Review of poker lessons learned: Quiz 7

Quiz No. 7: Three-Question Quiz About Profitable Concepts From Previous Columns

♦ Index:”Review of poker lessons learned” quizzes

This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.

Hello there. Today’s multiple-choice quiz covers some of the topics I’ve discussed in Card Player since the first issue appeared on October 21, 1988. The explanations in the answer section go beyond the material originally presented.

Question 1: What hands are usually the least profitable to bet? (October 21, 1988)
(A) Hands that are unlikely to be called.
(B) Hands that are about average in strength.
(C) Hands that you can’t call with if raised.
(D) Hands that are extremely weak.

Question 2: If you have a medium-strong playable hold ’em hand in late position against a lone opponent who has raised from a middle position, you should be more likely to reraise if… (November 4, 1988)
(A) The players in the blind positions are likely to pass.
(B) The opponent sighed before raising.
(C) You haven’t won a pot for half an hour or longer.
(D) The player in the big blind position is a consistent bluffer.

Question 3: Just calling – rather than raising – before the flop in hold ’em can often be the most profitable strategy, because… (November 4, 1988)
(A) The value of deception is so great that your opponents can’t help but play poorly in response.
(B) The strength of a hold ’em hand is seldom evident until after you see the flop.
(C) Your bankroll will suffer less severe fluctuations.
(D) Everyone expects you to raise, so by just calling you establish an image that puts you in psychological control of your table.

Answer 1: (B) Although there are notable exceptions, most hands that fall near the middle of the strength spectrum for a particular situation are not profitable to bet. They simply aren’t strong enough to bet for value, and they are too strong to bluff with – although they are good bluff catchers, if your opponent bets a garbage hand.

Wrong answers – Hands that are unlikely to be called (choice A) should often be bet with the intention of chasing out opponents who have adequate pot odds. Hands that you can’t call with if raised (choice C) can still be bet, especially if you’ll feel comfortable throwing your hand away, knowing the raiser probably isn’t bluffing. Hands that are extremely weak (choice D) tend to make good bluffing hands, so you should sometimes bet them.

Answer 2: (A) The main advantage to reraising with medium-strong hands from late positions in blind games (not just hold ’em) is that you will often chase out the blinds. Often, the blinds are getting the best of it by calling the first raise, because the pot is big enough, but they aren’t getting the right pot odds by calling both raises.

By reraising, you’ll likely frighten the blinds from the pot and create dead money that is theoretically divided between you and the original raiser. Interestingly, you’re not necessarily trying to limit the field of opponents here – you probably will limit the field, but if the blinds do call a double raise with weak hands, you’re still getting the best of it. Often you’ll reraise knowing that limiting the field will be good, but getting weak calls will be even better. Often, the worst choice is just to call the raise and let the blinds in cheaply with adequate pot odds.

Wrong answers – If an opponent sighed before raising (choice B), that’s a tell, a sign of strength which should tempt you to throw your hand away. When you haven’t won a pot for a long time (choice C), your image is broken, opponents are inspired, and aggressive reraising is usually unprofitable. If the player in the big blind is a consistent bluffer (choice D), you probably will be able to take advantage of this fact sometime during the poker session, but it has diminished influence on your decision right now.

Answer 3: (B) The strength of – in fact the whole character of – a hold ’em hand does not become clear until you see the flop. As you know, I teach an aggressive style of poker. Even in seven-card stud, I have demonstrated how raises with seemingly weaker hands are correct. But in hold ’em, you really don’t know what kind of hand you have until you see the flop.

The truth is, you’ll usually be disappointed by that flop. Still, you ask, shouldn’t you raise if you have any sort of edge at all? Just because the flop may reverse the probable winners, an ace-jack starting hand still has an advantage over a 10-9 starting hand in the long run. So, shouldn’t you raise?

Not necessarily. In poker, you often need a degree of advantage to justify a raise, not just any advantage. That’s important, and I’ll repeat it. In poker you often require more than just a tiny edge to make a raise correct; you need an edge that is big enough to cover the disadvantages.

What disadvantages? You can get reraised. You might be called by a superior hand. You can’t escape the pot as cheaply later on. You might scare your opponent away from a continued bluff. Those disadvantages. And more.

So – unless other psychological or strategic concepts come into play – you usually must have a measurable advantage to take an aggressive action in poker. Some experts have claimed that you need a 2-to-1 edge just to make a bet, because if you’re beat, you’ll get raised and then you’ll call, costing you double what you would have won. This reasoning is flawed for several reasons which I’ve discussed in other columns; still, you usually need something more than a trivial advantage to raise.

Now back to the question. In seven-card stud, you are likely to hold your advantage through the next round of betting. In hold ’em, you’re even more likely to hold advantages after the flop, but the flop itself is a wild and wondrous thing. Imagine playing seven-card stud, betting your starting hand and then getting three more cards before the next round of wagering. This would significantly change the flavor of the game. Well, that’s sort of like hold ’em. You seldom have huge advantages with your starting hands (except with the biggest pairs), so raising isn’t always justified even with the second tier of strongest hands. These hands all have a long-term advantage, but unfortunately not a big enough one.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever raise; it means that you should probably raise less often than many experienced players do, simply because your hold ’em hand is defined after you see the flop.

Wrong answers – The value of deception (A) by just calling is a factor, but not the main reason you often should not raise. Will your bankroll actually suffer less severe fluctuations (C) if you call rather than raise? That’s debatable. By raising you risk more money, but you tend to limit the field of opponents and, thus, your hand will win more often. Doing the opposite of what everyone expects you to do (D) doesn’t always enhance your image in the right way. In fact, it’s often aggressive play specifically that rewards you with the right kind of image. So, by choosing not to be aggressive – as I often recommend – before the flop in hold ’em, your image may actually suffer somewhat.

We’ll have some more of these quizzes in the future, as I page through the old issues of Card Player. Oops – someone’s at the door; I’ll talk to you later. — MC

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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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