Wiesenberg (s084 poker): Sophie more in lowball

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 advances more in lowball

Aunt Sophie and I were having a delightful repast in the Anaheim Club’s formal dining room, while Sara was at a movie with her seldom-seen son. As the waiter cleared away our entrees and presented us with palate-clearing portions of sorbet, I was expounding on a few advanced plays in lowball.

“Another play,” I continued, “happens thus. You open in middle or early position with a good one-card draw. As usual, you come in for a raise, that is, in the 15/30 game, you put in $30. The only caller is the player in the middle blind, who happens to have won the previous pot, although that is not material to our discussion.”

“What can you tell me,” queried Aunt Sophie, “about this player?”


“Ah,” I replied, “good question. He is moderately aggressive, that is, if he had a pat nine or better, he would raise, and if he had a really good one-card draw, he might raise, though he wouldn’t always. So you assume that he is probably drawing one card. He also has a curious habit of holding six chips in his hand in ‘must-call’ situations, and then usually does end up calling more than two-thirds of the time. That is, if he raises from one of the blinds with a pat eight or worse, and you draw behind him, he checks while holding those chips and if you bet, he calls almost all the time. If he draws a card in a multiway pot and checks while holding those chips, he ends up calling a lot of the time, but not all. It’s almost as if he’s daring anyone to bet, and what he’s trying to do is discourage any bluffing.”

Our salads arrived. We both had the house salad with house dressing, a delightful oil and tarragon vinegar mix. The tomatoes were, of course, peeled, and no croutons burdened the greenery.

“What happens next?” she asked.

“Next,” I went on, “comes a surprise. He stands pat. Notice that he specifically did not raise, but this is a player who would raise with almost any hand he planned on standing pat with. So you draw a card, and think this is a nice situation, because if you make your hand, you’re almost guaranteed a call. You know this because he checks, holding those six chips in his hand. You figure he probably has a rough 10, 10-9-8 or something. Not 10-8, because he just would have drawn a card without trying to stand pat on the 10. There is a slight possibility he has a very rough nine, but not much, because he usually raises on nines. If he has a 10, you’ve got about a 50 percent chance of beating his hand, depending on the exact constitution of his hand and yours, and you’ll make more than 2-to-1 on your initial investment if you do. More, because of the $15 of the big blind. Since he won’t call 100 percent of the time, you can lower your payoff to about 2-to-1. Pretty good. You’d like to make 2-to-1 every time on a 1-to-1 shot.”

Red herring

“Aha!” exclaimed Aunt Sophie. “A red herring here I smell. There must be better odds.”

“How astute of you,” I complimented. “Yes, you’re right, there are. The pot contains at this moment $80, representing two $15 bets each, since you opened for a raise, from you and the other player, the $5 dealer blind and the $15 big blind. Assume your opponent has a pat 10. Approximately half the time you will make a winning hand. Let’s say you bet whenever you get a 10 or better, and that he always calls and you always win. So half the time you don’t make your hand, and you lose $30, while half the time you do and win $80. That’s $30 he called before the draw, $30 after, plus the blinds. So in two times, you profit by $80 minus $30, or $50, for an average of $25 per hand. It’s actually somewhat worse than that, because some of the times you bet after the draw he doesn’t call you, and some of the times he actually has a rough nine. You can’t double that $25 per hand profit, though.”

The unobtrusive waiter cleared our salads, and brought another sorbet course.

“The only way I figure,” interposed Aunt Sophie, “for this is if you make your hand more often. How you gonna do that?”

Stand pat

“Ah,” I said, “you haven’t considered all possibilities. What if you don’t draw? You have pretty well defined your opponent’s hand. He raps pat with a very rough hand. You stand pat behind him, instead of drawing the one card you had initially opened for. Even if you have three cards to a bicycle plus the joker! He checks. You bet. If you’re not a very tricky player, one who bluffs a lot, he would be pretty hard put to call a pat hand with a rough 10. Even with a rough 9. He will likely be patting himself on the back for not having raised with his hand, and cost himself at least one more bet, probably two. He may hold those six chips in his hand when he checks into you after you both have stood pat, but I can almost guarantee this time that he will dump his hand when you bet. I mentioned his having won the previous pot only because he’d be more likely to play a pat 10 on the next hand because he’d be hoping he’s in the middle of a rush. This player might open in late position with a pat 10, but he would not normally call with that hand from the middle blind when someone came in from your position with a raise. So now instead of an average per-hand profit of $25, you win $50, his $30 plus the blinds. As before, of course, if you get caught, you just can’t use that play again for a long time. And this is what is called a play. Not drawing with a hand that is normally played only as a one-card draw because the situation is special is a play.”

Sorbets silently disappeared, to be replaced by chateaubriand for Aunt Sophie and the leg of lamb for me. No cute little paper hats on the bones and no mint jelly. The vegetables included a lightly cooked medley of baby carrots, summer squash, snow peas, and zucchini. New potatoes lightly sautéed with parsley nestled athwart. Wine glasses were refilled. Conversation ceased.

Next: 085 Aunt Sophie doesn’t switch


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