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             Theory of some popular card games by Media Safari

               Blackjack: Basic Strategy

                    By Arnold Snyder

       Once   you   understand   how   to   play
       blackjack, you can begin  to learn how to
       play without  losing money.  If  you make
       your decisions  by playing  your hunches,
       you will lose in  the long run.  There is
       only one  correct decision for  any given
       play, and that decision is based strictly
       on  mathematics.   Whether   or  not  you
       should hit  or stand depends on  what the
       laws  of probability  predict to  be your
       expectations  for   these  possibilities.
       Mathematicians,    using    high    speed
       computers, have  analyzed each  and every
       possible hand you might hold versus every
       possible dealer card up.

            Definition:  Basic  Strategy is  the
       optimum way to play your hands if you are
       not  counting  cards.  Depending  on  the
       rules  and the  number of  decks in  use,
       basic strategy will usually cut the house
       edge to no more than O.5 percent over the
       player.  This  makes blackjack  the least
       disadvantageous game in  the casino, even
       if  you  are  not  a  card  counter.   To
       explain  why the  various basic  strategy
       decisions   are    best   would   require
       extensive mathematical proof.  Unless you
       understand   the   math,   and   have   a
       high-speed  computer  to   work  it  out,
       you'll have  to accept basic  strategy on
       faith.  There  is an underlying  logic to
       basic  strategy,  however, which  can  be
       understood by anyone  who understands the
       rules of blackjack.

                Why Basic Strategy Works

            In  a  52-card  deck, there  are  16
       1O-valued cards:  four tens,  four jacks,
       four  queens,   and  four   kings.   (For
       purposes of simplification,  when I refer
       to  a  card as  a  "ten"  or "X,"  it  is
       understood to mean  any ten, jack, queen,
       or  king.) Every  other denomination  has
       only four  cards, one of each  suit.  You
       are four times more  likely to pull a ten
       out  of  the  deck than,  say,  a  deuce.
       Likewise, the dealer's  hole card is four
       times  more likely  to  be a  ten than  a
       five.  If  you take a hit,  your hit card
       is  four times  more likely  to be  a ten
       than an eight.

            Always assume the dealer's hole card
       is a ten.  If his upcard is a 7, 8, 9, or
       X,  you would  assume  the  dealer has  a
       "pat" hand, that is,  he will not have to
       take  a  hit  card.  Thus,  if  you  were
       holding a  "stiff," any hand  totaling 12
       through 16, you would hit.

            If the  dealer's upcard is 2,  3, 4,
       5,  or 6,  you would  assume that  he was
       stiff, and would therefore have to take a
       hit.  If  you were holding a  stiff hand,
       you   would   usually   stand   in   this
       circumstance, and let the dealer take the
       chance  of  busting.  Similarly,  if  the
       dealer's  upcard  indicates   he  may  be
       stiff,   you    would   find    it   more
       advantageous to  double down or  to split
       pairs,  thereby getting  more money  onto
       the  table when  the  dealer  has a  high
       chance of busting.

            Basic   strategy  says   never  take
       insurance.   Why? Because  when you  take
       insurance,  you are  simply making  a bet
       that the  dealer has  a ten in  the hole.
       Insurance  pays  2-to-1.  However,  there
       are  less than  two  tens  for every  one
       non-ten in a deck  of cards.  In the long
       run, you'll lose  more money on insurance
       than   you'll  win.

             Using the Basic Strategy Chart

            Do not attempt  to learn all aspects
       of basic strategy at once.  Regardless of
       the number  of decks or  rule variations,
       basic   strategy   for    any   game   is
       essentially the same.   Since few casinos
       offer the late surrender option, you need
       not learn this unless  you intend to play
       in  those  casinos.  Since  virtually  no
       casinos offer the early surrender option,
       the   basic   strategy  for   this   rule
       variation  is  at   present  of  academic
       interest only.   If you will  most likely
       be  playing  in  Reno, there  is  no  use
       learning    the   soft    doubling   down
       strategies,  nor any  hard doubling  down
       strategies, other than  for player totals
       of 1O  and 11.   In most  Northern Nevada
       casinos, you  are only allowed  to double
       down on 1O and 11.

            The  basic strategy  chart presented
       here  is  a "composite"  basic  strategy,
       good for any set of rules, and any number
       of decks.  Actually,  as these conditions
       change,  some   of  the   basic  strategy
       decisions  also  change.  Usually,  these
       changes are for borderline decisions, and
       do   not    significantly   change   your
       expectation.    I   know  a   number   of
       high-stakes pros who  know only one basic
       strategy,  and  ignore the  fine  changes
       caused by rules variations and the number
       of decks in play.

            Two   pair   splitting  tables   are
       presented  here.  The  first one  assumes
       that you  are not allowed to  double down
       after splitting  a pair.  In  most Nevada
       casinos, this is the  rule.  In a few Las
       Vegas  casinos,  and  all  Atlantic  City
       casinos,  players are  allowed to  double
       down after  pair splits.  If you  plan to
       play  primarily in  Atlantic City,  study
       the  second table.   Note that  there are
       only  a  few  differences  between  these
       tables.   If you'll  be  playing in  both
       Nevada and Atlantic  City, just learn the
       first  table,   then  brush  up   on  the
       differences prior to  your trips.  In any
       case, you  need to  study and  learn only
       one of the two pair splitting tables.

