Poker Basics

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There is a curious corollary to the principle of trying to win the big pots right away. Obviously you want to bet or raise to drive out as many players as possible when you have the best hand. But if the pot is very large, it is frequently desirable to do the same even when you suspect you have the second-best hand, especially when you believe you're not that far behind.

You have four cards to an 8, and you suspect the player to your right, Player C, has four to a 6. If there are a few raises on third street, creating a good-sized pot, it is important that you raise the 6,4 when he comes out betting, even though his hand is probably better than yours and he will probably reraise. Why should you be willing to add two bets to the pot when you suspect you don't have the best hand? The answer is that you want to force out the other two hands. With a large pot they might call a single bet, but in the face of a bet, a raise, (and a probable reraise), they should now fold. You have succeeded in reducing the opposition to one, and you now have about a 45 percent chance of winning the pot. Your underdog status is more than compensated by all that extra dead money in there. On the other hand, with the other players involved, you would have only about a 30 percent chance of winning the pot.

Let's look at a similar situation in seven-card stud. You have two queens and the raising on third street has produced a large pot. The man to your immediate right has.

Your hand may not be the best hand. You don't think it is, but you are quite sure it is second best and not much of an underdog. If the man to your right with the K?9?comes out betting on fourth street, you should raise to drive the other players out. In the event your two queens is the best hand because te K?9?is a four-flush or two 9s, you don't have to worry about any of the other players outdrawing you. On the other hand, if the K?9?is in fact two kings, you have a better chance of winning the pot against him alone than you would if you let in other players who could outdraw you even if you made queens up or three queens.

The same principle comes up in hold 'em. The man to your right bets, putting you in a position to raise immediately to make other people fold. When the pot is large, you should do it with a good hand even if you suspect it might not be the best.