Independent Pursuits: Gambling

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THE EXPERTS often disagree about how to play particular hands, which is one of the intriguing aspects of the game. I picked up the following quiz on the Internet, where it had been posted by the writer Mason Malmuth, as part of the ConJelCo service. Here are the first three questions in the quiz, originally set by Bob Caffione in Card Player magazine.

Question 1. You are on the button (last to speak) in a $20-$40 limit hold 'em game. No one has yet opened. What is the order of preference for hands with which to open by raising the big blind?




The answer given is first 4A-29, second !Q-!10 and third &9-&8. However, Caffione would be hesitant to raise with the &9-&8 and recommends a fold unless the big blind is a tight player. Whereas Malmuth would raise on it almost every time, looking to make a steal on the flop.

Question 2. The game is 10-handed and you are first to act. Which hands do you play?




Malmuth would play them all. The typical $20-$40 game almost always has enough multiway action to make all of these hands profitable, he says. Caffione says that all the hands should be folded up front in a normal $20-$40 game.

Question 3: You are playing in a game in which the play has been straightforward. The pot is opened up front for a raise and the button makes it three bets. You are in the big blind. With which of these hands would you cap it at four bets?




The answer depends on how likely the initial raiser will be to fold if I cap it, says Malmuth. Most players who raise coming in will automatically call for two more bets. When that is the case, he would just call with Q-Q and strongly consider raising with the other two hands. Caffione would cap it only with the kings. He points out that the extra bet won't usually get anyone out and that when a solid player re-raises an up-front raiser you need a very good hand to re-raise. (Note that in Nevada card rooms, unlike California, the cap is five bets.)

In practical play, the answers depend on your reading of the other players at table, quite as much as the cards themselves. So there can be no exact right or wrong answer. Note, also, that in a limit raise game, the gearing is entirely different from the British style of pot limit. In a limit game, if you are wrong you risk only one extra bet. In pot limit you may risk your whole stack.