Clonie Gowen: Bad Beat? Shut it!

I played a tournament at a local casino a few weeks back. I had Q-Q, K-K and A-K(s) early in the tournament to accumulate a sizable chip lead. Then I picked up A-A and flopped a set, only to get rivered by a straight against the only player at the table who could cripple me. I ended up busting out shortly after that. I walked away so angry that I didn’t want to speak or talk to anyone, yet I would tell my story to anyone who listened. I felt like I didn’t want to stop playing poker, so I went to play a cash game where I lost, and lost big. What do you do when you suffer a bad beat?

Clonie Gowen plays online exclusively at FullTiltPoker.comI believe that one of the key ingredients to any player’s game is the ability to put bad beats behind him, and the only way to do that is not to talk about it – to anyone. You should always analyse your play to make sure you played the hand correctly, but to dwell on the bad beat itself is self destructive.

I never play cash games after busting out of a tournament, whether I suffered a bad beat or not. I know that my mind is still in tournament mode, and I am still thinking about how I might have avoided certain situation for the future.

If I see players who just busted out of a tournament sit down at a cash game, I will make my way to their table. I can easily get into their minds, and will put them on tilt just by asking one simple question: What happened in the tournament today? They will either launch into a horrible bad beat story or rant about the lucky idiot they just played against.  When I hear this, I know they have other things on their minds than the game at hand, so will misplay hands and give off more tells because they aren’t focused enough on the game they are playing.

If you can keep control of your mind and your emotions, you will think more rationally and feel better about yourself, and that will give you a better chance of winning.  It is so important to have a clear head when you play poker. This requires your mind not to be overloaded with problems from home and not to be on the bad beat you took.  Focus on what you can control, which is how you deal with problems at the table or away.  Once you sit down at the poker table, it’s time to go to work.  At work there will be problems, someone will make a horrible call and get lucky. You can’t let that keep you from the rest of the work at hand. If you do, you will miss key opportunities to pick p chips.

This is so important when you are not catching cards. You will need to have your mind clear enough to notice the guy in seat 4 is reraising with small pots, while the guy in seat 1 just said that he won his seat online for $3, and that the $10,000 cash will be a nice return on his investment.  I believe in the power of positive thinking, so I rarely allow my self to dwell on things I cannot control. I let it go; try to see it as a learning experience; then I win.  You have two choices in life: you can choose to be happy or you can choose to be mad. Either way, we can’t do anything to change the way the cards have fallen. But you can choose to avoid situations where you stand to lose a lot more money because you are not focused.



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Texas Hold’em Positional Play Cheat Sheet

Your position at the poker table should affect the way you bet a hand. If you’re one of the first players to bet, you’re in an early position or if you’re one of the last, you’re in a late position at the table. In some poker variants your position shifts from one betting round to another (Seven Card Stud), in others it remains the same throughout the hand (Texas Hold’em).

In poker, information is money. When you have less information than your opponents, you need a better hand to make up for it. In early position, play stronger hands.

Poker Hand Chart for positional playThis Cheat Sheet is a great starting point for Texas Hold’em newbies. It shows some hands are playable in all positions, and some in late position only. Why? Without getting into the mathematics, imagine it this way. When you are in first position (under the gun ot utg), this means that before the flop, you are acting first. You have no idea what the people behind you were dealt, so your hand needs to be strong enough to be able to play against what will effectively be the best hand/hands out of the remaining players.

Compare this to being “on the button”. When it is your turn to act, and everybody before you has folded, you only have to play pots against the two blinds. Effectively it will be your hand vs two random hands from the blinds. A much better proposition. This is why the relative hand strength varies so much from position to position at the poker table.

This Cheat Sheet shows possible Hold’em starting hands and gives you an idea of how it should be played according to your position at the table. Your position is defined as “Early, “Middle”, or “Late” relative to the Dealers Position or “The Button” and the hands are in different colors to indicate the different playing style recommended.