                Composite Basic Strategy

      (Good for any set of rules or number of decks)

            S = STAND
            D= DOUBLE DOWN
            $ = SPLIT
            › = SURRENDER


             2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A
     17+     S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
     16      S   S   S   S   S
     15      S   S   S   S   S
     14      S   S   S   S   S
     13      S   S   S   S   S
     12              S   S   S
     A8      S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
     A7      S   S   S   S   S   S   S

                        Double Down

             2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A
     11      D   D   D   D   D   D   D   D   D   D
     1O      D   D   D   D   D   D   D   D
     9           D   D   D   D
     A7          D   D   D   D
     A6          D   D   D   D
     A5              D   D   D
     A4              D   D   D
     A3                  D   D
     A2     D    D

                        Pair Splits

             2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A
     AA      $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $
     99      $   $   $   $   $       $   $
     88      $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $
     77      $   $   $   $   $   $
     66          $   $   $   $
     33              $   $   $   $
     22              $   $   $   $

               With Double After Splits

             2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A
     AA      $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $
     99      $   $   $   $   $       $   $
     88      $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $
     77      $   $   $   $   $   $
     66      $   $   $   $   $
     44                  $   $
     33      $   $   $   $   $   $
     22      $   $   $   $   $   $


             2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A
     16                                  ›   ›   ›
     15                                      ›


            The charts are straightforward.  The
       player's hands are listed vertically down
       the left side.   The dealer's upcards are
       listed horizontally along the top.  Thus,
       if you  hold a hand totaling  14 versus a
       dealer 6, you can  see the basic strategy
       decision is "S," or "stand." With a total
       of 14 versus a dealer 7, since "S" is not
       indicated, you would  hit.  Note: If your
       total of 14 is comprised of a pair of 7s,
       you must consult the pair splitting chart
       first.  You  can see that with  a pair of
       7s  versus either  a dealer  6 or  7, you
       would split ($) your 7s.

                   Order of Decisions

            Use the basic strategy chart in this

    1. If surrender  (›) is allowed  ("early" or
       "late"),  this  takes priority  over  any
       other decision.  If  basic strategy calls
       for surrender, throw in the hand.

    2. If you have a  pair, determine whether or
       not basic strategy calls for a split.

   3. If  you  have  a possible  "double  down"
       hand,  this  play   takes  priority  over
       hitting  or standing.   For instance,  in
       Las  Vegas  and  Atlantic City,  you  may
       double down on any  two cards .Thus, with
       a holding  of  A-7  (soft  18)  versus  a
       dealer  5, your  basic strategy  play, as
       per  the chart,  is to  double down.   In
       Northern  Nevada,  where you  may  double
       down on 1O or  11 only, your correct play
       would be to stand.

    4. After determining that you do not want to
       surrender, split a  pair, or double down,
       consult the "stand"  chart.  Always hit a
       hard total of 11  or below.  Always stand
       on a hard total of 17 or higher.  For all
       "stiff"  hands,   hard  12   through  16,
       consult the basic strategy chart.  Always
       hit soft 17 (A-6) or below.  Always stand
       on soft 19 (A-8)  or higher.  With a soft
       18 (A-7), consult the chart.

             How to Practice Basic Strategy

    1. Study the charts.

       Any   professional  card   counter  could
       easily and quickly  reproduce from memory
       a set  of basic  strategy charts.   Study
       the charts one section  at a time.  Start
       with the  hard Stand decisions.   Look at
       the  chart.  Observe  the pattern  of the
       decisions  as they  appear in  the chart,
       close  your   eyes  and   visualize  this
       pattern.  Study the chart once more, then
       get out your pencil and paper.  Reproduce
       the hard  Stand chart.  Do this  for each
       section  of the  chart separately  _ hard
       stand, soft stand, hard double down, soft
       double down,  pair splits,  an surrender.
       Do this until you have master the charts.

    2. Practice with cards.

            Place an  ace face up on  a table to
       represent  the dealer's  upcard.  Shuffle
       the  rest of  the  cards,  then deal  two
       cards face  up to yourself.  Do  not deal
       the dealer a down card.  Look at your two
       cards and the dealer's  ace and make your
       basic strategy decision.  Check the chart
       to  see  if  you  are  correct.   Do  not
       complete your  hand.  If the  decision is
       "hit," don't bother to take the hit card.
       After you've made and double-checked your
       decision,  deal  another   two  cards  to
       yourself.  Don't  bother to pick  up your
       first hand.  Just drop your next, and all
       subsequent, cards  face up on top  of the
       last cards dealt.   Go through the entire
       deck (25 hands), then change the dealer's
       upcard to a deuce, then to a 3, 4, 5, and
       so on.  You should be able to run through
       a full deck  of player  hands for  all 1O
       dealer upcards in less  than half an hour
       once your are able to make your decisions
       without  consulting  the  charts.   Every
       decision should be instantaneous when you
       are  proficient.  Strive  for perfection.
       If you have the slightest doubt about any
       decision, consult the chart.

            To   practice    your   pair   split
       decisions,  which  occur less  frequently
       than other  decisions, reverse  the above
       exercise.  Deal yourself  a pair of aces,
       then run  through the deck  changing only
       the dealer's upcards.  Then give yourself
       a pair of deuces, and so on.  Don't waste
       time  with any  exercise you  don't need.
       Your basic  strategy for  splitting aces,
       for  instance, is  always to  split them.
       You  don't need  to run  through a  whole
       deck  of  dealer  upcards  every  day  to
       practice this  decision.  Likewise, basic
       strategy  tells you  always to  split 8s,
       and never to split  4s, 5s, or tens.  You
       will learn these decisions quickly.  Most
       of   your   study    and   practice   for
       pair-splitting decisions should go toward
       leaning when to split 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, and

            If you learn to play basic strategy,
       without counting cards, most casinos will
       have only  a O.5  percent edge  over you.
       In single-deck Las  Vegas games, you will
       be playing  even with the house.   If you
       play  blackjack for  high  stakes, it  is
       wise to learn basic strategy, even if you
       are not inclined to count cards.  Playing
       basic  strategy  accurately will  greatly
       cut   your   losses.

