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More Online Draw Poker Vignettes

This continues the discussion of interesting and instructive situations I have seen in the small-limit online draw games.

Betting Trips Against a Pat Hand

I regularly see this variant on whatMichael WiesenbergMichael Wiesenberg made his living playing poker for 10 years before turning to a career as a writer. His books include 'Free Money: How to Win in the Cardrooms of California'; 'The Dictonary of Poker', and 'The Ultimate Casino Guide.  Check out his writings on everything online draw poker!  I described last time. Someone opens with one pair. The player may limp or raise-open. It doesn’t matter. Another player raises or reraises, and the first player calls. The first player draws three cards and the next player stands pat. The rest of the scenario differs, but it all comes down to the same thing. Sometimes the first player checks. The pat hand bets, and the opener check-raises. If the pat hand player is very conservative and has a small straight or similarly weak pat hand, he calls. Otherwise, the pat hand reraises. Sometimes the three-card drawer calls; sometimes he caps. Instead of checking, sometimes the first player bets. The pat hand raises, and either the first player reraises, in which case the pat hand often caps, or the first player calls. Very frequently I see this happen and the first player has trips. No better. Just trips. I don’t understand, but because of the frequency with which this happens, when I am the pat hand, I almost always put in one more bet if I can. Of course I have it in my notes which players bet into a pat hand or check-raise only with a miracle three-card draw. These players I do not reraise, and sometimes even fold against. But the rest of them, if they make a miracle draw on me, congratulations. They get four bets from me after the draw. This play is another that makes no sense. You wouldn’t see it happen in Gardena in the old days, but you’ll see it all the time online. Be prepared. And why do they make this play? I think for two reasons. One is they know they have trips, and, by golly, they’re going to bet the hell out of the hand. The other is they think the holder of the pat hand is either bluffing or standing pat on two pair. Now that is not all that uncommon an occurrence. If you see a particular player stand pat on two pair regularly and bet the hand after the draw, you should pass trips to that player and then call. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be regularly. If the player does it a few times, that’s often enough to give you odds to call. Some players also regularly raise with two pair, and then, no matter what their one or more opponents do, they stand pat. When checked to, they don’t bet. I think they do this because they are afraid that if they draw a card, someone will bet and they don’t want to have to call after the draw with a weak hand. Two pair against a worse hand is a huge favorite. Drawing improves the hand’s chances, because when you both improve, you make a big pot after the draw. Many players don’t bet two pair to a one-card draw, so the worries of the holder of the two pair are minimized. If you have two pair, and someone bets into you, he probably has you beat. Why not give yourself a chance of improving? Then you can raise.

And with two pair against a player who bluffs too much, you always call. Against a player who rarely bluffs, you never call. Against a player who bluffs at about what seems proper frequency, it doesn’t matter in the long run what you do. But that’s a digression. If you think a player might be bluffing or standing pat on two pair, based on your notes, don’t bet trips. Because if the player really has a pat hand, you’re costing yourself at least two bets. A player who stands pat on two pair might not even call if someone bets into him, anyway. You should bet if you have made a miracle draw, of course, unless the player with the pat hand is so tight that he will throw away anything but a full house or higher or if the player will not raise. Again, this is where your notes are invaluable. However, even tight players will usually call a check-raise.

Playing a Hand Backwards

Here’s another. In the five-handed $1-$2 game, SandyClaws limps. Everyone calls. That’s not unusual, by the way. (You’re going to love those games if you like draw poker.) Everyone except SandyClaws draws three cards. The little blind bets. The big blind folds. SandyClaws raises. The other two players fold, and the little blind, a notorious calling station, gives a “crying call.” SandyClaws shows two pair, aces and queens, and the little blind takes it with three fours. SandyClaws played her hand exactly backwards. She should have raised before the draw. Very likely the little blind would not even have called. Some players are live enough that they come in cold for two bets in the little blind with “shorts” (small pairs), but generally, while they might be willing to put 50 cents in, they won’t put in $1.50. Instead of losing $5, SandyClaws would have won a minimum of $1.50 (if no one called), or, more likely, about $5. One of those four other players would have come in for the raise, and might have called a bet after the draw with a worse two pair. Even if the little blind still called and came out betting, only a call (not a raise) would be warranted, so she would have lost $4 instead of $5, still a savings of $1. And if the big blind didn’t call, she might have filled up, and won a big pot.

