretty basic, standard, mathematically-sound poker street after street, session after session and come out a big winner. It's only against savvy players that you need to mix up your play. There are some "fancy plays" that work well at even mid and low level games.
Let's say you catch the Ah to go with your (QhTh)9h. Now you can actually consider raising or check-raising. Even in lower limits. You are really representing a pair of aces. There are a lot of great strategic implications that come from playing your draw that way. By representing aces with a check-raise you add a lot of, potentially profitable, deception to your hand. If you check and a player showing a ten and a six bets out, your re-raise could cause him to fold a small or medium pair, which is what you want when you're on a draw. Also getting this bet in now, even when it is called, could save you from having to pay off a larger bet on the end when you "accidentally" hit a pair while you're on the come. For instance, if you pair your nine but miss your flush, you can fold to a raise on the end even when you're getting a huge price on your call. That's because you can feel very certain that your nine is no good. You just saved yourself one big bet on the end by putting in one small bet now. Saving even single bets here and there is what makes the difference between a good and great player.
Another reason I like to make a check-raise when I'm on a draw and a big card comes off for me is that it will often buy you a free card on the next street and maybe even beyond when the bets double. If you check-raise with an ace showing on fourth street, your opponent is going to think twice about betting into you on fifth street after you check it to him. He is likely to check behind you, allowing you to take a free card off to potentially hit your monster hand. Any time you can take a card off for free while you're on a draw it's like being handed infinite pot odds. It costs you nothing to attempt to win a pot that contains a number of bets in it. You're risking nothing for a shot at something, and that's as profitable as plays get in any form of poker. Another, more subtle, reason to play a hand that way is that it locks up equity now. If your next card comes off a heart and your opponent is unwilling to pay off your flush, at least you got that last bet in before you were showing a three flush. Also, you build a bigger pot so that your opponent(s) will be more inclined to pay off a bet on the end. When you play a hand in this fashion you will usually make more on the hand when you win but lose less when you lose. And that's what it's all about.
Sometimes when you are on a draw you end up making a pair instead. You may have started with (KdTd)2d and had to bring it in. You may pair your king on fourth street. I think the way to play that type of hand is usually just to bet or raise with it. Even if your opponent has an ace showing and bets into you, I think you should raise to try and knock out some of the drawing hands. If you get called by the player with the ace and you do not improve, you will not have to pay off a big bet on the end. This is another example of learning to limit your losses on the hands you lose and add to your profit on your winning hands. In the long run everyone is going to be dealt the same number of winning and losing hands, the player who learns to win the most when he wins and lose the least when he loses is going to be the player who comes out on top in the long run. Until next time, Good "Luck"!
♣ Continued at: 7-Stud: Playing Pairs 4th Street & Beyond
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