               Simplified Basic Strategy

            If  you  do   not  intend  to  learn
       accurate basic strategy,  you can cut the
       house edge to about  1 percent by playing
       an approximate basic strategy.

                  Follow these rules.

    1. Never take insurance.

    2. If the dealer's upcard is  7, 8, 9, X, or
       A, hit until you get to hard 17 or more.

    3. If the dealer's upcard is  2, 3, 4, 5, or
       6,  stand on  all  your  stiffs; hard  12
       through 16.

    4. Hit all  soft hands  of soft 17  (A-6) or
    5. Stand on soft (A-7) or higher.

    6. Double  down on  ten  and  11 versus  any
       dealer upcard from 2 through 9.

    7. Always split aces and 8s.

    8. Never split 4s, 5s, or tens.

    9. Split all  other pairs,  2s, 3s,  6s, 7s,
       and 9s versus any  dealer upcard of 4, 5,
       or 6.

   1O. Surrender 16  versus 9, X, or  A.  If you
       intend  to learn  to  count cards,  first
       learn  to play  accurate basic  strategy.
       Once  you   know  basic   strategy,  your
       decisions    will    become    automatic.
       Assuming  your brush  up  on your  charts
       occasionally,  you   will  not   have  to
       continue practicing basic strategy.  Even
       when you are counting cards you will play
       basic strategy on four out of five hands.
       Basic  strategy   is  your   single  most
       powerful weapon.

            Editor's Note: The strategy outlined
       by  Arnold  Synder  appears in  his  book
       Black  Belt in  Blackjack.  For  ordering
       information,  write:

            RGE Publishing
            414 Santa Clara Avenue
            Oakland, CA 9461O.

                 By Michael Cappelletti

            To win  consistently at any  game of
       skill,  you  must   understand  what  the
       experts  refer  to as  "basic  strategy."
       Perhaps  the best  approach to  the basic
       strategy of high Omaha  is to think of it
       as a three-step process.

            Step  One  is evaluating  your  hand
       before the  flop.  You pick up  your four
       cards and  decide whether they  are worth
       calling  or  perhaps raising  before  the
       flop.   This  is  where most  players  go
       wrong  _ by  playing too  loose.  If  you
       find yourself playing  more than half the
       hands  (counting  the  blinds),  you  are
       either  holding unusually  good cards  or
       you are playing too loose.

            Step Two,  upon seeing the  flop, is
       to decide whether or  not to get involved
       further.   This  is frequently  the  most
       difficult  and  complicated  decision  in
       Omaha.   Your  odds  of  hitting  various
       combinations  of  "comes" often  involves
       complex  computations and  making "human"
       judgments as to the likelihood of raises.

            Step Three is  to decide whether you
       still   belong  in   the   pot  for   the
       double-sized bets after fourth street and
       fifth  street  (last card).   Since  your
       possibilities  are fairly  well clarified
       by  the  fourth  card, this  decision  to
       compete   with  the   big  money   should
       actually  be  easier   than  the  complex
       delicacies  of step  two.   How you  play
       your cards after fourth and fifth streets
       depends  mostly   on  your   usual  poker
       skills.  And  as in  most other  forms of
       poker, you have to be good at judging how
       what you have will fare against what your
       opponents are likely to have.

            Let's  look  further  at  the  basic
       strategy  involved  in step  one,  which,
       although  conceptually  simple, is  where
       most players go wrong.   There is a basic
       principle common to all poker with blinds
       (versus antes),  that you should  not put
       your  initial money  into the  pot unless
       you have a good starting hand.  The basic
       strategy of  step one in Omaha  is to get
       involved only with  hands that are likely
       to  flop a  playable  hand  more than  3O
       percent of  the time.  The  importance of
       hitting the flop  should be self-evident.
       It does you no good to have the best hand
       after fifth  street, if  you had  to fold
       the hand after the flop.

            A flop is playable  if it works with
       your hand  so that you have  at least one
       good come.  We define  a "good come" as a
       draw   which  is   likely  to   hit  (and
       frequently wins  when it hits)  about one
       third of the time  or better.  You should
       shy away from lesser comes (for instance,
       inside straights  which are  about 5-to-1
       against with two cards coming) because of
       raise possibilities and the likelihood of
       bad percentage fourth-round situations.

            In Omaha,  because you must  use two
       cards  from your  hand,  a good  starting
       hand consists of  at least several useful
       (of    the    six   possible)    TWO-card
       combinations.   Although most  good Omaha
       players simply  eyeball their  four cards
       and use  their expert judgment  to decide
       whether  to  play   or  fold,  there  are
       several   mathematical  approaches   that
       allow you to evaluate the total potential
       of  your   hand  before  the   flop  with
       reasonable accuracy by  adding up the six
       two-card potentials.

