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Home arrow Poker Strategies arrow Checking in Pokerarrow Giving a Free Card
Giving a Free Card

Giving a free card means checking a hand you could have bet when there are more cards to come. Of course, when you check with the intention of raising, you are giving a free card only when your opponent is so uncooperative as not to bet into you.

When you know or are pretty sure you have the best hand, you have to decide whether or not to give your opponent a free card. We saw in the last page that it is almost never correct to give a free card when the pot is large. It turns out that it is rarely correct to give a free card with medium-sized pots, even when you know your opponent will fold if you bet. You simply have to be satisfied with what there is in the pot already. One reason you should bet is that generally you want your opponent to fold.

If there is, let's say, $50 in the pot and you bet $10, your opponent is getting 6-to-1 odds. As a 5-to-1 underdog, he should call. As we have seen in earlier pages, any opponent who doesn't take the odds when he has the best of it is losing money. Therefore, you have gained when that person folds.

However, the principle of not giving a free card goes even further. If your opponent is a 9-to-1 underdog, getting 6-to-1 odds, you should still bet. In this case, you hope that opponent calls, but you don't mind when he folds. His folding is better than your giving him a free 10 percent chance to make his hand and beat you. As we saw in the last page, giving a free card is equivalent to giving a person infinite odds on that betting round. That person needs to make a zero investment for a chance to win whatever is in the pot.

Suppose, going into the last card in seven-card stud, you think a player has a gut-shot draw to a straight, and you have three-of-a-kind. Your opponent is at least a 10-to-1 underdog to make the straight, and even if he hits, you may make a full house. So you're a big favorite to win the hand. Nevertheless, it is still better that you bet and force your opponent to fold than that you check and he check behind you. By checking you are giving your opponent a free shot at beating you, a chance he would not have if you had bet.

When you are not so big a favorite, it is even more important to bet rather than give a free card.

Let's say you have 8 and 7 in hold 'em, and the flop comes up three spades. With a modest pot you should come out betting even though you expect everybody will fold because you can't let somebody with, say, a lone 104 get a free shot at a higher flush. You might not want the person to fold when you bet, but making him fold is better than giving him a free chance to outdraw you. (The only time you might check your flush is if the pot is so small you expect to gain more through deception. Thus, if no spades fall after the flop, your profits on later bets are likely to be considerably larger than what you would gain by betting on the flop. However, if another spade does come, you have to be prepared to fold.)

When you have a chance to bet and you have a decent hand, especially a hand you think is the best one, it is almost always correct to bet. The only conditions that might make it incorrect to bet are the following:

1.

The pot is small in comparison to what it might be in the future and you figure to gain more in future bets through deception than by giving your hand away now; this situation occurs most often in pot-limit and no-limit games.

2.

You think you can get in a check-raise.

3.

Your hand is so strong it's worth giving a free card even with a medium-sized pot.

 We'll look at two hold 'em hands to see the difference between a situation where you should bet and another where you might consider checking.

With two jacks you should bet in an attempt to win the pot right there, even if you think only a better hand will call. If you give your opponents a free card (with what would have been the best hand) and an ace, king, or queen falls on fourth street, you are clearly in trouble. Thus, you don't want to give your opponents a free chance to draw one of those cards to make a higher pair than yours. Even if an ace, king, or queen doesn't make an opponent a higher pair, your checking on the flop gives anyone the opportunity to bluff you successfully if one of those cards falls.

With aces you can give serious consideration to checking on the flop. Having two aces instead of two jacks has not significantly affected your chances of having the best hand since we'll assume that in both cases there has been no reason to think you are up against two kings or two queens in the hole. With two aces, however, you are not worried about as many fourth street cards as you would be with two jacks, and so you might as well check just in case someone has made three l Os. Assuming no one has a 10 in the hole, an additional benefit of your checking your pair of aces is that you have disguised your hand. Not only do you not fear a king, queen, or ace falling on fourth street (as you would with a pair of jacks), you would welcome it, since any of those cards, as well as a jack, might give an opponent a playable second-best hand.

Of course, you should nearly always bet if you think a worse hand will call. You should also bet if the pot is large, since a large pot is worth the risk of running into three 10s in order to shut out the possibility that a miracle card will fall for an opponent on the next round. With a large pot it is also more likely that an opponent will call your bet with a bad hand like.

Now let's suppose you are in another hold 'em hand. With two jacks you would once again be more inclined to bet since there are more free cards that will beat you. But with two kings in the hole, it might be better to check in case someone has made a pair of aces. If you do have the best hand, you have less to lose by giving a free card since fewer cards will beat you than when you have two jacks.

The basic concept to be emphasized is that you do not want to give an opponent with a worse hand a free card that might make his hand better than yours. Therefore, if you expect to be called, always bet what you think is the best hand unless you figure it is better to try for a check-raise. Except when you have reason to slow play, either because the pot is small or because you have a monster hand, always bet the best hand even if you don't expect to be called. You gain most when your opponent folds if there were sufficient pot odds for a call. However, even when your opponent isn't getting good enough pot odds to call and figures to fold, you should bet. You would prefer a call when that opponent is making a mistake by calling, but making him fold is still better than giving him a free shot to outdraw you.

 



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