Wiesenberg (s077 poker): Sophie positively 4th Street

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card Player. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers poker.

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Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie positively fourth street

We had just finished dinner, a delightful dish that Aunt Sophie called Chicken Tidbits, from a recipe she claimed to have found in a poker column in Card Player, of all places. Aunt Sophie and I lingered at the table over espressos and her homemade chocolate babka. Sara lounged on the couch, enrapt with Jesse May’s Shut Up and Deal.

It was almost next time, the point at which I had promised Aunt Sophie a discussion of fourth street in seven-card stud high-low, the game known affectionately to afficionados as 7/8.

“Shouldn’t that be aficionados?” wondered Aunt Sophie.

“Actually,” I replied, “according to the Tenth Edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Second Edition, Unabridged), and numerous other lexicons, both spellings are permitted. In any case, your ability to hear the difference between one and two f’s in an introductory preamble is more involution than ought to be ascribed to such a frothy exegesis as this.”

Tsatskeleh,” said she, “from such language I could plotz. Just more of that good advice you’ll give, please.”

Pushing hands on third street

“Well,” I began, “before we get to fourth street, a bit of advice about pushing hands on third street. It’s important to remember that your hand really isn’t defined during the first round of betting in 7/8. You might have by far the strongest draw, but remember that two of the next four cards have to hit you pretty darn well. Also, even though you play scooping hands up front, many of these will become one-way by the end of the hand. Much of your profitability comes from winning half of multiway pots, so aggressiveness plays a very different part in high-low games. Also, with just one upcard visible, it’s often unclear what your competition has, so aggressive play may have the undesired result of driving out a hand that’s weak enough that you’d welcome its participation. For example, you have an ace up and five-three in the hole. A six brings it in and another low card calls. Now, if you raise, you might drive out a high hand consisting only of three overcards that would play for a smaller bet. You’ve just frozen out a hand that had no chance at taking ‘your’ half of the pot, but could have added a few bets here and there. And you might also freeze out some nearly hopeless hand that might otherwise stick around for low, something like 8-7-4, maybe.”

I accepted the new slice of babka that Aunt Sophie proffered, had a sip of espresso, and continued.

Just calling

“On later streets,” I continued, “when hands are a bit better-defined, and the betting has become larger, selective aggressiveness becomes more important. But on third street, aggressive play is likely not to drive out the hands you’d want to eliminate, but is likely to fold those hands you’d just as soon keep around. The main thing your raise will do is serve to build a bigger pot. This is a perfectly valid reason for a raise, of course, but realize why you’re doing it when evaluating your third-street options. If you just call along, even with a terrific starting hand, particularly when your game contains others who are sure to raise if you don’t, you’re not making a mistake. As Mike Caro recently wrote, just calling in the early rounds of a limit game is not a mistake.”

“Yah,” Sophie agreed, “I saw that. It was one of his 21 all-time best-ever some-never-before-published tips.”

“Mm hm,” I assented. “Okay, on to fourth street. The first and most important consideration on fourth street is whether to continue to play the hand. One of the more frustrating (and therefore not widely observed) elements of 7/8 discipline is that you have to play pretty tight on third street, and yet you still fold more than half the time on fourth street. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: Once you get to fourth street, what usually happens is that some of the players have caught good, and some have caught bad. If you’re in the ‘caught-good’ category, you have three chances to catch one good card that will make your hand. If you’re in the ‘caught-bad’ category, you have three chances to catch two good cards. Speaking strictly mathematically, let’s say that with a particularly good starting hand of four cards, half the remaining cards give you a good five-card hand. You would catch one of these among the next three seven-eights of the time. Let’s say instead that you caught bad, but still approximately half the deck is good for you. Now you would catch two good cards among the next three less than half the time, especially considering that ‘caught-bad’ lessens your chances of scooping. In most cases, if you catch bad on fourth street, you drop.”

“Without exception?” demanded Aunt Sophie.

“There are three main exceptions,” I responded, “in which you can continue past fourth street even if you didn’t hit your hand. One, you started with a very good high-only hand, like trips.”

Aunt Sophie poured another espresso, and slid another half slice of babka onto my plate, which I didn’t really notice.


“Two,” I went on, “you had a super-premium starting hand, and on fourth street your cards are extremely live. For example, you began with 3-4-5 suited, catch an off-suit paint, but you see no twos, sixes, sevens, and at most two of your suit out. And three, the pot has at least 10, say, bets in it on third street, and the chances are good that you won’t be hit with multiple bets on fourth street. Here, the pot size makes taking off a card profitable, even though your hand is an underdog. But don’t make the mistake of calling an early bet, that is, one in which several players remain behind you, when it’s likely that bet will be raised, because now you’re going to get stuck in the have-to-call-just-one-more-bet syndrome.”

More next time.

“Did you say that?” queried Aunt Sophie; “or is that one of those involutions I’m not supposed fictionally to be aware?”

Thanks again, Kidzee, for continued assistance with this series.

Next: 078 Aunt Sophie barges in


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