            One method, which  is rather tedious
       but  educational,  is  to  calculate  the
       likelihood of getting a playable flop and
       then estimate  the likelihood  of hitting
       and  winning  the   hand.   For  example,
       suppose you hold the  A_ Q_ and the 6_7_.
       Note   that   of    your   six   two-card
       combinations  (A-Q, A-7,  A-6, Q-7,  Q-6,
       6-7 only  the A-Q  and the 6-7  have both
       straight  and  flush  potential).   Let's
       look  at these  two-card combinations  to
       see   how   they   contribute   to   your
       expectations  of  hitting  the  flop  and

            First we  must approximate  the odds
       of the A_ Q_ of spades winning the pot by
       making  a  flush.   The board  will  flop
       three spades  less than 1 percent  of the
       time _ but will  flop two spades about 11
       percent of the time.  But even this "nut"
       flush   (highest   overall  flush)   will
       sometimes lose to a full house or higher.
       Overall, the nut flush  draw will win the
       pot for  you only about 4  percent of the

            The  A-Q will  flop a  high straight
       much  less than  1  percent  of the  time
       (about .37 percent).  This holding cannot
       flop a four-card  multiple straight come.
       If only  two of the three  other straight
       cards  are in  the flop,  conditions will
       often prohibit staying in to draw for the
       inside straight.  But,  high straights do
       seem  to win  a lot  of pots,  so let  us
       estimate (less  than) 1 percent  wins for
       the A-Q making the high straight.

            The 6-7 holding will flop a straight
       (do  not  count   the  8-9-1O  "ignorant"
       straight  _ it  is seldom  worth playing)
       less than  1 percent of the  time.  But a
       playable two-way or  better straight come
       will flop  about 8  percent of  the time,
       which will  become a straight  (on fourth
       street or last card) about a third of the
       time  (or  more  for  many  way  straight
       comes).   However,  straights in  general
       have a high mortality rate and lose close
       to 4O  percent of  the time  (mostly when
       the flop  contains two suited cards  or a
       pair).  Let's estimate  about a 2 percent
       win  rate for  the 6-7  straight holding.
       And  since they  are  both hearts,  let's
       estimate about a 1 percent win rate for a
       flush (mostly  the "backdoor"  flush made
       on the turn or river).  Seven high is not
       likely   to   win  the   "direct"   flush

            Finally,  since  none of  the  other
       four  (A-7,   A-6,  Q-7,   Q-6)  two-card
       combinations have  any straight  or flush
       potential,   let's  evaluate   the"single
       card"  potential,  or the  likelihood  of
       matching pairs or trips on the flop.  Any
       single card will match a pair in the flop
       about .77 percent of the time.  Thus, any
       four  non-paired  cards will  make  trips
       with a  pair on the flop  about 3 percent
       of the  time.  Any  four cards  will make
       two pairs with the  flop about 12 percent
       of the time, but  the two low pair should
       not be  played (without  other equities).
       Thus, trips plus the two high pair (about
       4 percent)  and the  high  and low  pairs
       (which  if played  should be  played very
       aggressively  and often  must be  folded)
       altogether give you  the standard "single
       card"  potential  of   about  11  percent
       likelihood   of  post-flop   playability.
       Having an  ace and another high  card and
       no real low  cards probably improves your
       overall   winning   chances  by   a   few
       percentage  points.  But  note that  even
       high   trips   require   something   good
       happening to win  the pot (namely hitting
       a full house or no flushes or straights).

            Grasp this important message.  There
       is no  magic about what hands  are likely
       to  hit  a  good   flop  in  Omaha.   The
       frequency  of  getting  a  good  flop  is
       directly  related to  the number  of good
       two-card    combinations.     Thus    the
       frequency of getting a good flop with the
       example    hand    (A-Q-6-7)    can    be
       approximated as follows: Combining the 12
       percent  for   flushes,  9   percent  for
       straights,  and the  standard 11  percent
       "single  card"   potential,  the  overall
       likelihood   of  hitting   the  flop   is
       slightly  less   than  3O   percent  (the
       mathematical probability is 1 - .88 x .91
       x .89).  This  is a borderline  hand but,
       because of  the A-Q  high-card potential,
       and  two  straight/flush potentials,  you
       probably should make  a loose call.  Many
       hold'em players might  even think this is
       a good hand.

            By  using the  above approximations,
       not only can you estimate your likelihood
       of hitting the flop, you can also roughly
       calculate the odds  of actually hitting a
       good  hand (which  will frequently  win).
       In the preceding  example, the likelihood
       of ending  up with  a flush,  straight or
       higher hand  totals somewhere  between 1O
       and 15 percent, but your odds of actually
       winning  the  pot  are  somewhat  better,
       since more than a  third of all hands are
       won with  lesser hands (depending  on the
       skill  level   of  the  players   in  the
       particular game).
            Using  the  preceding approach,  any
       Omaha hand can be evaluated for both flop
       and     final      winning     potential.
       Unfortunately, it takes  quite a while to
       perform these calculations and hence this
       approach,  while   quite  educational  in
       retrospect,   is    not   practical   for
       evaluating hands at  the table.  In order
       to quickly  evaluate the  total potential
       of  a  four-card  Omaha  hand,  it  would
       clearly  be more  practical to  have some
       simple systemic method  for adding up the
       potential   of  each   of  the   two-card

            Another  approach  is  to  formulate
       some appropriate value  for each possible
       two-card combination (based  on both flop
       expectation    and     overall    winning
       potential) and then  add up these values.
       A point  count system  in  my book,  that
       point  count   system  is   probably  the
       fastest known method  today for assessing
       the  overall  potential  of  a  four-card
       Omaha hand  (by simply adding  the points
       of the six two-card combinations).  Using
       my point  count system,  which recommends
       calling on hands that add up to 12 points
       (6 points for the A-x flush, 2 points for
       the 6-7, 2 points for the A-Q high cards,
       and  2 indirect  "intangible" points  for
       the straight/flush bonus).