Never Limp—Particularly Against a Maniac

This reinforces the edict I enunciated when I presented the complete strategy for online draw: Never limp. There is only one exception, and it has two conditions. One condition is when a player behind you almost always raises when the pot is opened for the minimum, but sometimes folds and generally only calls when it is raise-opened. The second is when you have a hand with which you would like to see the betting capped. Both conditions must be fulfilled. This is so rare a happenstance that you might as well ignore it. And if that player puts in the third bet often when you raise-open the pot with a monster, so much the better, because you get to cap it with way the best of it. And you might have picked up some hitchhikers on the way. Even the tight players loosen their standards when a maniac raises or reraises ahead of them. They’ll play hands they might not have played had you been the one to put the third bet in.

See if you can get over to the left of that player, by the way. You have to be much more selective of your opening hands when you know every pot will be three-bet. For example, normally you would come in for a raise with jacks or queens in the cutoff, but if the maniac is behind you, the two blinds get a free shot at a minimum of six bets (by calling), or they might reraise, forcing you to abandon your two bets, or call two more bets with way the worst of it.

Players sometimes limp with two pair or trips or a pat hand in a spot like this, hoping that the live one raises and gets callers behind so that they can then reraise. The thing is, in that situation, players who would come in for two bets cold often would come in for three anyway. Plus, players get very suspicious of someone who limps and then reraises. If that player then takes two cards or stands pat, he is hardly ever bluffing, and gets little action after the draw. And if the pot isn’t raised, that player has just lost the opportunity of getting multiple bets in before the draw, and lessened the chance of more bets after. Even tight players will come in cold for three bets with aces or two pair, but they would not themselves have reraised with those hands. Now, having three bets in the pot, they’re locked on for a fourth. So forget that rare situation whose two conditions needed to be satisfied for you to limp, and just obey the injunction: Never limp. You’re not playing hold’em or 7-stud, with its multiple rounds. You’re in a two-round game, and you want to get the maximum in with the best of it on each round. In a five-handed game, there hardly ever is what you would call a “volume hand.” Yes, with a straight or flush draw, you want multiple opponents, but you don’t want to pick up those opponents by opening for the minimum. Anyone with a decent hand, which would be a pair of kings or better, will raise, limiting the field, and turning your hand into one of negative expectation. You can call with a come hand when the circumstances are right, but you should rarely open with one. And since you shouldn’t limp at all in the situation just described (with the maniac behind you), you usually have to give up those straight and flush draws. That’s another mistake I commonly see players make when they have such a maniac behind them. If the maniac raises with almost any pair, he is actually approaching proper play in this one situation.

Failing to Take a Player’s Last Chips

For whatever reason, two players are in a pot and one of the players has only one bet left. There may have been raising before the draw or not; it doesn’t matter. The tight player—it’s usually a tight player who does this—checks to the almost all-in player, who drew three cards. Again it doesn’t matter what the second player does, whether he bets or also checks. The point is that on the showdown, the first player has two pair. This is a huge mistake. Of course, if the second player bet, the first would call. But why check when the opponent has but one bet left? He might call with one pair, a hand that he would otherwise show down. In fact, if it is a big pair, he almost certainly will call. But he might even call with a small pair. No matter. The opponent can’t raise, so why check a hand that the first player would assuredly call with? In fact, in this situation I routinely bet as good as a pair of tens. Why not? I would call anyway.

Of course, the reason the tight player checks here is that he always checks two pair after the draw, and is totally oblivious to the chip situation.

As a corollary to this situation, a tight player is on the little blind, say in the $1-$2 game. No one has opened. The big blind has exactly $1 left after putting in his blind. The tight player puts in 50 cents instead of raise-opening to put the big blind all in. Raise-opening should probably be done with any hand that is a pair of sixes or better. Against a random hand, a pair of sixes is about a 3-to-1 favorite, and that’s the odds the big blind gets by calling. But I see in this situation the tight player open for the minimum with, say, a pair of tens and then check it to the big blind—no matter how many cards he draws—when the tight player does not improve. With only $1 left, the big blind will probably call before the draw with any hand. Sure, some of those hands will have the opener beat and the big blind will himself now raise, but the opener will surely call that raise. Why not get the bet in first? But if he doesn’t call, so what? The opener just got $1.50 with no risk.