Playing Styles for No Limit Holdem
Raise before the flop, and re-raise if players in previous positions have bet. Using AA as an example, you have the best hand possible before the flop… and want to take every opportunity possible to get your opponent(s) chips into the pot. With these hands, you are unconcerned about the action that has taken place before you.

These hands need to be treated with a little bit more caution then the RED zone hands. If there is a raise before you, you should be calling here with about the same frequency as which you are re-raising. In poker there is a term called the Gap Concept, which dictates that it takes a stronger hand to call a raise, then it does to raise with… so in pots that have already been opened, calling here is normally recommended. If the pot is unopened by the time it gets to you, go ahead and raise with these hands. One additional point that needs to be made, is that there are three positions as depicted on the chart. Early, Middle and late. If a raise comes from early position, and you are in late position with a hand like 7,7… then it becomes a PASSIVE hand, and you should not be re-raising.

These are hands that will make most of their money from seeing pots with a few people in the pot, because they are generally considered POTENTIAL hands. They have the potential to make a very strong hand. You should not be re-raising with these hands very often, your main goal is to call raises, and try to attract players behind you to call. Lets see an example: Someone raises from utg, and you are in middle position with J/9s. If the flop comes down J9x, you have a very good opportunity to bust the EP raiser who has AA or KK. One word of caution though, if there is a raise, and then a re-raise before the action gets to you, then its recommended that you fold these hands.

NOTE: The problem with any hand chart is that it is one dimensional. It doesn’t take into account table dynamics, reads on players, and the various playing styles that you are coming up against. It is useful as a starting point, however, and if you use it as a part of your overall strategy, we are confident that the information you have learned here will be a great start to your poker career.

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How a Pro Thinks Through a Hand

“I was half hoping for a King on the river and half not, because it could bust me.”

In an earlier blog posting, Poker pro Perry Friedman discussed the importance of being able to look at factors beyond one’s own cards. An experienced player has the ability to think about what his opponent is likely to hold. Beyond that, a top-quality player – a pro – will think a level deeper and consider what he believes his opponent is thinking about his cards.

Mark Vos versus Chris FergusonA couple of years back, at the World Series of Poker* Main Event, an interesting confrontation occurred between two Full Tilt Poker pros and bracelet holders, Mark Vos and Chris Ferguson. With blinds of 500 and 1,000, Chris raised on the button to 3,000. Mark re-raised from the small blind and Chris called.

On a flop of A-J-T, Mark bet 12,000 and Chris called. The turn brought another Jack and Vos bet 15K, and Chris called again. The river was a 2. Mark checked and Chris moved in for his last 20K. Mark thought for a time, then turned a Jack face-up, showing trips, and folded.

Mark discussed his thinking shortly after the hand was played.

I was in the small blind with King-Jack suited. It was folded to Chris Ferguson who had about 70K to start the hand. He raised it to 3,000. I decided I could probably pick it up with a little re-raise, take him off of Ace-rag or a small pair. He thought for a little bit and called. I put him on a very strong hand here. He’s not likely to defend his button raise with a weak hand. I’d been playing pretty tight.

The flop came out A-J-T. I figured if he had a pair of Queens or maybe a pair of Kings he might lay it down, and if he had a small pair, like 9s or 8s, he’d definitely fold. So I bet out 12K. He thought for a little bit and called. At this point, my hand is totally dead; I’m hoping for a Queen.

The turn came a Jack , which is either a suck-out or a trouble card. I have trips with the best kicker I can have without having a full house. I didn’t like the situation, but I felt I had to lead out. Because he could have had A-K or A-Q, or a flush draw. So I bet out 15K, which is pretty weak, because it was about a 40K pot. He called fairly quickly. At that point, my hand is dead. I was half hoping for a King on the river and half not, because it could bust me.

The river was a blank. I checked. He went all in for 20,000. I was fairly certain he had tens full or Aces full, and I folded.

Chris later congratulated Mark on his good fold. He confirmed that he had pocket Aces and had flopped a set and turned a full house.

It takes time to learn to think this deeply about a hand. But if you put in the time and have an open mind, you’re game will get increasingly sophisticated and your profits will grow accordingly.