            Whether  you  evaluate your  initial
       four   cards    using   some    kind   of
       mathematical device or simply by years of
       gut  experience, the  bottom line  is you
       must play only good  hands with depth (at
       least several good two-card combinations)
       to   be  a   winner.    Anyone  who   has
       experienced the last-card  blues in Omaha
       knows that it is highly recommended to go
       into the last card  with one or more good
       comes in  addition to  whatever temporary
       stuff  you may  be  betting.  GOOD  COMES
       indeed is your  basic strategy before the

            Let  us now  turn  our attention  to
       step two,  considered by most  experts to
       be the toughest  aspect of Omaha.  First,
       a listing of  the obvious good  flop hits
       in descending order:
       щ Locks  _  a  straight  flush  or  quads
       (these happen mainly in  the movies or to
       somebody else).

       щ Board set _ trips (you have a card that
       matches the pair in the flop).

       щ Hidden  set  _  trips  (one  flop  card
       matches the pair in your hand).

       щ Flush _ you hold  the first, second, or
       third highest two-suited cards that match
       two or three of that suit in the flop.

       щ Straight  _  you  hold  two  (or  more)
       proximate  cards that  work  with two  or
       three cards in the  flop to make either a
       straight  or one  or  more good  straight

       щ High two  pair _ play  aggressively (if
       there is  a reasonable chance  they might
       hold up to win the pot).

       щ High pair  and low  pair _  either play
       very  aggressively   if  conditions  seem
       favorable or fold.

            Basis strategy  dictates that  in an
       early  position  (where   you  have  less
       opportunity  to  employ skill  and  where
       there  might be  raises) you  should only
       bet  or call  with one  of these  hands _
       unless a  lot of money  is in the  pot to
       protect,  like  when  the pot  is  capped
       before the flop.  Often you will drop one
       of these hands because a higher threat is
       present;  for  example,  you  will  avoid
       playing flush or straight comes if a pair
       is in  the flop.   Note that each  of the
       above involves  two or more cards  in the
       flop working  with your hand.   Note also
       that   we  did   not  even   mention  the
       possibility  of  pushing the  high  pair.
       Omaha is not like hold'em.

            Because everyone has  four cards, in
       an early  position you always  assume the
       worst  and tend  to play  conservatively.
       Murphy's  Law applied  to  Omaha is  that
       somebody   hits  any   given  flop;   for
       example, if a pair  is on board, somebody
       matches  it.  Again,  Omaha  is not  like
            In  late  positions, you  should  be
       more opportunistic.  Please remember that
       there is a significant difference between
       opportunistic and foolish.  This is where
       much  of the  skill in  Omaha comes  into
       play.  In late positions, you should look
       for at least two situations.

            First, if a  single bet comes around
       to you,  and no one behind  you is likely
       to raise,  you might venture a  call when
       the pot odds justify your particular long
       shot.  The classic  example is drawing to
       an inside straight.   In Omaha, your odds
       going  in  to  fourth street  are  almost
       always better  than you think:  with four
       presumably  good  cards   in  your  hand,
       seeing the  fourth-street turn frequently
       presents opportunities that you might not
       have foreseen  (depending, of  course, on
       how well you know Omaha).

            Second,    look    for    the    old
       checked-around-to-you    situation   that
       heats the blood of all natural-born poker
       players.  Just  the fact that no  one has
       taken  the   opportunity  to   bet  means
       something,  but what  it means  depends a
       lot on the players  in the game.  Without
       going  into  all  of  the  various  bluff
       possibilities, let's look solely at value
       betting.  If you have as much as the high
       pair or any decent  come, you can justify
       betting on  values simply by  noting that
       everyone will fold some percentage of the
       time.  Moreover, someone with a come hand
       may call and not draw.  If you don't bet,
       everyone gets  a free card and  both your
       odds of winning and the expected value in
       the  pot go  way  down.  If  you are  the
       timid type,  perhaps you should  think of
       it as  being much  more scary not  to bet
       than to bet.

            Generally, in Omaha, you should fold
       after seeing the flop about two-thirds of
       the  time.  If  you are  getting involved
       after  the flop  as much  as half  of the
       time, you  are probably chasing  too much
       and losing money.  On the other hand, the
       one-third of the time  that you should be
       getting involved  (this assumes  that you
       are seeing the flop with only good hands)
       includes    some     rather    borderline
       "combination  hands"   whose  value  only
       experts  can  appreciate.   Part  of  the
       expert's edge is having advance knowledge
       of  some  of  the more  complex  holdings
       unique   to  Omaha.    Many  medium-tight
       players fold hands  that are clearly good
       percentage  investments.  Of  course, the
       real skill  is to understand  the various
       factors involved  and to be able  to stay
       on top of the percentages.

            The best simple rule-of-thumb advice
       I can  offer  is   this:  think  of  each
       "indirect"   two-card   prospect  _   for
       example, where  you need  a good  card on
       both fourth and fifth streets to complete
       a flush or straight  _ as approximately a
       4 percent    equity     (admittedly    an
       estimate).     If     these    "indirect"
       potentials added to  your other ("direct"
       single-card) prospects  yield an adequate
       percentage  of   wins  compared   to  the
       dollars in  the pot, you might  venture a
       loose call _ preferably in a later seat _
       if you  judge that  a raise  is unlikely.
       If  a bad  fourth-street card  turns, you
       simply  fold  your  half-bet  investment.
       But if  a good card turns,  then you have
       earned  the  honor  of  being  officially
       sucked   in   for  the   infamous   Omaha
       last-card roulette.

            Thus, the  essence of after-the-flop
       basic strategy is to get further involved
       with  only good  percentage hands.   Once
       you  do  make  the key  decision  to  get
       further involved, tactics  come into play
       _ especially    in   games    where   the
       after-the-flop  bet  limit  is  half  the
       final two rounds bet limit.  Depending on
       position and  other conditions,  it might
       be  advisable to  raise,  even with  some
       not-so-great  hands.    Raises  in  early
       positions  tend  to  reduce  competition;
       raises  in later  seats tend  to get  the
       betting  checked around  to you  the next
       time  (which   might  save  fourth-round,
       maximum-bet    money   if    you   miss).
       Sometimes everyone folds your raise.

