New ways to win from old poker notes

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine.

This is another one of those columns where we sift through my old poker notes together. It’s fun, and who knows what we’ll find.

High and low in hold ’em versus two middle cards. How does a hold ’em hand consisting of a high and low card fare in a match-up against two middle cards?

Suppose one hand is Q♣, 5♦, and the other is J♥ 6♠. This — one of the most frequently asked questions about hold ’em — is easily resolved. Obviously, if neither hand helps, the high card wins. If both make a pair, then it’s just a matter of whether the high-and-low hand makes a high pair or a low pair, so that’s 50-50. If both hands make two pair (by, matching board cards with the same cards held) the high-low holder wins 100% of the time. If both make three-of -a-kind, it’s again 50-50, depending only on whether the high-and-low card holder tripped on his high or low card. This alone should make it obvious that the only compensating value for middle ranks is straight possibilities, if any. By the way, hold ’em starting hands with straight (or flush) possibilities usually play better against many opponents than head to head. (In the heads-to-head example given, Q♣ 5♦ wins about 60% of the time.)

Playing looser in seven-card stud. When you’re playing seven-card stud, one of the most profitable things you can do is to identify any players at your table who seldom fold once they’re involved in a hand. If you have a marginal or slightly sub-marginal call, you might choose to pay to see the next card against them. How come? It’s because you have the additional advantage of knowing they’ll usually pay you off all the way to the river if you improve, but they won’t capitalize similarly if they improve, since you’ll be able to make a correct laydown.

Psychological warfare. You should generally exaggerate an opponent’s worst weakness. If he bluffs too much, encourage bluffs. If he bluffs too little, discourage bluffs. If he folds too often, make him feel comfortable about folding. Don’t show a hand after successfully bluffing to a player who folds too often. Show those to players who already call too much. Repeating: Find you opponents’ worst weaknesses and then encourage those weaknesses.

I’ll write more columns like this one as I continue through my old poker notes. Meanwhile, here are a few words of advice that, if you follow them religiously, practically guarantee your success: Go out there and win! — 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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