Quiz No. 5: Test Yourself On What We’ve Discussed In This Column
(Profit, Position, and Stud Truth)
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
When I first started this series, I didn’t realize that it would be quite this well received. Frankly, the first time, I was just trying to get a column out in a hurry by conjuring up questions from issues that you and I discussed many years ago.
But now I find myself putting considerably more effort into the questions and, especially, the answers, because they serve as an excellent teaching tool. Today I have three more multiple-choice questions for you.
Caro Column Quiz No. 5: Questions
Question No. 1 (based on a concept from my column in the March 24, 1989, issue of Card Player). If you’re a winning player, where does most of your profit come from in poker?
(A) Most of your poker profit comes from staying out of pots with many opponents when you have speculative hands, such as when you’re hoping to make a straight or a flush.
(B) Most of your poker profit comes from the players to your right.
(C) Most of your poker profit comes from the tightest opponents, who are easiest to bluff.
(D) Most of your poker profit comes from being able to quickly and correctly calculate the odds at the table.
Question No. 2 (based on a different topic in the same column). Which of the following statements about your seat in a poker game is true?
(A) It doesn’t matter what seat you have in a poker game, your chances of winning are always the same.
(B) You can expect to get about the same quality of hands no matter what seat you’re in.
(C) You should strive to change seats so that the most conservative opponents are to your right, where they will act before you do.
(D) You have a slight advantage in seven-card stud if you sit in seat No. 1 immediately to the professional (nonparticipating) dealer’s left.
Question No. 3 (based on a concept from my column in the April, 1989, issue of Card Player). Which statement about seven-card stud is false?
(A) The nature of seven-card stud is that once you’re involved in a pot, you almost always need to improve your chances of winning on the next card in order to call the next bet.
(B) If you start with AD 8D 3D against a large field of opponents, you are more likely to win if you catch the 6D than the 8C.
(C) If your only two opponents are all in for an ante, and you play forever, you will need tens up or better to win at least half the time.
(D) At a full table, you should usually play three small suited cards against two opponents if two or fewer of your suit are showing and no more than one of your ranks are showing.
Caro Column Quiz No. 5: Answers
Answer No. 1. The answer isn’t (A), because you usually don’t want to avoid lots of players when you’re trying for a straight or a flush. Lots of active opponents are usually precisely what you want to see when you hold a speculative hand. This is especially true if the flush you are trying to make is large, because you might beat a smaller flush in a showdown. Now, it’s true that small flushes and straight attempts can lose value in some situations against many opponents. That’s because of the risk of making the hand and still having it beat. The general rule is that the best speculative hand has a profit expectation for sure, and other speculative hands often don’t have any profit expectation at all. The problem with this concept in practice is that you often don’t know whether you have the best – or the only – speculative hand. So, in general, you often want many active players contesting for the pot when you’re trying for a straight or a flush. And, of course, you still need to be selective about which speculative hands you decide to play.
And the answer isn’t (C). Most of your profit doesn’t come from the tightest players. Yes, they are easier to bluff, but that doesn’t mean you can bluff them very often, or they’ll adapt. And since they’re in pots less frequently than loose players, the opportunities for profitable bluffs are relatively rare. More profit comes from loose players who are not selective and wager frivolously than from tight players who can be bluffed occasionally.
And most of your poker profit doesn’t come from being able to quickly and correctly calculate the odds at the table (D), either. While it’s good to be able to count the pot, estimate its eventual size, and weigh that against the projected size of all of your future wagers in conjunction with the odds of making various final hands, it isn’t something that’s easy for even experienced players to do. As long as you have a generally excellent awareness of pot odds and the likelihood of winning hands, you’ll be able to profit by playing well, even if you can’t “quickly and correctly” calculate the odds.
Yep, the answer I was looking for was (B). Most of your poker profit comes from your right. That’s because each player has a positional advantage over those to the right, because they get to see what that player does before acting. That’s why I teach that if you could put a weather satellite up in space and spy on a poker table, you’d see the money moving ’round and ’round the table mostly in a clockwise direction (with a few abnormal cross currents) as players take advantage of opponents to their right.