            Just remember  when someone  else is
       betting the  flop that  the last  card in
       Omaha changes the  winner more often than
       the last card in any other form of poker.
       Many players who are  good at other forms
       of  poker have  to get  used to  the fact
       that  a  relatively large  percentage  of
       their wins will come from chasing.  Quite
       frequently the  driver (the  lead bettor)
       is  a   vast  underdog  to   the  various
       chasers; therefore, maybe it's not so bad
       to be  a chaser.   So get with  it, start
       playing those combination hands, but keep
       the percentages on your side.

            Editor's Note: Michael Cappelletti's
       book,   Cappelletti  on   Omaha,  has   a
       simplified  point-count system.   Contact
       The Card Player for further information.
             How to Win at Seven-Card Stud

                 By David "Chip" Reese

            Long  before Mississippi  riverboats
       became the favorite  haunt of card sharks
       and tin-horn gamblers,  poker was already
       ingrained into the American fabric.  Over
       the years, seven-card stud has become the
       most popular game with poker players.  It
       is probably more widely played today than
       all  other  forms combined.   Because  of
       that,  there  are literally  millions  of
       players   who   think   they   know   and
       understand  the game.   But I  wonder how
       many of you still think so after you read
       my approach to  the game.  It's difficult
       to  fully  appreciate  the  Machiavellian
       aspects  of   this  particular   form  of

            When    approaching   a    game   of
       seven-card  stud, you  have to  take into
       account the  betting and  ante structure.
       For this particular article, I'm assuming
       we're  talking in  terms of  $1O-$2O with
       antes between $1 and $4.

            I've  made   a  special   effort  to
       explain seven-card  stud as  concisely as
       possible,    without   eliminating    any
       important playing  strategy or technique.
       What you  have here is the  meat ... with
       all fat  removed, and  the meat  is filet

                     STARTING HANDS

            Let's  begin   with  the   types  of
       starting  hands you  are playing.   These
       are predicated on  the ante structure and
       fall into three distinct categories:

    1. Premium pairs  and trips: A pair  of tens
       or better are what  I refer to as premium
       hands.  I call them that because they can
       stand  up as  winners by  themselves.  It
       isn't hard to recall  the number of times
       I've started with a  four flush or a four
       straight  and  been  unable to  beat  two
       queens  after  all  the cards  were  out.
       Three-of-a-kind on the  first three cards
       (rolled-up trips) is, of course, the very
       best of the premium hands.

    2. Drawing  hands: Drawing  hands are  three
       flushes and  three straights.  Obviously,
       it's preferable  to have the  three flush
       since a  flush is a higher  ranking hand.
       Also, the higher the  cards you have, the
       better  off  you'll  be.  An  A_K_1O_  is
       superior  to the  8_6_3_ because  another
       ace, king or ten  will give you a premium
       pair.  In the same  way, a three straight
       of  K-Q-J  is  preferable to  that  of  a
       9-8-7.   Also, your  chances of  making a
       heart  flush when  your first  four cards
       are  hearts is  about  47 percent,  while
       your chances of making  a straight with a
       four straight  in four cards is  about 43
       percent   (.4716  percent   versus  .4288

    3. Small pairs:  Small pairs are  nines down
       to  deuces, and,  again,  the higher  the
       better.  However, one important factor in
       determining  the  actual value  of  small
       pairs is your  additional card (kicker or
       sidecard).  On many  occasions, a pair of
       deuces with an ace  is much more valuable
       than a pair of sevens with a four.

            A significant  factor in determining
       whether to  play an opening hand  is your
       position  in   relation  to   the  player
       bringing  it   in.   I  call   the  early
       positions those of  the players forced to
       act first, second, third or fourth, while
       the  late  positions  are  those  of  the
       fifth, sixth, seventh  and eighth players
       to  act.    Naturally,  the   later  your
       position, the more  advantageous.


            If I'd played  premium pairs, either
       concealed or split  from any jack showing
       (representing  two   jacks)  and  another
       opponent  has reraised  the  jack with  a
       queen  up, the  chances  are pretty  good
       that  I do  not have  the best  hand.  In
       this, or a similar  instance (when I have
       two queens versus a raise from a king and
       a reraise  from an  ace),  I would  fold.
       But  otherwise I  would  play my  premium
       hand until the end.

            Since you only get the premium hands
       about  seven  percent  of the  time,  you
       shouldn't  waste  the opportunities  they
       present.   These hands  create your  best
       money-making  possibilities.    On  third
       street with a pair  of tens through aces,
       your primary objective is to eliminate as
       many  players as  possible from  the pot.
       When you  have a premium hand  that might
       stand up  by itself,  you want  to narrow
       the  field so  you give  yourself a  good
       chance  to win  without any  improvement.
       The  general  rule  for  raising  with  a
       premium pair in the  first three cards is
       to  go  ahead  and  raise  with  it  when
       there's only  one (or no)  higher upcards
       behind you;  call when  there are  two or

            One of the most important principles
       in seven-card stud is that when you think
       you have  the best hand, you  want to get
       the players  out of  the pot  rather than
       trying  to get  extra  money  in the  pot
       (unless you have a really strong hand).

