Position Play After Your Opponent Has Checked
you are in last position, your opponent will have
either checked or bet. First, what should you do when
your opponent checks? Some might reply that you should
bet if you think you have the best hand. But this
is not at all the case. Your chances of having the
best hand might be as high as 90 percent or better,
but still you should not necessarily bet. Take the
following hand from seven-card stud:
With four jacks your chances of having the best hand
are enormous, but in either first or second position
you cannot possibly bet the hand on the end for the
simple reason that your bet has absolutely no positive
expectation. Since your four jacks are exposed for
the world to see, your opponent will fold every hand
he can have except four queens or a straight flush
in hearts. With either of those hands, he will raise.
So your bet has nothing to gain and everything to
This very obvious situation points toward the key
distinction between play in the final round of betting
and in earlier rounds. With one card to come, you
would most certainly bet the four jacks to avoid giving
your opponent a free card to outdraw you. Your bet
forces him either to fold and thus give up any chance
to outdraw you or to call and pay for that slim chance.
However, when all the cards are out, betting to avoid
giving a free card no longer applies. So if you now
still decide to bet your hand, you no longer ask what
your chances are of having the best hand but rather
what the chances are of winning the last bet when
you are called.
This distinction may seem like hair-splitting, but
it is most assuredly not. In fact, it is crucial to
successful play - that is, to winning or saving extra
bets - when you are heads-up on the end. To take a
very common situation, let's say you have three-of-a-kind
in seven-card stud, and you know your opponent is
drawing to a flush and has nothing else. The odds
against that opponent's making the flush on the last
card are, we'll assume, 4to-l, which means you are
an 80 percent favorite to have the best hand. However,
if your opponent checks, you certainly should not
bet because, as in the case of the four open jacks,
a bet has no positive expectation. Your opponent will
fold if he didn't make the flush, and he will call
or possibly raise if he did. So even though you are
an 80 percent favorite to have the best hand, you
become an underdog if you bet and get called. To repeat,
then, the decision to bet a legitimate hand for value
on the end should be based not on your chances of
having the best hand but on your chances of winning
the last bet when you are called.
When you bet for value on the end after your opponent
has checked, you must figure your hand has better
than a 50-50 chance of winning when you are called.
In fact, you have to figure it has at least about
a 55 percent chance of winning to compensate for those
times when your opponent is planning to check-raise.
With three-of-a-kind against a flush draw, you are
certainly the favorite, but you are not the favorite
if your opponent calls. Yet to show a profit on your
last round bets, clearly you must be the favorite
even when your opponent calls.
At the same time, you should not carry this principle
to such an extreme that you bet only when you have
a lock, because then you will not win a lot of final
bets you should win. To bet on the end after your
opponent has checked, it is only necessary that you
are the favorite when your opponent calls. Thus, if
you figure you are only a 60 percent favorite when
called, you should certainly bet even though you know
there's a 40 percent chance your opponent will beat
you if he calls. Your bet still has positive expectation.
After ten such bets you will have won six and lost
four on average for a net profit of two bets. Even
if one of those four losses is a check-raise which
you call, you still win six bets while losing five
for a one-bet profit.
To give a concrete example of such relatively close
decisions, let's say you are playing draw poker, and
your opponent stands pat and then checks to you when
you draw one. Since your opponent stood pat, you are
quite sure you are facing a straight, a flush, or
a full house. Yet your opponent checked to you. You
know he will call with just about any of his hands.
Therefore, you should bet an ace-high straight or
even a queen-high straight, because your opponent
probably would have come out betting himself with
a tiny flush or better. Chances are, then, he has
a straight smaller than yours. It's true you may lose
in the showdown, but you are enough of a favorite
with a queen-high straight to warrant a bet.
the idea is that you're trying win (or place high
in) a tournament that gets you into a second tournament.
If you win that second tournament, you now either
have a chance to compete against top players in the
third, big money tournament, or (depending on how
small you started) you might have to win a third tournament
to get into the fourth tournament.
For example, you might pay $55 to enter such a multistage
tournament. Ten players compete and the top two finishers
move on to the next round (now owning $250 worth of
equity). In the second round, those two players each
go to tables that, if they win, get them in position.
They now have $2,500 worth of equity. They then might
play a four-person "final table" to win
a seat in the main event. The three high finishes
have earned them the right to compete for big money.