Pursuits: Poker

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The Independent Culture
YOU THOUGHT Hold'em was a simple game, didn't you? Just two cards in the hole and five in common on the flop. Could hardly be easier, could it?

But just how subtle it can be is shown by an example in the March-April issue of Poker Digest (http://www.poker digest.com). Mason Malmuth analyses a typical hand in the Las Vegas limit-raise game.

You are two off the button, two players have limped in and you hold K! 4!.

Malmuth comments that in most cases this hand should be thrown away, but it is right to play under one circumstance: when the rest of the players, including the blinds, are loose and passive. But this point alone does not make the situation worthwhile. You must be able to play the hand well.

Suppose the flop comes down K# 9! 5#. The two players in the blinds pass. The next player bets, the player on your immediate right folds. What should you do?

Let's assume the analysis is favourable. If so, Malmuth says, you should raise and hope for the best. Part of the reason is, you think you may have the best hand; you also don't want to give someone with middle or bottom pair, or a gut-shot to a straight, correct odds to call behind you.

One of the players after you cold-calls. The original bettor calls. Everyone else folds. Next card off is 22.

The original bettor now checks to you. What do you do?

Despite the problems, your play is to bet. You just can't give a free card in this spot. If you get raised (by either player) you will have to consider laying down your hand.

Both players call. Last card is J2. The first player checks to you. What should you do?

You should also check, says Malmuth. The reason is not that your hand may not be best, but that it will be difficult for a weaker hand to call. If someone else bets you should probably call unless you are sure this player rarely bluffs.

Malmuth's real point is that if you want to be successful, you need to do this type of analysis all the time.