Wiesenberg (s079 poker): Sophie pleads the fifth

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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Black and white photo of Michael Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie pleads the fifth

Aunt Sophie, Sara, and I were having a final comped breakfast, courtesy of Binion’s for BARGErs. We could hear Lee Jones, winner of the no-limit tournament, at an adjacent booth fulfilling his role as table captain by supervising the distribution of his group’s orders. All around us ebbed and flowed post mortems of key hands in that tournament, the 10-group HORSE tournament (won by the ADBs, alt drunken bastards, with second going to the Euro team), and all-night games such as “baby” pot-limit and 15/30 hold’em. At other tables, such luminaries as Bingo, Quick, Fold’em, Card Player’s own Lou Krieger and Internet Gambler Arti Santella, Crunch, Mike Chow, inventor of Chowaha, and various Tiltboys held forth.

Nu,” demanded Aunt Sophie, uninterested in endless bad beat stories, “about fifth street it’s time you got into now.” She referred to our ongoing discussion of seven-card stud high-low, familiarly known as 7/8.


“Yes, Aunt Sophie,” I responded, just as plates arrived laden with Belgian waffles with fresh blueberries, rashers of bacon, steak and mushroom omelet, and Eggs Benedict. Large orange juices and strong coffee all around completed the feast. “Just as in all stud games, fifth street is the most important in 7/8. If you have followed the guidelines so far, your hand is either made on fifth street, you have a good draw, or you just caught a bad card. Your hand most often is low with a good chance at high also. The better the draw, of course, the happier you are with the hand, and the more action you’re willing to countenance. This is where you can correctly be very aggressive, depending on your position relative to the others.”

“My position?” asked she. “I thought position was important in draw games and games with community cards, not stud.”

“Position is quite evident in stud,” I corrected. “It just shifts sometimes. That is, the player to your right with the ace may have been the first to bet on fourth street, and you’re second to act, but the player on your left pairs on fifth street, and suddenly you’re last. Being last is best for you with almost any hand, but you have to know what to do when you’re second.”

The waitress refilled our coffee cups. In the lull, we heard Lee Jones recount an event he had witnessed in a hold’em game. A drunken player unknown to Lee was throwing cards, cussing out the dealer, and generally acting obnoxious. Lee was worried that the miscreant might be a BARGE attendee, and turned to the local next to him. “Is he one of ours?” “No,” said the local, sadly, “he’s one of ours.”

If you brick

I paused halfway through my Belgian waffle to continue the discussion. “If you brick on fifth street,” I continued, “I don’t care how good your start was, you must get out. For example, you might have started with ace-deuce-three of spades, and no other spades and very few cards in the four to eight range are showing or have been folded, but you caught a nine on fourth street and a 10 on fifth. If anyone bets, yer outta there, as the umpire says. A lot of players stick around, hoping to catch a good one — and there are a lot of good cards to this hand — but staying is a huge mistake. You have to catch perfect-perfect to win anything, and that’s much too difficult. Of course, the 10 of spades on fifth street does not qualify as a brick, since you would have two shots at another spade and you could still back into a winning low.”

“Not even for one bet?” Aunt Sophie demanded.

“Not even for one bet,” I replied, “unless you can guarantee that one bet will be all. And the only way for that to happen is if the high hand is on your immediate left and the bet comes from that player. And even then the pot should be big with lots of stayers remaining. Under those circumstances, you’re not likely to see only one bet, unless everyone bricked.”

“Uh huh,” she assented. “And back to more about this position thing.”

Consider calling

“Yes,” I went on, position. If you have a really good hand, either made or a terrific draw, and the bet originates on your left, you raise when it gets to you, or reraise. There is one exception here. If you have three baby cards showing, and a bicycle or six made, and there’s a raise when it gets to you, you might consider just calling. This is so as not to scare anyone out, and also make them think that maybe one of those little cards paired you. If you plant this suspicion in their minds, they’re likely to get locked on to their drawing hands and call you on sixth street, or raise with their worse made hands, and then you can reraise.”

“What if,” she posited, “the bet comes right from the right?”

“Then,” I supplied, “what you do depends on the upcards of the remaining players. If it looks like you’re the only low, go ahead and raise whether your hand is made or whether you’re drawing to a two-way hand. If all you have is a draw to a low, A-3-6-7-K of mixed suits, say, then just call, because you’re going for only half the pot, and can’t stand a lot of action. If there are what are obviously worse low draws than yours behind you, just call, whether you made the hand or not, to keep them in. If your hand is made, definitely just call, and then if someone raises behind you, you can reraise when it gets back to you, setting the trap. You might even want to reraise if you have a terrific draw, say four babies plus four to a flush or straight. But do remember one thing. Just because you are making a play with positive expectation doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win. Just because you have the best of it, and put in a lot of action, doesn’t mean you can’t end up with no part of the pot. An occurrence like that can make the game very frustrating. But, as Mike Caro has said and written countless times, you’re being paid to make good decisions, not to win pots.”

“Yah,” she riposted, “but it’s nice to win those big pots.”

“Of course,” I concluded for the nonce.

More soon.

Next: 080 Aunt Sophie finishes the fifth


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