Mistakenly Trying to Disguise a Hand

Many players limp with one pair. Now if one of the blinds raises, the opener calls. The raiser draws two cards, and the opener also draws two. This is a ridiculous play, and I don’t understand what the opener is trying to accomplish. He does not fool the raiser, because the raiser knows that if the opener really had three-of-a-kind, he likely would have opened for a raise in the first place. But if he was one of those tricky players who limp with trips, he would then have reraised. A two-card draw cannot then be to trips. The opener has to be keeping a kicker (with one exception, which I’ll get to in a moment). The other reason for taking two cards is that he started with a small pair and hopes to make aces up. If the raiser, first to draw, takes two cards, the most likely hand he holds is trips. Actually, that’s not the most likely, but it’s a close third. In the online games, the most likely hand is a pair of aces with a big kicker. The next most likely hand is a pair of kings or queens with an ace kicker. Trips is next in likelihood for a raiser who draws two cards. So in many cases, one or more of the aces that the opener is hoping to hit by keeping a kicker is locked up. That’s one reason not to keep an ace kicker. Another reason is that if both players are holding an ace kicker and both players improve, the raiser will have a better two pair. Still another reason is that the raiser might really have trips and the opener should take the draw that gives him the best chance of beating trips. He might make aces up and just lose another bet.

Here’s the exception. Some players limp with a cathop, three cards to a straight flush and hope to have a cheap draw to make a big hand. Typically, though, they’re fighting odds of worse than 10-to-1. Even if the opener could guarantee winning two bets after the draw, calling one more bet before the draw is still negative expectation. And if he makes the hand less than perfect (makes a straight or flush) when the opponent also makes his hand, the cathopper will lose the maximum after the draw. No, a rational player should not call a raise to draw to a cathop. But then, a rational player would never have opened the pot to begin with. Even worse than a legitimate cathop, by the way, is those clueless players who open with three cards of the same suit and call a raise to make the draw. They must think they’re playing hold’em. The equivalent in hold’em would be to start with two suited cards, flop one of your suit, and then call all the way against top set, so the only way to win is by backdooring a flush and then only if the set doesn’t also improve. I guess players do that in online hold’em, don’t they?

Regularly Betting the Miss

Here’s another typical play that should be money in the bank for you. You have it in your notes that 4Tell always raise-opens with two pair and always limps with a come draw. He limps on the button when it is your blind. You have a pair of fours, and of course do not raise. You draw three cards “for free” and he draws one. You check and he bets. He always bets here, and you will win his bet nearly four times out of five if you always call.

Here’s a mistake that many players make at this juncture. They make trips and bet. Most of the time 4Tell folds, because he missed his hand. 4Tell does not raise after the draw on a bluff. But when he does make his hand, he of course raises. The bettor calls the raise, feeling that the pot is now too big to give up. So what was the mistake? If you know someone is drawing to a come hand, it is pointless to bet trips. Your opponent will either fold or raise, both of which cost you money. On the other hand, if you had checked, you could then call. No one has to know that you would have called with just the pair of fours. But, in fact, in this spot, three fours is little different from two fours. (The difference is discussed in the last paragraph.) Since he’s bluffing approximately 80% of the time, checking is the right play.

Another mistake they make is checking a full house or four of a kind in this spot, with the intention of check-raising. This is a mistake for two reasons. One is that if you check big hands, this bluffer may change his mind and quit bluffing so regularly. Checking trips to a one-card draw and then calling is a natural play. Many players habitually “check to the one.” But check-raising feels like “dirty pool” to your opponent, and he may decide to slow down. No, bet your big hand. Sure, he’ll fold most of the time, but when he does make his one-card draw, he will raise, and you can reraise. He might even cap the betting. If you check-raise, though, you will get exactly one bet most of the time. So instead of one bet 80% of the time, take a chance on four bets 20% of the time that you make a monster.

In the same category is the player who limps and then calls your raise, and still always bets his missed hand when you check. On the big blind, you would likely raise his limp-open with a pair of tens or better, particularly if he also limps with small pairs. You should always check anything but a complete hand to this player, as well. If he bets when checked to in an unraised pot, but not in a raised pot, well, you’re on your own. You should probably always bet in that exact situation, because you will win 80% of the pots unshown, you can fold when he raises, and you can reraise when you make a complete hand and he raises.

What happens when he pairs higher than you? Oh well, too bad. It happens. That is, he may limp as usual on the button, and you draw three to your pair of fours. He takes one card. You do not improve, and check. He bets. You call, and he shows that in drawing one card to 6-7-8-9 of mixed suits he paired the 6. Don’t be upset. You made the right play, and it will be evened out by the times he bets that pair of sixes when you drew to and called with a pair of eights.

This article originally appeared in Card Player Magazine.  © 2006 Michael Wiesenberg
© 2006-2015 ReadyBetGo!

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