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Pumping the Pot Versus Lying in the Weeds

Bet your playable hands, particularly when you think you have the best hand: You should try to drive out players who may beat you if you allow them to draw for free. Unless you're holding a monster, the best play with a good hand is usually to bet: Discourage the opposition from taking shots at cards that might beat you! On the other hand, with really big hands, give your opponents a chance to catch up a little don't push the early betting. You want adversaries to improve just enough to pursue the hand, so you can take even more money from them.

But what about times when you're not in the lead? When you have a drawing hand instead, a "wannabe hand" that makes you long to see the next card as inexpensively as possible? That's the time to check, hoping your opponent will, too. If he checks, he's given you infinite odds to chase him down and beat him. As long as it costs you nothing to try and improve your hand, why not stick around to get lucky? When there's no cost involved, no long shot is too long a shot to play!

All of this applies when there are more cards to come, when hands have potential for improvement. Once all the cards have been dealt, betting won't win you the pot by making it too expensive for your opponent to see another card. There are no other cards to come, and the winning hand has already been dealt.

You can bet on the end as long as you think you'll have the best hand if you're called. That's important. If you bet and your opponent hasn't improved his draw, he'll fold. Your bet on the river won't garner one additional cent. But if he calls, he's got some sort of hand. So you shouldn't bet unless you believe your hand will be the best hand most of the time it's called.

If you check and your opponent bets, he could have a good hand - or he might be bluffing. If you've got a decent hand, you'll call him, or even raise if your hand is huge. (However, an attempt to check and then raise can be risky and cost you a bet. Unless you're quite sure your opponent will bet if you check to him, it's best to just go ahead and bet.) In any event, whenever you win a pot in this manner, you'll win at least one additional bet because your check induced an adversary to bet. If you bet and he folds, you won't capture that last wager.

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