Poker Basics

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One step toward winning a big pot is driving out as many opponents as possible. Let's say you are playing seven-card stud, and there has been a lot of raising on the first three cards, which has created a big pot. You have three-of-a-kind, a powerful hand, and now on fourth street the man to your right bets. Should you call or raise? You should definitely raise even though you are driving out all the weaker hands behind you. Indeed that is precisely the purpose of your raise. The pot has become sufficiently large for you to try to win it right now, forsaking any future bets you might win. If everybody folds after you raise, you are delighted. If your raise succeeds only in cutting down the number of opponents, that's still pretty good.

Most people don't think in terms of this special case of the Fundamental Theorem of Online Poker Games, but it is vital. Wanting to win the present pot instantly - even with the best hand - depends on your chances of winning if the hand continues and upon the pot odds you are giving your opponents. You must ask yourself whether an opponent would be correct to take those odds knowing what you had. If so, you would rather have that opponent fold. If not - that is, if the odds against your opponent's making a winning hand are greater than the pot odds he's getting - then you would rather have him call. In this case, instead of winning the pot right away, you're willing to take the tiny risk that your opponent will outdraw you and try to win at least one more bet. If, in the seven-stud example of the preceding paragraph you had four-of-a-kind instead of three-of-a-kind, you would not want to put in a raise to drive people out. Your hand is so good you'd want to collect a few more bets with it.

It's rare to catch a monster hand like four-of-a-kind in the first four or five cards. With just about anything less than that, you should try to win large pots right away instead of letting players in cheaply or free. Nor do the pots you go after have to be
gigantic, just fairly large relative to the betting structure of the games you're playing. Your opponent or opponents may fold after you bet or raise, but while you might have won another bet or two, you still have the reward of having locked up a good-sized pot.