A curious hand came up the other night at "Irish". This is a particularly fast and feisty form of Hold 'em, supposedly named after the gambling mania of the Irish. Instead of two hole cards as in regular Hold 'em, players are dealt three, four, five or even six (!) cards, as starting hands.

Betting proceeds in the normal way after the flop, after which players staying in the hand discard their extra cards, leaving just two to play on as usual. Although "pocket rockets" (two aces) are still the best starting hand, with so many cards to choose from, straights and flushes are always likely, which encourages much wild betting.

In a game at the Grosevnor Victoria, where Irish is much in vogue, Ranjit was dealt:

42 - 4# - 54 - 62.

In Omaha (four card Hold 'em with no discards) this would be a doubtful proposition. But in Irish it offers good chances. There was a bet and a pot-sized raise, which Ranjit called. The flop came down:

2! - 3! - 44

Two other players were in contention. Question: should Ranjit keep his 5-6 for a straight, which is the best possible hand at that point? Or should he discard the 5-6 to play on trip 4s, so as to keep open the possibility of making a full house, on the assumption that at least one opponent is drawing to a heart flush?

Ranjit kept the straight, which held up, and was the correct play. But expert Stewart Reuben pointed out that if Ranjit was playing, for example, 8 9 J J and the flop had come down 7 10 J with two cards in suit, it would be correct to discard the 8-9 and play trip jacks! In this latter case, an opponent playing a hand like A-Q flushing would be favourite.

As usual, it all depends on the money at stake. Even in the first example, the ready-made straight may not be solid, if another player also has 5-6 or a hand like A!-5! is out.

Many players at Irish become so excited at holding what appears to be the nuts on the flop, they forget an opponent may well be favourite to draw out on them.