Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2011) in Poker Player newspaper.
“Oh my god, I caught a brick!” Dan blurted playfully. He was playing seven-card lowball, also known as “razz.” On the sixth card, he added K♦ to his previous 6♠ 4♥ A♥. Hint: He already had an unbeatable 6-4 made with 2♠ 3♠ hidden.
No matter which form of poker you’re playing, the colorful term “brick” means the card you just added didn’t coordinate with your hand whatsoever. We’ll talk about that in today’s self-interview.
Question 1: So catching a brick is a bad thing, right?
As with Dan, it’s not bad if you already have your hand made. It’s bad if you had hopes of connecting, though.
Question 2: How does a brick factor into your decisions?
There are so many ways a brick can be a factor that a general answer is inappropriate. But here’s an example.
Let’s consider the turn card in hold ’em. Many opponents play this wrong, because they consider the combined odds of making a flush or straight on the next two cards when calling after the flop.
Let’s say it’s a no-limit hold ’em game and you’re in the big blind holding 9♥ 8♥. The player acting one seat before the dealer position (before the “button”) raises the minimum, doubling your big blind. This is a lonely pot, with nobody contending. So, you call the $10 – which would usually be the correct decision – and now it’s just the two of you competing for a $45 pot. That’s $20 from each of you, plus the $5 surrendered by the player in the small blind.
Fine. The flop is K♠ 2♥ 4♥. Okay, you’re in the game! You have flopped a flush draw and only need a heart to hit on the turn or river to complete it. You have nine remaining hearts among 47 unknown cards that will make you happy on the turn. And even if you miss, you’ll still have nine hearts out of 46 cards on the river. Put it together and you have about a 35 percent chance of success. You’re less than a 2-to-1 underdog.
You decide to check, even though betting and pretending the king paired you sometimes is a reasonable option. Your opponent bets $55 and you think, well, if I call, I’ll be chasing $100 for a $55 price. That’s almost 2-to-1 and my chances of connecting are nearly that good. If I were going all-in and this would be played to a showdown, I couldn’t quite justify a call. But in this case, if I connect, I can recover the small shortfall by betting and being called.
Calling is arguably the right decision, but not necessarily. The analysis is much too simplistic. Among many factors, you could make a flush and still lose to a bigger one – or to a full house or four of a kind, if the board pairs. And what if a brick falls on the next card – the turn?
Okay, assume the next card is Q♦. Now that’s a brick! It doesn’t help your hand in any way. You check and your opponent bets $225 into the $155 pot. Now you’d be calling $225 to win $380, as the pot stands right now.
But the odds against you connecting on your one remaining shot are over 4-to-1 against. You’re probably going to have to fold. So, you see, the possibility of a brick meant that you weren’t assured the correct odds to call after the flop. There was a substantial chance that you wouldn’t even get to see whether you connected by the final river card or not. In that case, you were paying $55 against $100 for a single chance of connecting.
You must always consider that possibility and how bricks factor into the betting sequence.
Question 3. Can you successfully bluff into a brick?
Yes, you can sometimes bluff into a communal brick against the right type of opponents.
Question 4: Can you give an example of bluffing into a communal brick?
Sure. Say you began with A♥ Q♥ on the button and had raised a late position caller before the flop. He called. Now the flop comes K♠ 10♠ 3♣. There’s a check, and you believe the flop looks threatening enough to your opponent to justify a bet, even though you didn’t pair. You hope to win the pot immediately, but if you don’t, you can still make a big pair or catch a jack for a straight.
You make a small bet and are called. The turn card is 6♥. If you’re checked to now, it’s almost automatic that you should bet again – unless you’re trying to be deceptive. That’s a brick, yes, but it’s a communal brick. That means it probably didn’t help your opponent, either.
When you were previously the bluffer and a card hits the board that probably doesn’t help an opponent, you usually should continue the bluff. Abandoning it against a brick is often a costly mistake.
Question 5: Are there times when you should fear a brick more than others?
Yes, whether it’s seven-card stud, hold ’em, or some other form of poker that includes exposed cards, beware of the unexpected bet. When these seemingly bizarre bets come from unsophisticated opponents, the chances are abnormally high that they connected.
It’s wrong to think opponents are bluffing when they catch weak cards and suddenly bet. If an opponent has just been checking or calling, then catches a brick, and then bets – beware!
Average opponents will almost never use that as a bluffing opportunity. These players bluff when their exposed cards suggest a strong hand, but they don’t have one. They don’t bluff when they look weak. So, if they catch a brick and bet unexpectedly, you should usually fold.
Handling brick situations correctly is an art. It’s brickmanship.— MC