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* World Series of Poker and WSOP are trademarks of Harrah’s License Company, LLC (‘Harrahs’). Harrah’s does not sponsor or endorse, and is not associated or affiliated with or with RedCard Media Limited or their products, services, promotions or tournaments.

Poker Pros Acknowledging Mistakes

“The best players have the ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes.”

Among the thousands of players at World Series of Poker* and other major events, you’re bound to hear players telling tales of the hands that bounced them from tournaments. Often, the players are upset as they tell the stories of bad beats and lousy luck. However, among the pros, you’re far more likely to hear someone say something like, “I played that really badly.”

John D Agostino is a member of Team Full Tilt and plays online exclusively at this US player friendly siteThe best players have the ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes – it’s one of the qualities that make them so good. John D’Agostino noted, “When you listen to the general public you hear, ‘I got so unlucky.’ Generally, all you hear the pros talk about is how they played a hand poorly. We understand we make mistakes and we try to get better from them.”

Chris Fergusson, known as Jesus, always is great to watch play poker Chris Ferguson noted that humility is vital to winning poker. “To improve, you have to know you’re making mistakes,” Ferguson said. “There are a lot of hands I don’t know how to play. There are a lot of situations I don’t know how to handle. If I thought I knew everything, I’d never improve.”

How often do the pros make mistakes? D’Agostino says, “[We] make mistakes almost every single hand. They’re small mistakes, but maybe I could have gotten paid off a little more on a given hand or avoided a bluff.”

Howard Lederer, known as The Professor, hates to lose any game of pokerHoward Lederer says, “To become a pro or a really good player, you have to become brutally objective about your game. If you aren’t, you won’t make the changes and improvements you need.”

While Lederer believes in the need for tough self-assessment, he notes that there’s no need to dwell on past errors. “You have to be honest with yourself and you can’t gloss over mistakes,” he says, “but there’s no need to beat yourself up. You need to learn from the mistakes and move on.””

Many of the pros refuse to discuss hard-luck hands in detail, knowing that there’s little to learn form a stab of bad luck. Recently, after Chris Ferguson busted from a tournament early on,  he was asked about the hand that put him on the rail. “Bad beat,” was all he said. He didn’t feel the need to offer any more detail.

If you avoid talking about luck and concentrate on the hands where there is something to be learned, your game is bound to improve.  Emulate the pros by finding the will to say,  “Boy, did I mess that one up.”

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(* World Series of Poker and WSOP are trademarks of Harrah’s License Company, LLC (‘Harrahs’). Harrah’s does not sponsor or endorse, and is not associated or affiliated with or its products, services, promotions or tournaments or Red Card Media Limited Trading as

Shocking Truth: When Equal Opponents Compete, Everyone Gets Screwed!

Mike Caro - The Mad Genius of Poker

OK, it’s time for some tough love – I can’t keep teaching you winning poker unless you grasp the ugly truth that governs every bet. Here’s what I’m on about: Every time you make a wager against an opponent, the net outcome for both players is negative. That’s true in poker and other forms of gambling that pit player against player.

Why? Read on…
First, a related topic. Money you don’t lose is just as important as money you win. I’m guessing you immediately agree with this statement. Money is money you reason. But in the heat of poker combat, hardly anyone grasps the significance. Night after night I see players get behind and begin to break down emotionally. When the original buy-in was $500 and they find themselves losing $4,450, they stop caring about whether they end up cashing out $4,300 behind or $4,600 behind. It feels the same. Same emotional result, same agony.

All that matters for most players at that moment is getting even – or at least recovering to a point where the pain is diminished. Common sense strategy collapses. But you should play poker with exactly the same critical decision making, whether you’re winning big, about even or buried. It matters equally in every case and here’s proof…

Rewriting Poker History
Suppose you’re fairly new to poker and decide you’ve acquired enough skills to play professionally. You test yourself for a year, but things don’t o as you’d hoped. Your adventure has seen you lose $200,000. OK- here’s where I pop up and say “I can re-write poker history and make you even for the year”.

