7-Stud: Playing Pairs 4th Street & Beyond
This combination creates a third, sort of "emergent problem". A paradox of sorts. If you are playing with an unimproved premium hand on 4th street against two opponents, one who seems to be clearly drawing and has improved his draw and another who has a hand that you expect may be beating you but may not be, what are you to do?
The type of conundrums that I described in the paragraph above lead to some pretty tough decisions. Many great 7-Stud players often talk about playing by feel, or playing with their guts. The reality is that they are using there subconscious recall to sort through a plethora of variables that would be difficult to put into concrete thoughts, let alone words. Sometimes you just have to go with your "gut". In the example above I talked abut a situation where you had started with a premium hand but failed to improve on fourth street. Now it seems one of your opponents has improved to a pretty solid draw; it's the second opponent that puts the proverbial "fly in your ointment". He started with a hand that was unlikely to be any sort of draw, and you now suspect, but aren't sure, he has improved his hand.
The problem is this: giving your drawing opponent a free card to beat you is a huge mathematical mistake. However, voluntarily leading right out at an opponent who has you crushed is worse still. Let's set up an example: you are playing (JhJd)8sAd and have to act first and your opponents have (??)9sTs and (??)4hKd. It's important to note that a deuce brought it in, you raised on the first round and were called by both of these players. The suspicion comes from the fact that players like to play small split pairs with an ace or a king kicker; (4K)4K is a very real concern here. If you raised on third street and you were called by a player showing a 4, you sort of have to ask yourself what other hands he could have and how many of them you are ahead of. It's unlikely he has an ace because there are only two left in the deck, and if he has started with a set of fours, you're in even worse shape.
Here's my suggestion. I think you should check here and when the (??)9sTs checks, which he will almost undoubtedly do, and the (??)4hKd bets, which he will undoubtedly do, you should re-raise. The idea is this: by forcing the draw to call a double bet, you will almost definitely knock him out. Knocking out the player on the draw creates "dead money" (no not a poker playing green faced freak with chips for eyes… rather, money that was put into the pot by players who no are longer contesting it.). The chances of the drawing player winning the hand are now distributed statistically between the remaining players. That helps to mathematically compensate for the possibility that you are behind in the hand. If the original bettor calls your check- raise you should be pretty reluctant to put any more money in the pot if you don't improve your hand.
Remember that your primary goal on 4th street when you are playing a made hand that is likely to be the best hand is to knock out the drawing hands. Many beginners fail to recognize this crucially important concept, and that ends up costing them big in the long run. A lot of novice stud poker players are under the misconception that they want players drawing against them when they have an edge. That is flawed logic that will lead to chip leaking mistakes. Mathematically you would prefer a 100% chance of taking a $50 pot than a 60% chance of taking down a $70 pot, right? In no limit games you are able to make bets that are substantial enough for you to pray for your opponents to attempt to draw against you.
In limit poker it is best if you can just force the drawing hands to surrender. If you can't bet enough to price them off the hand, you still have to punish them as best you can. Typically the best way to punish the draws for hanging around is to raise and check-raise them out of the pot. In most cases I think you should be willing to check-raise with two pair or a set on fourth street. You can also check-raise with any pair, especially a wired pair, that rates to potentially be the best hand. If you improve to three of a kind you are almost always going to play to the end. You will often play two pair very aggressively as well (two pair is the average winning hand at a table of eight). There are some times when it is best to give up your two pair. Sometimes when a tight player makes an over pair and comes out betting or check-raises you, you should just fold your two pair. You have to assume he started with something, and if he has made two bigger pair you are drawing pretty slim to beat him. If he has made a set, you are drawing nearly dead and it is unlikely that the pot odds compensate for your disadvantage in the hand.
Another time you should be reluctant to continue in a hand is when your opponent pairs his door card. There is only a very slim chance he hasn't made two pair or a set. If you don't have aces up or better you need to be playing for a pretty big pot to continue calling down a player who very possibly just made a set. Depending on the number of cards that have been exposed and the number of live cards you have left, you are often an 11 to 1 dog or worse against a set, even with two pair. You are very often a 20 to 1 dog with one pair higher than your opponent's three of a kind. You'd have to have pretty compelling pot odds to consider continuing in the hand, or a very good read on your opponent that makes you think he isn't that strong.
The main goals you should have when playing pairs, whether improved or unimproved, should be to charge drawing hands as much as possible to play against you and to try to gauge how strong any made hands out against you may be. Having this knowledge will help you to get the most value out of your hands when you hit monsters like full houses and will also prevent you from wasting bets on the end that you may otherwise have to pay off in the hopes that your hand might just hold up. Sometimes re-raising and check-raising on early rounds will save you from having to make "crying calls" on later streets, when the bets are doubled. Remember that everyone wins and loses the occasional pot. It is the player who wins the most on the pots he wins and loses the least on the pots he loses who comes out on top in the end. Until next time, Good "Luck!"
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