see also: Hold'Em Poker Strategy 
Texas Hold'em Lesson #1 
Texas Hold'em Lesson #2 

With The Best Cards

Although as not so frequently, as we would like it to be, sometimes we have certainly dealt the best cards or the nuts. How to play in this situation - this question is not so simple, as it would seem to be at the first glance. It seems with the best cards we just need placing the most and taking the pot. However, the goal of poker is not to win more pots, but to win more money. When the pot is almost for sure in our hands, we wish it to become more in scale. Does it make sense to increase the bet? Won't we frighten off our opponents? But maybe, it's better to return initiative to the opponent - all these versions we will dismantle based on real examples. As usual, these are not academic studies, but the cases from the real game of Limit Hold'em Poker.

Example 1

(limit $20-$40). On small Blind we have Q spades 9 spades, and 7 players enter into the game without Raises. So we are. Altogether there are $160 in the pot and 8 active players. The Flop brings Q hearts Q diamonds 9 hearts, that gives us full house nuts. What should we do?

Answer: Call. First, there are a lot of active players in the game, and they would hardly immediately throw out their cards altogether. Second, the flop can give hope to someone of the players for Flush or Straight in hearts - they will surely answer your bet. But if we say Check, then probably everybody will agree and receive the next card for free. Probability of collecting money from them on the following streets is , of course, outstanding, especially if they are succeeded in combining good hands. But if they do not succeed, i.e., inappropriate card comes on the Thorn, they will Pass with your smallest increase in the bet on the Thorn, and nothing will be added into the pot. Therefore in this case we should take advantage before they quit - we try to maximally increase the pot before the next card is opened.

Example 2

(limit $10-$20). We are sitting on the button (i.e., on the last hand) with A diamonds 8 diamonds. One player in the early position, one on the average and one before us entered into the game without the increases, i.e., they placed $10 each. So we are, the small Blind made the same and the large Blind did not increase. Altogether, there are $60 and 6 players. Flop - Q diamonds 7 diamonds 2 diamonds. We have Flush nats. The small Blind bets, the large Blind increases, two players Fold and the one sitting before us Raises. What should we do?

Answer: Call. We've got nats, we are in the best position - on the last hand, and we've got the time to increase the pot on the following rounds. if we Raise now, we cannot predict the small and large Blinds' actions. Most likely someone, probably, the player sitting before us, has Flush, so he will fight to the end. The small Blind, probably, has higher Pair or better, the large Blind - as the minimum has higher Pair or two Pairs, and one of his cards is suited diamonds. The small Blind will answer to our $20 bet, but, probably, he wouldn't answer to $30 bet, in case we make extra Raise. But if on the Thorn or the River, when stakes are high, there is one more diamonds and opponents are rushed into the trade, then dealer will surely deserve some change from us.

Example 3

(limit $15-$30). We are in the average position with two J on hands. The player before us immediately entered into the game with Raise (he placed $30). In the sensible reflection we decided not to Raise too, but simply bet the same. 2 additional players did the same, the rest threw out their cards. The Flop brought Q spades J spades 4 diamonds, and we're in the average set. The player before us checks, we Bet, the next-to-last player Raises, and the Button bets $30. The first player discards his cards, we Raise once more. Next-to-last player bets all remained money (All-in), and the Button quietly bets again. There are $280 in the pot and 3 players, one of them do not have the money to continue betting. The Thorn Is opened - J clubs, so we have Three-of-a-kind and Nats. What should we do next?

Answer: To Bet. There is the only one opponent, who can add something to the pot. And he always answers the bets during the game (current hand). Probably, he has something decent or there are chances to buy this 'something'. Possibly, he has spades and awaits for a Straight Flush or Royal Flush. But thus far we have the advantage, and the probability that the opponent will buy necessary card is rather low. We attack - let him pay for the right to try getting the necessary card.

Example 4

(limit $20-$40). The situation is similar to the example 2. On the next-to-last hand we have A hearts 10 hearts. Two players in the early and two in the average positions entered without Raises, so we are. The button was thrown his cards out, and the small Blind Raised. Everybody answered, and now there are $280 in the pot and 7 players. The Flop brought 9 hearts 7 hearts 2 hearts. Before us - check-check-check-bet. We Call, the first player Calls too, the rest Pass. There are now $340 in the pot and three players. The Thorn is A clubs. The first player Bets, the next one Passes. What do we do?

Answer: Raise. It's possible, of course, to simply bet, but the problem is in the fact that after the River our Bet already can not obtain answer, especially if the opponent attacks without having a Flush or with hope to get Flush. Let him pay for his two Pairs or set.

Example 5

(limit $15-$30). We entered into the game with Raise from the average position with A diamonds 9 diamonds. Only the large Blind answered, and there are $70 pot and two players. J hearts 8 diamonds 3 diamonds give us a hope for Nats of Flush or Pair of Aces. Opponent Checks, we Bets, he Raises and we re-Raise. (We decide increasing the bets because we need one of 9 remaining diamonds or one of 3 Aces. And also there is Backdoor Straight). He Calls, and the pot grows to $160. On the Thorn Q diamonds comes, that's giving us Nats of Flush. The opponent Checks. What do we do?

Answer: Bet. The opponent hardly assumes after our re-Raising on the Flop that we have unfinished Flush, which is now formed. If he Passes now, then, without betting, we simply would give him the opportunity to obtain a free card. If the opponent Bets, then our purpose is achieved, and with his Raise it's possible to re-Raise again.

Example 6

(limit $30-$60). Our cards are 6 diamonds 5 hearts, and we are on the large Blind. Player in the early position and the small Blind entered into the game, the rest threw out their cards. We, naturally, Check, and a total of $90 are in the pot and there're three players. On the Flop 4 hearts 3 diamonds 2 spade comes, and our dead hand was turned into the Nats of Straight. The small Blind Bets. And what do we do?

Answer: Call. Increasing is not necessary because of the small pot, it is better to raise the pot's size, but our combination has all chances to remain strongest. We don't know certainly how the third player will act - he entered before the Flop in the early position, and, probably, he could have something like a Pair in the hand, that did not improved on the Flop. He will answer to the standard Bet, but to the Raise - probably no. But if his hand is stronger, or he want to bluff and attack himself, then he will dig his own grave.

As for the Small Blind - it is analogous, let him consider that his hand is the strongest. But on the Thorn and the River other cards may come, that will allow someone from opponents to obtain strong (but not stronger than our hand!) combination - A, 5, or any of the cards that coincides with the Flop. There the pot will rise!

Example 7

(limit $20-$40). On the large Blind we have K diamonds J hearts. One player from the early position and one from the average seat entered into the game, but they failed looking the flop card for free - the player on the button Raised. We bet and two other players bet as well. There are $170 in the pot and four players. To flop brought A clubs Q spades 10 diamonds, giving us Nats of Straight. It's our turn. What should we say?

Answer: Bet. It seems that the pot will be large, bets before the Flop imply the presence of strong cards of our opponents, and the Flop completely could help them composing a very strong hand. So that they will answer our Bets, and possibly with Raise. We cannot be beaten, but if K or J appears on the Thorn or on the River, we should be ready to share the pot.

Oleg Granovsky

First published: Gambling Magazine "Casino Player", September 2002, Russia, translated by SmartPlayers.net, © July 2005.

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