You seemed stunned and unconvinced, but I explain that I’m the god of poker (which is of course actually true!). So you listen as I continue… “There’s only one thing I nee from you. Would you rather I rewrite poker history by adding a little extra to each win you had last year, so you break even? Or would you prefer I subtract a little from each loss, so you break even?  You blurt “Either way – what difference does it make?”

Now – here’s the point. It doesn’t matter – the year end result is the same. So that’s why you need to understand, not just intellectually but emotionally, that money you don’t lose is exactly the same as money you win. And you need to start playing accordingly.

Frightening Concept
Fine. But today we’re going to examine a frightening concept that says that money you don’t lose is actually more important than money you win. In order to understand this you need to imagine that you were offered a coin flip bet by a friend. Each of you had a $1m bankroll, a substantial sum gathered over 20 years of dedicated poker play and representing your entire worldly worth. Your friend Paul says “Let’s flip a coin for $900,000”.

Suppose that, on impulse you accept this wager. Since there’s no expertise involved in the coin flip, you correctly reason that the outcome is fifty-fifty and both players, you and Paul, are equally skilled. You might also think that this is what mathematicicans would call a “zero-sum” game (ie every dollar lost is equally balanced by a dollar won, so there is no net win or loss) – but I believe there is a net loss!

In order to see this net loss you must look beyond the dollars exchanged. You must ask yourself what the effect of the wager will be. If you lose the coin flip, you’ll have only $100,000 and Paul will have $1,900,000. Your future will have been brutalized. Paul’s future though will have been enhanced nicely, but not overwhelmingly. The point is that in the real world, any wagers among equally skilled opponents invariably cause net harm.

Significant Edge
Although it’s occasionally OK to hone your skills against tough opponents, this is a costly endeavour – even if you have a small advantage. Remember, rakes, table rent, dealer tips, travel, expenses and other costs will factor against you. You’ll also be wasting time that you could use more profitably. Progressive income taxes also mean that money won never equates to money lost. You simply don’t want to wager unless you have a significant edge.

Think about it and you’ll see why halving one bankroll to make another fifty percent larger is a bad amble for everybody. That’s one reason why you nee to seek the best games with the biggest edges if you want to succeed at poker.

Mike Caro


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Future Poker Pro

A little boy was doing his math homework. He said to himself, “Two plus five, that son of a bitch is seven. Three plus six, that son of a bitch is nine.”

His mother heard what he was saying and gasped “What are you doing?” The little boy answered “I’m doing my math homework, Mom.” “And this is how your teacher taught you to do it?” the mother asked.”Yes”, he answered.

Infuriated, the mother asked the teacher the next day, “What are you teaching my son in math?” The teacher replied, “Right now, we are learning addition.”

The mother asked, “And are you teaching them to say two plus two, that son of a bitch is four?”  After the teacher stopped laughing, she answered, “What I taught them was, two plus two, THE SUM OF WHICH, is four.”


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Poker Hand Odds - and nothing to do with the joke on this page!

Stud Hi-Lo the Howard Lederer way

“Stud-Hi/Lo is a complex game that presents players with decisions that they’re not going to encounter in Hold’em or in any other high-only game.”

Howard Lederer plays exclusively online at

In split-pot games, beginners are often cautioned against playing hands that have them drawing to half the pot. But in Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo, a situation sometimes arises where drawing with a modest chance at the whole pot and an even smaller chance at half the pot is clearly the correct play.

Say you’re playing eight-handed, $4/$8 Stud Hi/Lo, with a $1 ante and a $1 low card bring in. You’re dealt 2s-5d-5c and, with the low card showing, you bring it in for $1. It’s folded to a player showing a King, who completes to $4. Everyone else folds; you call and head to Fourth Street.

Both you and your opponent pick up a 7. He bets $4 and you call. On Fifth Street, you pick up a Jack and he gets a 4. You have [2s]-[5d]-5c-7h-Jc and your opponent shows [x]-[x]-Kd-7s-4c. At this point, you’re pretty convinced that your opponent has a pair of Kings. You look at your hand and see that you don’t have much, a low pair and three to a low. You might be tempted to fold if your opponent bets, but that would be a mistake.

