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Raising to Get a Free Card

As we just noted, when your semi-bluff raise is called, it may have allowed you the opportunity to get a free card on the next round. However, when you're thinking of raising specifically to get a free card, you should keep in mind two considerations your position and the cost of the raise.

To get a free card, you must be last to act; if you are not last and you check, you will have shown weakness. A player behind you with a better hand than yours will probably bet, denying you the chance for a free card. In hold 'em, you can always be sure of your position since it's fixed throughout a hand, but in games like seven-card stud and razz, you often have no guarantee you will be last to act from one round to the next. In seven stud, for instance, the player to your left may have a king high to start the betting, but on the next card the player to your right or you yourself catch an ace. Now you must lead off, which you certainly do not want to do if you're still banking on a free card. So if you have some doubt about securing last position on the next round, raising to get a free card can just cost you money needlessly when it turns out you're not last after all.

Which brings up the second consideration when you're thinking of raising to get a free card - namely, that that free card is not free at all. It costs you the price of your raise. So unless you have other reasons for raising, you would make the play only when the cost of the raise now is cheaper than what you'd have to pay for a call on the next round. In a $10-$20 hold 'em games, for example, in which the bet doubles on fourth street, you might raise $10 after the flop to avoid paying $20 to call a bet on the next round.

Of course, you need not take advantage of the free card option. You certainly wouldn't when you catch the card that makes your hand. Nor would you when you catch a card that looks as if it makes your hand. For example, the holder of the pair of black 7s with showing, a hand we discussed in the preceding two pages, probably knew he had the worst hand and might have taken a free card in the hope of making a flush, but he found it much more profitable to continue the semi-bluff and bet after the hit, since only an opponent with a very strong hand could risk a call.

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