"You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough." -- Joseph E. Levine
In Lesson 3 we looked at starting hands that you will always consider playing. In this lesson we look at starting hands that you may want to play. These hands include three to a flush, three to a straight, and three high cards.
Three Cards to a Flush
Suppose you are dealt (94)J. Should you play the hand? What is your chance of making the flush? Perhaps just having a Jack as your up-card is enough to stay?
First, your chance of making the flush is dependent on the number of other cards of your suit are visible. Assuming a full eight-handed game, if none of your suit is visible, you have a 23.6% chance of making the flush. If one other card of your suit is visible, you"ll make the flush 19.6% of the time. Two cards visible of your suit lowers the chance to 15.8% while three visible cards of your suit makes the odds just 12.3% of making your flush. If everyone has an up-card of your suit you have only a 2.0% chance of making the flush.
In poker you want to maximize your chances of winning. Thus, if more than two cards of your suit are visible (when you"re dealt three to a flush), you"ll generally not play the hand because your chance of making the flush is slim. (You may still want to ante steal. We"ll look at ante stealing in the next lesson.)
A second factor to consider on all hands is how live your cards are. If you"re dealt (94)J and two Jacks, one nine and one four are out, you"ll be playing the hand solely for its value in making the flush. Remember, the average winning hand in stud is two pair. You may start with three to a flush but if you pair up twice you may become the favorite. (This is another reason big cards are important. Aces up is a favorite in stud; three and deuces isn"t.)
Third, are your cards working together? Occasionally you"ll start with three to a flush and make a straight. With the example hand this isn"t likely: only the nine and Jack are working together. That"s why three cards to a straight flush is so valuable - you have two ways of winning.
Finally, always remember the pot odds of the situation. Three to a flush is a drawing hand - you need to catch cards in order to make the best hand. Usually you"ll want a large number of opponents in order to ensure that you have the right "price" for your hand. If, for example, a 2 brings it in, a 7 completes the action, and an Ace re-raises, you need to consider folding. If you call you will likely have only two competitors (the 7 and the Ace) and you will probably not have the right price in drawing for your flush.
Three Cards to a Straight
In general, I dislike three to a straight. Your chances of making a straight are less than making a flush. From being an Omaha player I"ve learned to look for the added out(s). Say you have (67)8 to give you three to a straight. What is your chance of making the straight?
Assuming that no fours, fives, nines, or tens are out, you have a 6.1% chance of making the straight (about 15 to 1 against making the straight). Those are betting odds - not to make the straight! If you"re just starting out and you threw away every three to a straight hand you wouldn"t be making much of a mistake.
I don"t advocate throwing away all of those hands, though. I'll play three to a straight if my hand has some other compelling feature(s). For example, ·
- Low straight flush draw ·
- Three honors (T-A) to a straight ·
- I have the highest up-card (ante stealing) ·
- A completion (of the bring in) may drive out some better looking hands ·
- I have a two flush and my cards are live (both for the flush and drawing to pairs)
There is a common theme for all of these hands: I have more than one way of winning the pot. Those added outs add value to your hands and lead to making money at the tables.
Three High Cards
The last hand we"ll look at in this lesson is three high cards such as (TQ)K. This hand can win by: ·
- The King high could be the best starting hand ·
- You can make a flush (note that the example hand contains a two flush) ·
- You can make a straight ·
- If you make two pair (the average winning hand in stud) you"ll likely make the best two pair because your cards are high
Of course you must be somewhat wary with your hand because all you currently have is a draw (or draws). But this hand is the favorite against six random hands - you'll win just under 20% of the time versus the 'average' 14%.
When I play this hand I want cards that are honors (ten through Ace). I also like having the highest up card (it's more likely my opponents will fold) and, of course, I like my cards being live. I don't always play three high cards, though; I look at each situation differently. For example, I was dealt (JA)T. The 3 brought in the action for the complete bet, the A raised, and the K called before the action got to me. I folded - I was likely the fourth best hand and it did not make any sense to spend money on this hand in this situation. The quote at the beginning of this lesson is to remind everyone that if you're willing to play every hand (i.e. you have a big budget) you will win the most hands but it's very likely you'll go broke.
In the next lesson we'll look at hands you'll probably throw in the muck, having the forced bring-in and ante stealing.