Yes! I made that stupid play, and I’m proud!


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1992) in Card Player magazine.


I took a day off and entered the lowball tournament at the Bicycle Club. But this isn’t about lowball.

Let’s make sure everyone can follow today’s example. In lowball, you get five cards, there’s a betting round, and then remaining players get replacements for cards they don’t like before betting one last time. You try for low ranks without a pair. Ace is low, and the best hand is 5-4-3-2-A, followed by 6-4-3-2-A. High card defines the weakness of the hand, so Q-J-10-4-2 beats K-5-4-3-2. Got it?

Usually, a minimum profitable pat hand is an eight, such as 8-7-5-2-A. Unless you’re in a later position, pat nines can be costly, so you usually throw away 9-8-7-3-2.

My first hand. On the very first hand in the tournament, I raised from a fairly early position. Only the blind called, drawing two cards. Instantly, I rapped pat and spread 10-8-4-3-A face up while my opponent was still looking to see what he’d drawn. Unable to beat my pitiful 10-high, he threw his cards away without bothering to check to me. Players probably thought: That’s the Mad Genius, making another crazy play!

But, let’s examine the hand. When I raised the blind, I was correct. I wasn’t raising on the strength of the pat 10-high, but mainly on the strength of the included one-card draw to 8-4-3-A. When my opponent drew two, I was correct to abandon my one-card draw and stand pat.

But, wait! When I spread my miserable 10-high lowball hand face up before my opponent had acted, was that correct, too? Oddly, the answer is yes! Sometime it’s much easier to read an opponent if he knows for sure whether his hand will win! Also, I’ve learned that most opponents don’t bluff often enough into my exposed mediocre hands. Therefore, in the absence of a tell one way or another, I was willing to throw my hand away against a bet.

A sad outcome. True, my I opponent could now safely bet some extra hands, such as 9-8-4-3-2; but, in exchange, he was easier to read, less likely to bluff, and more likely to broadcast tells if he did bluff. Sadly, the final outcome was not quite perfect. My opponent simply threw his hand away without waiting for me to act. If he’d held his hand after declining to bet, I would have bet! That would enhance my image risk free, because a foe declining to bet into an exposed hand must be beat.

Some players think I advertise too much. I don’t. Surprisingly, you can often establish a profitable image inexpensively. Your winning poker image can be smoke and mirrors, my friends. Smoke and mirrors.  — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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