Answer No. 2. When I said question No. 2 was “based on a different topic in the same column,” I wasn’t being completely candid. I’m sorry. Actually, it was based on the same discussion about seating, but I didn’t want you to immediately guess what the answer to the first question must be, because the second question talked about one of the choices. Make sense? Probably not, but that’s how my mind works. I’m telling you straight out, my mind is not a place you want to visit. Where was I? Oh, the answer to question No. 2 and which statement is true about your seat in a poker game …
Well, (A) isn’t true, because it does matter what seat you’re in, and your chances of winning are not always the same. And (C) isn’t true, because you should want to sit to the left of either opponents who supply the most profit (loose opponents) or ones who will do you the most damage (tricky and aggressive opponents). Conservative, tight opponents are kind of nonentities. They enter fewer pots, aren’t particularly tricky, and interfere less with your strategy. So, when you get a chance to change seats, there’s no reason to waste an opportunity to get more value from position by having (or leaving by not switching seats) someone else on your right. These tight, timid players can go on your left, because they’ll do less damage than looser, aggressive players acting after you. And the answer isn’t (D), because you actually have a slight disadvantage, not an advantage, in the first seat while playing seven-card stud. What’s the slight disadvantage? By the rules of most public casinos, you have to act first whenever you have the high cards showing. Now, on the initial upcard, the first player to act is decided by suit if the ranks tie, so that’s fair to everyone. But if all ranks are tied after that – say that two players have A-7 – the player closest to the dealer’s left has to act first. That’s a slight disadvantage for seat No. 1, which is always closest to the dealer’s left. Unless you’re talking about comfort or occasionally exposed cards that may be easier to see from certain seats, or a better view of the other participants and their cards, there’s really no advantage or disadvantage to any specifically numbered seat.
So, the answer is (B). There is no supernatural force that determines what cards you get. It’s all theoretically random. No seat is any better than any other as a card magnet. You should expect to get cards of the same quality, no matter where you sit. Of course, after the fact, you’ll notice that some seats have been “luckier” than others, but that really is after the fact. There’s no way to predict this in advance, so your expectations are the same no matter where you sit.
Answer No. 3. OK, we’re looking for something about seven-card stud that is false. The false answer isn’t (B), because you’d usually rather catch the 6D and continue your march toward a flush against many players. In a heads-up situation, it could sometimes help you more to pair the eights, but not against a large field of opponents. And (C) is true, too. Against two seven-card stud opponents playing random hands, only the best of the tens-up hands is strong enough to win half the time. So, you’ll need that hand or better. And (D) is also true. It’s often a good guideline to play three small suited cards to start only if two or fewer of that suit are showing (and therefore are unavailable) among the opposing faceup cards and no more than one of your ranks is showing. Remember, you want to hold live cards in stud, and the more cards you see around you that you could use, the worse off you are.
So, which choice is false? It’s (A) – the nature of seven-card stud is that once you’re involved in a pot, you almost always need to improve your chances of winning on the next card in order to call the next bet. That’s really, really false. And the reason it’s an important question is that many serious players seem to believe in that flawed concept.
Remember, the pot gets bigger as the betting progresses. There are, to be sure, hands that you’ll either help on the next card or you’ll fold. But these I’ll-take-one-more-card hands are not the normal ones. Usually, you’re in the pot because you already have meaningful strength or because you can win by connecting with something now or on the cards that follow. In many situations, you should continue to play even if your prospects worsen after seeing the next card.
This doesn’t mean you should never fold. You should be eager to fold whenever the profit isn’t in pursuing the pot. But many cautious players make the mistake of underestimating the value of a hand once they’re already involved in a sizeable pot. There are some players who simply can’t beat seven-card stud, despite their serious intents, because you can keep betting into them on each round and there’s a good chance they’ll eventually fold. So, throw your hand away when it’s appropriate, yes. But, in seven-card stud, you do not “almost always need to improve your chances of winning on the next card in order to call the next bet.”