Reading Hands in Multi Way Pots

Another factor in reading hands and deciding how to play your own is the number of players in the pot. Any time someone bets and someone else calls, you are in a more precarious position than when it is just up to you to call. In general, a caller ahead of you makes it necessary for you to tighten up significantly because you no longer have the extra equity that the bettor may be bluffing. Whether he is bluffing or not, the second player must have something to call. Therefore, when your hand is barely worth a call in a heads-up situation because of the extra chance of catching a bluff, it is not worth an overcall when someone else has called ahead of you.

Here is an example of such a situation that came up in a small ante razz game I was playing. On the first three cards I had an:

A decent hand but not a great one. The high card brought it in, and a player called with a 5 showing. I was prepared to call or possibly raise. However, a player ahead of me, who was playing tight, raised with a 4 showing. Had the first player with the 5 showing not called the initial bet, I would have called the raiser with my 8,5,2 because, though the raiser was playing tight, there would have been a chance he was semi-bluffing. But since the raiser raised another low card that had already called, it was almost a certainty he had a better hand than I did; and there was also the probability the first caller had a good hand. Therefore, given the small ante, my hand was no longer worth a call.

The same sort of thinking must be employed when deciding whether to call a raise cold. With very few exceptions, you need a better hand to call a raise cold than you would need to raise yourself The simple logic of this principle can be set forth through an example from draw poker. Let's say in the game you are playing you decide to raise before the draw with aces up or better. You look at your hand and find you have three 2s. You're prepared to raise, but all of a sudden the player to your right, who will also raise with aces up or better, puts in a raise. Now instead of raising, you can't even call. You must fold because the chances are too good that the raiser has you beat.

This principle applies to any game. When you have a minimum or near-minimum raising hand and the player to your right, who has the same standards as yours, raises ahead of you, then his hand is probably better than yours, and your correct play is to fold.

Nonmutinous Bounty Tournaments

Players invited to be Shooting Stars (or players in other bounty tournaments~ aren't stupid. They know they might as well have targets painted on their chests, but it's hard to complain when entry costs them nothing. They tend to play a bit conservatively in the early going. Many players make overly optimistic calls against bounty players, hoping to win the bounty, and instead increase the bounty player's stack, making it much harder to knock him out.

Because of the bounty's obvious value, it becomes more worthwhile to make certain all-in calls against Stars than it does against other players. The pot odds change when winning the pot means that not only do you increase your chip stack, but you also collect cash. The best time to try something like this is when you have an excellent drawing hand. A bounty player is unlikely to get his whole stack in without a fairly strong holding, but if you have a draw to the nuts, the bounty's value can make your draw worth playing when it otherwise wouldn't be.