Poker: Folding often saves money

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The Independent Culture
IT MAY be painful, but sometimes you have to fold when you have the best hand. I am thinking particularly of high-low games, when the cost of the hand going wrong - even though you are best - makes it too risky and too expensive to play it out.

Here is a recent example from Omaha high-low. In this game, players have four cards in the hand, from which they must use any two, in combination with three from the five flop cards. On the flop, Mel made three jacks - clearly the best high hand at that point. There was no low hand as yet, because here the low had to be 8 or better to qualify.

Flop: 4c 5c Jh

Mel: (J J K 10)

Mel bet pounds 15 but when Stan - the only other player in - called and raised pounds 45, Mel was in trouble. His three jacks are best, and there may never be an 8-low, if the last two flop cards are high. But what has Stan got?

If you know anything about high-low, the answer is obvious. Stan has got a flush draw to the Ace-x of clubs, which means that any club which falls will give him best high. He also holds four cards to a low hand - probably A - 2 - so another low card on board will give him a winning low. A low card will also give him a low straight, to win the high as well. His hand probably looks like:

Stan: Ac Qc 2d 6h

If Mel calls the raise (as he did), he faces a pounds 135 bet on the fourth card (which he also called), and pounds 400 on the river. Although his three jacks was still the best hand, he can never win the low. He might improve to a full house if one of the flop cards pairs up, but his opponent will not call him if it does. He is sticking in his money, and quite a lot of it, to get his stake back.

This is bad value. Mel managed to fold, and regretted calling the previous bets. It is simply too expensive to go on with this kind of hand. A lot of players will fall in love with a good high hand like trips, or four low cards. But against a single opponent, when you stand to win only half the pot, it is a recipe for disaster.