The action so far has already created a significant pot. There’s $8 in antes, and another $16 from the betting on Third and Fourth Streets. You’ll need to call bets of $8 on Fifth and Sixth Street to try to make your hand, so it will cost you $16. If you manage to make two pair and it holds up, you’d win about $50. That’s a pretty good price.

The odds here are so compelling that even if you were playing Seven-Card Stud Hi only, you’d have to consider calling your opponent down. You’d have a 30 percent chance of cracking the Kings, which isn’t quite enough to justify calling against an over-pair. However, if there was a chance that your opponent was bluffing, then calling would be okay.

However, Stud-Hi/Lo gives you an additional way of getting money out of the pot. You’ll go runner-runner to a low often enough so that your pot equity increases to about 37 percent. Those odds are way too good to consider folding.

Stud-Hi/Lo is a complex game that presents players with decisions that they’re not going to encounter in Hold’em or in any other high-only game. If you’re looking to improve your Stud-Hi/Lo game, play some hands online, and then try running some computer simulations to see if you’re making the best mathematical decisions.

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Middle Pocket Pairs, the mini-raise and more…

Here’s a question about middle pocket pairs in a No Limit Hold’em ring game. For example if I were dealt 99, would it be better for me to make a standard raise of about 4 times the big blind to limit the competition or would it be better for me to limp in and hope to spike a set?

Now lets assume there are three people in the pot with me and there is only one overcard. Should I bet 3/4 the pot for information or should I check and fold to any bet. With only one overcard, there is still a reasonable chance I could have the best hand, but I can’t take much heat with only a pair of 9s.

Another thing that is troublesome is the mini-raise. Lets say I have top-pair, top-kicker and bet 3/4 the pot against two opponents; one folds, and the other opponent raises the minimum amount. I am now getting 4.33 to 1 pot odds. From my experience, mini-raises are a sign of a strong hand that would have top pair dominated, and my opponent will most likely continue firing if I call a mini-raise. If I fold to a mini-raise, the table will notice that I folded to a mini-raise, and some players may be tempted to use the mini-raise as a bluffing tool. The player would be making money if his mini-raise bluff was successful more than 20 percent of the time. I do not want to portrayed as a player that is easy to push.

In this situation where I bet 3/4 the pot and face a mini-raise on my top pair, is it better for me to call the mini-raise to send a message that I can’t be bluffed cheaply or is it better to fold since I have information that my opponent most likely has me beat?


Concerning the middle pocket pairs, it depends on a number of factors. If you’re under the gun and your table is not extremely tight preflop, raising 99 is probably a bad idea, especially if there is a good chance you’ll be re-raised.

However, if you’re in middle or late position and have a good chance to steal the blinds (and a lower chance to be reraised because fewer players are behind you yet to open) I like raising hands like 99 in the standard amount. You’ll want to do this not only because pocket pairs like 99 are strong enough to sometimes win unimproved in a shorthanded pot, but also because it adds a lot of deception to your opening range (people won’t be able to put you on a monster if you raise preflop with a variety of hands, and by raising 99, you might get more action on AA/KK later on).

Generally, deciding when to raise a middle pocket pair requires that you look at your position, whether your table is tight/aggressive, loose/passive, tight/passive, loose/aggressive etc., because you won’t want to be reraised very often, and you also need to check whether others have limped in front of you, as you’ll often prefer to raise 99 preflop only when it’s likely to be a shorthanded pot (although, that’s not a hard and fast rule – just something to consider).

When deciding whether to continue betting on the flop, you need to think about how many people you’re against (3 means it’s likely, but by no means certain, that someone has hit something better, 1 or 2 is much less likely, 4 or more is highly likely) and how likely it is that a limping player holds that overcard. If the overcard is the ten, you’re more likely ahead of the field than if it’s an ace (because fewer people limp/call with Tx than with Ax). Sometimes, you’ll also have to check for other considerations like possible draws – if there are a lot of draws out there, your 99 may be the best hand now but still a dog to be the best hand at the showdown, meaning you’re better off checking the flop and not committing a lot of chips in a poor spot.

