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Losing Strategy


With the house holding such a big edge, players must be careful not to consider strategies which will increase its advantage even further.

1. Folding Small Pairs

Some players I have observed have consistently gotten rid of really low pairs, such as deuces, treys, and 4s. Their reasoning is that any higher pair in the dealer's hand will beat them, but they are wrong. First of all, just as the players will get a pair only about 42 percent of the time, so will the dealer, More than half the time he'll be holding five odd cards.

As I mentioned previously, the pairs are your bread and butter hands, even though they won't all yield a gain expectation against a higher up card shown by the dealer. This is true especially of the 2s-4s as pairs, even when the dealer's up card is of the same or lower rank, such as a dealer's 2 against a pair of 3s. But for all other pairs, there is a win expectation against a dealer holding an up card of equal or lower rank.

For example, if you hold a pair of 7s, you have a positive win expectation if the dealer's up card is a 7 or lower. When you hold a pair of loss or higher, you have a positive win expectation against any card the dealer might have as his up card.

Why then, as we have observed, not fold the 2s-4s as pairs, if there is a loss expectation? For the same reason I suggest holding certain non-pair hands. Your overall losses will be much less if you bet these low pairs than if you simply fold them. If a player folds his pairs of 2s-4s, he will be giving the house an edge of over 7 percent! Don't do this.
A comparable situation exists in online blackjack games If you are dealt a pair of 8s against a dealer's 10, you should split the 8s, even though in the long run there is a loss expectation attached to
this play. The same thing holds true when you are dealt a hard 16 against a dealer's 10. You should hit this hand, even though there's no winning expectation to the play. What you are doing in both situations is making a gain in the sense that your losses will be less by making these moves. For example, if you stand on the hard 16 against the dealer's 10, you give up almost 3 percent to the house.

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Waiting For The Nuts
I have a friend who plays a lot of low-limit hold'em and he plays tight, very tight. He wins at the game, but his average win rate is about one-third of what mine is in the same games. He wins a high percentage of the hands he contests, but he just doesn't play many hands and the pots he wins tend to be very small.

He's happy with his results, but he'd do a lot better if he'd open up a little and not always wait for the nuts before he gets aggressive.

In his very good book on low-limit hold'em, Winning Low-Limit Hold'em (2000), Lee Jones suggests getting rid of middle or bottom pair on the flop. He claims it won't hold up when there are a lot of players in the hand and that the hand is an overall loser.
Well, it's an overall loser if you play it indiscriminantly. But it would also be wrong to fold it indiscriminantly. Against a bet you might want to fold. But otherwise there's a good chance you're best if you have a good kicker against loose opponents. In this case, you'll probably get called by worse hands if you bet.
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