     Here's a good example:

      Your Hand         Player "A"         Player "B"
      Au                Hole Card          Hole Card
      8_                Hole Card          Hole Card
      A_                6_                  J_
      9_                Q_                 1O_

            For  the   purposes  of  discussion,
       we'll assume  there is  the pair  of aces
       with an eight kicker,  catching the 9_ on
       fourth   street.   The   original  raiser
       (player "B") started  with the spade jack
       and  caught the  1O_.   The other  player
       ("A"), who started with the 6_ has picked
       up  the  Q_.   You must  now  attempt  to
       eliminate  him ("A")  so he  doesn't stay
       around  to pick  up  a  fourth heart  and
       present the threat of a flush.

            If you bet the  ace, the player with
       the  heart six,  club  queen might  call,
       assuming the  player with the  spade jack
       and club ten would be afraid to raise it.
       He  would   usually  be  right   in  this

            The proper play is  to check the ace
       (since  you're first  to act  because you
       have  the high  board).  Player  "A" with
       the drawing hand will check also.  Player
       "B" most  likely will bet,  figuring your
       ace  represents part  of a  drawing hand.
       Then you  raise, to  force player  "A" to
       put in a double bet trying to make a four
       flush.  He probably won't call, realizing
       he's   a   heavy  underdog,   so   you've
       accomplished your purpose.

            You now have  two jacks (plus you've
       knocked out a  player, putting dead money
       in the pot).

            The importance of  this sort of play
       can't be emphasized  enough.  It's a very
       strong maneuver.  Many  times you'll lose
       a pot by merely  calling on fifth street,
       letting in  a straggler who might  end up
       making  a  small  three-of-a-kind  or  be
       successful with an inside-straight draw.

            Also,  by  raising on  fifth  street
       with good possibilities  in the draw, you
       have achieved what seven-card stud is all
       about: getting  in an extra bet  when you

            The ideal premium  hand is rolled-up
       trips, a hand with an excellent chance of
       standing  up  by   itself  against  other
       premium hands that your opponents will be
       playing very strongly.


            Generally  speaking,  how  you  play
       your  drawing  hands   depends  upon  two
       considerations:  your  position and  your
       door card.

            A  good  example  would be  a  three
       flush in  hearts with  the six  of hearts
       showing  and you  simply  call the  first
       bet.   You aren't  giving away  your hand
       because  you  could have  anything.   You
       want to  get as many people  into the pot
       as  possible.  By  raising it,  you would
       decrease your money odds on the hand, and
       it's likely  you would  have to  make the
       flush to win.

            But remember, a  drawing hand is not
       a premium   hand   and  should   not   be
       considered  as such.   If  two big  cards
       ahead of  you raise,  you would  not call
       the raise  unless you have two  big cards
       in   the  hole   (as  in   the  following

            This hand  is always  playable, even
       if  the pot's  double-raised in  front of
       you.  If  the pot is raised  twice behind
       you,  you automatically  throw your  hand
       away  -- if  you have  a three  flush but
       don't have two big cards in the hole.

            However, if part of your three flush
       is a  premium card, a queen  for example,
       you have  to consider  the question,"What
       are my  chances of winning this  pot if I
       do not make the  hand I'm drawing to?" If
       the queen is the highest card showing, go
       ahead  and  raise because  it's  possible
       that no  one behind you will  have a hand
       and   you'll  likely   steal  the   ante.
       Additionally,  you've  also succeeded  in
       creating  an  element of  deception,  the
       illusion that you  might have two queens.
       Also if your queen-up  is part of a three
       straight  instead of  a three  flush, you
       have  two other  premium  cards to  pair.
       The final  factor: if  your queen  is the
       highest upcard,  it's very  unlikely that
       there will be more  than one raise behind
       you.  That eliminates  the possibility of
       your  having to  face a  double raise  in
       back of you.

            The  principal here  is: if  you are
       less than two-to-one  underdog to win the
       hand and  you're getting  three-to-one on
       your money,  you can raise and  take that
       kind of gamble all day, because you'll be
       getting the best of it.

                   STEALING THE ANTE

            Stealing  the  ante is  a  worthless
       maneuver in low-ante structure games.  In
       high-ante games, it is a necessity.

            The first reason for that fact being
       true is you must  keep winning small pots
       to prevent  the antes from  draining you.
       The second  reason is,  not surprisingly,
       tied to the idea of getting value on your

            You  have  to  get  caught  stealing
       occasionally, and when you do, you put it
       into the other  players' mind that you'll
       occasionally  bet without  a hand.   When
       you eventually  have a hand,  you're much
       more likely  to get  paid off.   But even
       when you are stealing  the ante, you have
       to think about things.

            First,  you   must  be  in   a  late
       position.  If no one  has entered the pot
       ahead of  you and  your upcard  is higher
       than  any  of  the  upcards  of  the  few
       remaining  players behind  you, go  ahead
       and raise  in hopes  that you'll  get the

            If  you  have  a nine  up  in  sixth
       position with  a king  in the hole  and a
       player behind you has a king showing, you
       can try to pick up the antes.

            You  should also  be  aware when  an
       opponent  may  be  trying  to  steal  the
       antes.   For example,  you  have a  split
       pair of fives, with a queen and you're in
       last  position.   Normally, if  a  player
       with  a  queen  up raises  the  pot,  you
       probably  would not  call because  of the
       chance that you're up against two queens.
       But if the raiser  was in the steal (next
       to last) position,  you might reraise him
       (re-steal)    because    your    sidecard
       indicates  that  there's  a  fairly  good
       chance  that he  does not  have the  hand
       he's representing.

            In  trying  to   represent  a  hand,
       you're risking  the possibility  he might
       have two  queens (or some  other playable
       hand).    But    if   he    catches   you
       (re-stealing),  he'll  more  than  likely
       come in with a  marginal hand against you

            When  you do  happen to  get a  good
       hand against his  slightly inferior hand,
       your  opponent  may   remember  you're  a
       player who  tries to steal antes,  and he
       may give  you more  action than  his hand
       warrants.  Your image  as a player who'll
       bet  without a  hand  will  get you  that
       loose action.

