cases where you think you're the underdog if called,
the decision to bet or check becomes even more ticklish.
Let's say there's $60 in the pot in a $10-$20 game,
and again you have hand 80. But this time you know
your opponent will call only with hands 65 and up.
Thus, you are a 20-to-15 underdog if your opponent
calls. You also know that if you check, your opponent
will bet with hands 70 and up. How should you play?
As an underdog, you might think you should check.
But what will you do if your opponent bets after you
check? Since there's $60 in the pot plus your opponent's
$20, you're getting $80-to $20 or 4-to-1 odds from
the pot, and we said your opponent will bet with hands
70-100. You have hand 80, and so you'll lose to 20
hands and beat 10 hands. Since you are getting 4-to-1
from the pot and are only a 2-to-1 underdog, clearly
you must call when your opponent bets.
Look again at what happens when you bet. Your opponent
will call with hands 65-100. By betting you've added
five wins - when your opponent has hands 65-69 - to
Instead of going in as a 20-to-10 underdog, which
you would be doing if you checked, you're going in
as a 20-to-15 underdog since you'll still lose to
20 hands, but now you will beat 15 hands instead of
10. So the correct play is to bet because betting
here makes you less of an underdog than checking.
Your hand is worth a call, and your opponent will
call with more hands than he'll bet. (This play is
something like splitting 8s in blackjack against the
dealer's 10. You are still an underdog, but you are
less of an underdog than if you had simply hit.)
Suppose with $60 in the pot you again have hand 80,
and your opponent will again call with hands 65 and
up. But this opponent will bet only with hands 82
and up. How should you play?
In the previous case you really didn't like your situation.
You bet as a 20-to-15 underdog only because you would
have had to call as a 20-to-10 underdog. But in the
present case, in which you are still a 20-to-15 underdog
if you bet, you don't have to worry about calling.
Any time your opponent bets, you know he has you beat
since he will only bet with hands 82 and up. You certainly
don't want to bet as an underdog when you don't have
to, so the correct play in this instance is to check
and fold if your opponent bets. You blow a bet 15
times, when your opponent has hands 65-79 and checks
behind you, but you save a bet 20 times, when he has
hands 81-100. You save more bets than you sacrifice.
Checking and folding has greater expectation than
betting as a 20-to-15 underdog.
A curious situation develops, though, when you are
an underdog when called and your opponent will bet
if you check with only a few hands you can beat. It
would seem that the correct play is to check and fold
if your opponent bets. However, it often works out
that the play with the greatest expectation is to
bet your own underdog hands even though, if you checked,
you could not call when your opponent bet. Depending
upon the size of the pot, this situation occurs when
your opponent will call with many hands you can beat
but will bet with only a few hands you can beat.
Let's say there's $60 in the pot, and you have hand
80. You know your opponent will call with hands 65
and up (remember, we are being completely hypothetical
here for the purposes of illustration), but he will
bet only with hands 76 and up. Thus, if you check
with hand 80 and your opponent bets, you will be a
20-to-4 or a 5-to-1 underdog. Since you're only getting
$80-to-$20 or 4-to-1 odds from the pot, you cannot
call. However, when you yourself bet, you add 11 wins
to your possibilities - when your opponent has hands
65-75 - thus creating a situation where you are getting
favorable odds from the pot.
Here's how this situation works out mathematically.
Remember that we know your opponent will call with
hands 65 and up but he will bet only with hands 76
and up. All the hands are equally likely. Thus if
you check and fold when he bets then in 100 times
you will win $60 76 times when he has hands 0-75)
for a total of $4,560. However if you bet you will
win $60 65 times and $80 15 times while losing $20
20 times. This works out to $4,700 which is $140 more
than you would have won by checking and folding if
your opponent bet. Consequently, even though as an
underdog you would not call if your opponent bet on
the end, it may sometimes be right for you to bet,
depending upon the size of the pot and the number
of second-best hands you think your opponent will
Finally, there are some unusual situations, when the
pot is fairly large and your opponent is somewhat
timid, where it may be correct to check and call even
though your opponent would call you with more hands
than he would bet himself This is the exception we
referred to earlier to the general rule that you should
bet when your opponent will call with more hands than
he would bet.
Suppose you have hand 80. You're playing in a $10-$20
game, and there's $200 in the pot. You know your opponent
will call only with hands 75 and up; so you're a 4-to-1
underdog if you bet. But you'd be getting at least
10-to-1 from the pot, so a bet could be right. However,
you also know your opponent is afraid to bet for value
on many hands that beat you - say, hands 81-90.
This opponent will bet hands 91-100 and he may occasionally
bluff - say, with hands 1-4. Even though this opponent
will bet with fewer hands than he would call with,
and even though the pot odds you're getting make your
hand worth a call, it nevertheless becomes correct
to check in this instance. The reason is that ten
times - in the cases where your opponent has hands
81-90 - you save $20 when he checks the best hand
behind you. Furthermore, when your opponent does bet
and you call, you're only a 10-to-4 or 21/2-to-1 underdog
instead of the 20-to-5 or 4-to-1 underdog you would
be if you came out betting. You've also eliminated
the possibility of getting raised in a situation where,
given the size of the pot, you would almost have to
It becomes correct to check and call, though you know
your opponent would call with more hands than he would
bet, if when you are an underdog you think your opponent
will check some better hands behind you and if you
fear a raise.
Remember, though, that the last two situations we
have described are unusual. The general rules still
apply the majority of the time. If your hand is worth
a call, you should bet when your opponent will call
with more hands than he will bet, and you should check
and call when your opponent will bet with more hands
than he will check. In other words, you should make
the play that gives you the greatest number of wins
and the smallest number of losses.
If there was a third street raise, the pot is often
large enough to make it worth chasing for one more
card, even if fourth street only gives you minor improvement.
If you're in good position, and there isn't heavy
action on fourth street, an improvement as minor as
catching a K? when you started with (A? 2?) 5? might
l Strong improvement on fourth street when there has
been a third street raise usually calls for aggressive
action. With the same start as above, catching a 4?,
gives you a very powerful draw and you should probably
get every bet you can in on fourth street. Bet it
and if you get raised, reraise. If possible, it's
important to structure your aggression in such a way
as to trap mediocre draws in between you and another
apparently strong hand. You structure this aggression
by either betting or check-raising, depending on the
relative position of the other source of aggression.