Concerning the miniraise, you will have to try to think about what it could mean. Someone who miniraises could have two pair or a set, so think about all the combinations thereof and whether any of them make sense for your opponent to have given how things have gone so far. Also, consider whether they might be betting with a draw (so in other words, if there’s no draw, they’re either making a ridiculous bluff or they have a made hand). Usually you’ll be required to call a miniraise by the odds, but not if you think your opponent is more likely to have a set than two pair. Two pair you’ll have a lot more outs against than a set, where you’re drawing very slim. Don’t just look at the odds, think about what they might have, and then figure out (on average, if possible) how hard it will be to improve.

And as you said, they usually bet hard on the turn if they miniraise the flop. This alone should make you fold to a miniraise unless you are strongly inclined to believe it’s a draw raise, because despite your good odds on the flop, you’re looking at a bad spot most of the time on the turn. Depending on the situation, you’ll often end up calling the miniraise on the flop and folding on the turn when you don’t improve, and often that’s not a bad thing unless you can’t lay down your hand on the turn, in which case, you’re going to need to develop discipline or just fold to all flop miniraises.

If you’re against observant opponents they may miniraise to bluff you in future, so that is why it’s often good to call the flop and then re-evaluate on the turn, especially given the odds you’re getting against a two pair hand. And that will make you less likely to be pushed around. It also allows you to catch miniraise semi-bluffers, since they often have a hard time pulling the trigger on the turn and will show their weakness. Usually, whether they’re strong or weak, you’ll know by the turn, and you can re-evaluate there (and save yourself a bunch of chips if you’re way behind).

I guess the best advice is to mix it up. Be more inclined to call the miniraise when there is a range of possible two pair hands your opponent could have, or a possible semi-bluff on a draw, and fold when it’s only reasonable to put your opponent on a set. A hand like that would be something in the line of K23r and you have raised AK preflop – I wouldn’t expect K2 or K3 or 23 or a draw here, as much as I would expect 22 or 33, and so if miniraised, that’s a good time to fold. K98 might yield more two pairs that you can outdraw, and they might have some other draws, and so you might just call and see what happens on the turn.

There is no perfect formula for dealing with small raises, but usually they give away enough information for you to make a smart play.

Good luck at the tables!

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Poker Pro: The Value of Your Starting Hand

Another top from poker pro Steve Brecher

Most players know that pre-flop position is important in hold ‘em. The earlier your position, the more players there are behind you and, unless you hold pocket Aces, the bigger the chance that one of them will have a hand better than yours.

There is another aspect to position: It’s better to act after your opponent(s) rather than before. But for this tip, I’m going to investigate the chances that a player behind you will have a better hand.

There is no universal definition of what “better” means when comparing hold ‘em starting hands. For this article, I needed some reasonable, quantifiable criterion. So in the following, I’m assuming that one hand is “better” than another if its showdown equity is greater. A hand’s showdown equity against another hand is the average portion of the pot it will win across all possible combinations of board cards. This is similar to the percentages that TV poker programs display next to player hands when the players are all-in. If you’re interested in investigating this for yourself, there are several free computer programs and websites which calculate the showdown equities of user-specified competing hands.

For example, Ah 2d all-in pre-flop against Kc Qc will, over all possible boards, win an average of 53.9% of the pot. So the A-2 is the “better” hand against K-Q suited by our definition. Obviously, it is not better for all purposes; at a full table I’d usually open-raise in early position with K-Q suited, but toss A-2 offsuit.

Given some specific hand category – such as K-Q suited – we’ll need to know the chance that a random hand dealt from the remaining 50 cards will be “better.” This requires that we have a showdown equity calculation for each of the 1,225 possible opposing hands and tabulate against how many of them the K-Q suited has the worse (less than 50%) equity. It turns out that 238 of the 1,225 possible opponent hands are “better” in this sense. So we say that the chance of a random hand being better than K-Q suited is 238/1,225 or 19.4%; conversely, the chance that a random hand will not be better is 80.6%. This tabulation would be too tedious to do by hand. For the example results below, I developed some simple software to do the calculations.

