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Giving or Not Giving a Free Card With a Marginal Hand

When you are certain you have the best hand, deciding whether to bet with more cards to come is relatively easy. However, you are frequently in a situation where you suspect you have the best hand, but you know you will be called only if you are beaten. Still, you must consider betting so that you do not give your opponent a free shot to outdraw you in the event you do have the best hand. The factors to consider when deciding to bet are:

Your chances of having the best hand.
The chances the next card will give your opponent the best hand when he would have folded had you bet.
The size of the pot.
The chances you will outdraw a better hand that might call you.

The larger the pot and the greater the chances your opponent will outdraw you on the next card, the more reason you have to bet.

Point number 4 needs some explaining. Suppose you are afraid you do not have as good a hand as your opponent. Before betting, you should take into account what your chances are of outdrawing the hand you fear your opponent might have. The higher those chances, the more reason you have to bet. The lower they are, the more reason you have to check. To take an obvious example first, if you have two pair and a four-flush in seven-card stud and you are worried that your opponent has made a straight, you should most certainly bet rather than give him a free card in the event he does not yet have the straight. Your combined chances of making either a full house or a flush to beat a straight are very good. On the other hand, if you have two pair with no four-flush and fear your opponent has made a straight, you would be inclined to check since your chances of making a full house are slim.

Which hand would you be more inclined to bet? It turns out you are in much better shape with the A?7? (which gives you two 7s) than you are with two 8s because there are five unseen cards that will improve the A?7?three aces and two 7s - while there are only two cards that will improve the pair of 8s - namely, the remaining two 8s. (You disregard pairing any card on board since the pair improves your opponent's hand as much as or perhaps even more than it does your own.) Since you have more ways of improving to beat someone with, say, two jacks, you would be more inclined to bet with an A,7.

The fewer ways you have of improving, the more convinced you have to be that you already have the best hand in order to bet. Thus, while you might check two 8s when the flop comes J?7?3?, you would most definitely bet two queens even though the latter hand also has only two ways of improving (the remaining two queens). With two queens you are pretty sure you already have the best hand, yet you are not strong enough to risk giving a free card.

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