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# Judge Your Chances in Hold'em Poker Before You Call

5 May 2007

Say you're in a \$5/\$10 Texas Hold'em game and you're in an early seat with a pair of red Aces in the pocket. The flop comes:

Qs-7c-4s

The "turn" card (fourth board card) is the 10 of spades and then a deuce of spades comes at the river. You've been betting all the way, but decide to check when that fourth spade hits the board on the end. There's one player still in the pot with you and he bets the \$10 after you check. All he needs is one spade in the hole to have a flush. Don't you hate it when that happens? Well, should you call?

Let's see. On a strictly percentage basis, the chance a player has at least one spade in the hole when four of them are on board is just 36%. There's more to consider than just that, however. When two spades came on the flop, if an opponent held any spades, that's one of the things that would make him more likely to keep coming -β and he did keep coming. Also, if he didn't have a spade, he might not bet at the river -β but he did bet. So the practical chance your opponent has that spade in the hole is actually something more than 36%.

On the other side of the coin, by now there's usually around \$70 in the pot. So you'd only have to catch your opponent bluffing about 15% of the time to make a long range profit by calling \$10. Bottom line? You hate it, but you've got to call.

Now suppose instead of having just one opponent at the river, you've got three. If you check and then one of them bets, should you still call? This time, the pure chance of somebody having at least one spade among three players is 76%. But as usual, there's more information available.

Who bet it? Was it the first player, the second or the third? If the last player bet after you and the first two checked, he might just be taking a stab at the pot because everybody else showed weakness. So here, you probably should make a "crying call" with your Aces.

But if your first opponent bet it, he has to be afraid that one of the two players behind him has a spade. So if the first player bets, he almost certainly has a spade and you can't call β- even if the other two players folded! Are you getting the gist of this psychology thing in poker?

Okay, let's try another tough calling situation in Hold'em. Say you have Q/J in a later seat and the flop comes:

J-8-3

You've been betting your pair of Jacks all the way with a couple of players checking and calling along. An Ace comes at the river and the first position player bets right out in front of both of you. What to do?

Understand that if he's bluffing, he'll have to bluff out both you and the other player to make it work. Besides that, the other player might have an Ace. A potential bluffer will usually realize the hazards of this dilemma and "behave" himself. So when a bet comes from the first seat in a line of three players, he usually has what he's supposed to have, and you should fold.

Now, if the first player checked when that Ace hit, the second would be more likely to bluff. He could easily surmise that since the first player checked, he has no Ace and you've probably been betting a Jack all the way. In this spot, he might try to convince you that the Ace paired him. If he's not a particularly tight player, you probably should give him a call.

But what happens if that Ace comes on the "turn" instead of the river, and either player bets? At that point, you'd have to make two \$10 calls (one on the turn and another at the river) to catch a bluff instead of just one. Besides that, lots of opponents will call a \$5 flop bet, then fold if they miss rather than call \$10 on the turn. So here, your calling costs have doubled while your winning chances have gone down. So, fold on the turn, but often call at the river.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009