Suppose that you are considering an opening bet pre-flop. There are players yet to act behind you. I’ll denote the number of hands to play behind you as N. For example, if you’re on the button, then there are two hands – the blinds – behind you, and N would be equal to 2. What is the probability that none of some number of random hands will be better than yours? It is the chance that one random hand will not be better than yours multiplied by itself N-1 times, which is the same as saying it’s that probability raised to the Nth power. For example, if there’s a 40% chance that a random hand won’t be better (i.e., a 60% chance it will be better), then the chance that none of three random hands will be better is 40% x 40% x 40%, or 0.4 to the 3rd power, which equals 0.064. Hence, the chance that at least one of the three hands will be better is 1.0 – 0.064 or 0.936 or 94%.

Its all in the numbers!

I think the most interesting thing about these numbers is the difference between earlier and later positions. This is something to consider when you’re thinking of open-raising in early position.


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Chasing Flushes In Hold’em

I usually don’t chase anything less then a J high flush. Lately, I have been experimenting with any two suited cards if it’s cheap enough and I have a good stack position. What’s your take on chasing flushes in Hold’em?


As a tight-aggressive limit player, I don’t chase too much of anything, but when I do, it’s only when I have the odds, and sufficient reason to believe my hand will be good if I make it. Generally speaking, I will draw to a flush if I get the odds and there is not much betting going on, which suggests I’m up against a larger draw, or other hands that suggest a lot of lockout cards. A lockout card is a card that completes your draw, but leaves you with a losing hand. For example, when chasing a flush against a set, a lockout card is one that gives you the flush, but pairs the board so you’d lose to a full house.

There’s no golden rule here except using pot odds, and that applies to No Limit (NL) as well. In NL though, chasing flushes is different. First, you have a much higher potential for implied odds if you hit your flush. In limit, you might be able to extract one or two more bets on the last street(s), but in NL you could take a healthy chunk of your opponents stack when you hit your draw. This means that you may be justified in taking a card off when you have less than ideal pot odds on the flop – within reason and with reference to your expectations about what you’ll get on later streets if you hit your hand. You should be reasonable and err on the side of being too conservative when it comes to your NL implied odds calculations.

The other difference with NL is the huge issue of reverse implied odds. Imagine that you chased the king-high flush draw and one of your opponents had the ace-high flush draw, and the flush hit. While you were counting on a big pay-off if you caught your flush, you’ll be the one paying off big because you hit your flush. This is true of limit, but only for an extra few bets that you will pay off if you chase a dead draw. In NL, you’re looking at paying off your stack or a significant portion thereof. This is why you should be cautious about drawing to low flushes. If you get a great deal of players seeing the later streets it is important to decide if any of these other players have a better draw than you. If you’re three-way or heads-up, then you probably only need to evaluate your own outs (less any lockout cards), and not worry nearly as much about reverse implied odds.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the principle that chasing flushes on a paired board is a bad move (most of the time anyway), and this always applies as well.

Just remember when you decide whether to draw to a hand (on the flop) that you consider at least the following:

  • Am I getting the right pot odds to call? What about with implied odds less reverse implied odds?
  • Am I counting your outs correctly? What about lockout cards? How likely is it that someone else has a higher draw? For these questions, you need to think about your opponents’ hands, not just your own.
  • If I miss my draw on this card, how likely am I to get a cheap ride to 5th street/the river? What chance, if any, is there of a free card on the turn?
  • What are my prospects for winning the pot without making my draw? Does my opponent have a strong holding that they will not fold, or can they be bluffed? Can I make a better pair than they have to win the pot that way?

There are other things to think about, but generally there’s no strength of flush draw that is playable in all situations (even the ace-high draw has to be folded many times, right?) or one that is never playable (I’ll draw to a flush with 54s if I get the right odds in the right spot).

Good luck at the tables!

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