            Although you don't bluff  a lot in a
       regular game,  you do want to  bluff just
       enough so  that people  will pay  you off
       and  help you  to get  value out  of your
       marginal hands.

            That's  what  makes  the  difference
       between  winning  and  losing  seven-card
       stud  players.  Winning  players get  the
       most value out of their hands.

            Every single pot is a separate money
       transaction.  You have to get the most or
       lose the  least in every hand  that comes

            You  must  remember   the  axiom  of
       successful seven-card stud  play: get the
       most value you can out of your hand.  The
       three factors in getting value are:

    1. Betting for value.   Suppose you've taken
       the lead all the  way with two aces until
       the seventh card, but that is all you end
       up with.   You have  to think  about what
       you are going to do.

            You  know that  going into  the last
       card, two  aces was almost  certainly the
       best hand, but without improving you want
       to know  if now you will  be checking and
       calling, checking and  throwing your hand
       away,  betting  and  getting  called,  or
       calling a raise if you decide to bet.

            Once  more, the  important thing  to
       know --  after the cards are  out and you
       have a  hand of one  pair -- is  how your
       opponent   typically  plays   on  seventh

            If  your  opponent  is the  type  of
       player who  will call with one  pair, you
       have to  feel obligated  to go  ahead and
       bet the hand  yourself.  For example, you
       should bet  if you  started with  an ace,
       raised the  pot, and  bet the  whole way,
       and he  has been calling you  with a king
       up  (and a  likely pair  of kings).   Ask
       yourself if he would  call with a pair of
       kings in the hope that you were bluffing.

            If  you believe  the answer  is yes,
       you should  definitely go ahead  and bet.
       Of  course, if  the answer  is no,  there
       would be absolutely no  reason to bet the
       one  pair.  The  only way  you would  get
       called by such a person  is if he had you

    2. Raising for value:  Suppose you're in the
       pot with two queens and your opponent has
       been representing two kings while betting
       all the way, and then he bets at the end.

            You  look at  your seventh  card and
       you have  made two  pair.  You  also know
       that your opponent  is somebody who would
       bet one pair on the end for value.

            Well,  you  think  that he  had  two
       kings  on sixth  street,  and whether  he
       made three kings or kings up or failed to
       improve, he would  be betting regardless.
       You  have  to  appreciate the  fact  that
       queens up could easily  be the best hand,
       but you wonder if it is worth the risk to
       put in an extra bet (raise).

            The first thing you have to consider
       before raising with queens  up at the end
       is whether this particular opponent would
       think you  capable of bluffing  without a
       hand.  If you don't  think he would, then
       you just go ahead and make a flat call.

            The second thing  to consider before
       raising is  what does my  board (Q-6-1O-2
       offsuit) represent?  If  the board is not
       too powerful, then  it would be pointless
       to  raise.    But  if  that   same  board
       contained three  clubs, you can  go ahead
       and raise,  because it isn't  very likely
       that  you will  be  reraised unless  your
       opponent  has  a  full  house  and  isn't
       afraid of a flush.

    3. Calling for  value.  Often you  feel that
       you've  had the  best  hand  all the  way
       through, and your  opponent (who is high,
       but has been checking) suddenly bets into
       you at the end.   If he has shown himself
       in the past to be a player who will bluff
       in   that  situation,   it  is   to  your
       advantage to call.

            There  are many  times when  you bet
       all the  way with the best  hand but fail
       to  improve with  any of  your last  four
       cards.   You  feel  unlucky not  to  have
       helped,   and  are   worried  that   your
       opponent drew  out on  you.  But  you are
       making a common mistake if you throw your
       hand away when he bets.

            In limit seven-card stud, the pot is
       usually so  large by seventh  street that
       it isn't worthwhile to try and guess when
       to call and when to throw away -- even if
       the pot  is only  heads up.  If  you even
       rarely  make the  wrong decision  you are
       costing yourself money.   So, if you feel
       you have the best hand or just might have
       the  best   hand,  go  ahead   and  call,
       assuming you  don't face the threat  of a
       raise  by  a  third player  in  the  pot.
       Don't play any  guessing games on seventh
       street for any reason.

            There is obviously considerably more
       to seven-card stud  than we've covered in
       this short space.  But I hope I've shared
       sufficient  information  on  strategy  to
       encourage   you  to   explore  the   game
       further.   You'll  find  that  you'll  be
       amply     rewarded    financially     and
       aesthetically for  your time  and effort.
       The truth  is there  are no  shortcuts to
       winning poker.

                      By Lee Frome

            Many  years ago,  long before  video
       anything, we played seven-card stud every
       Saturday.   One   of  the   regulars  was
       Bernie, who  coined a  term that  is very
       useful  in the  teaching  of video  poker
       expertise.  When a novice player folded a
       ragtag  hand,  Bernie   would  chide  the
       player for not  recognizing that the hand
       - called a "razgu" - possessed particular
       qualities.  How  can you throw away  a 2c
       3s 7h 8h  1Od?  That is a  razgu and look
       how  many   possibilities  it   has!   Of
       course, we all knew what Bernie meant and
       when the novice caught on to the joke, he
       appreciated that this was  a lesson to be

            If Bernie could spend a few hours in
       a video  poker  area,  he'd be  worn  out
       quickly, running from machine to machine,
       telling  player  to trash  those  razgus,
       because  they are  below the  level of  a
       value  we can  expect when  we draw  five
       replacement   cards.    The  term   razgu
       therefore  covers  all  the  nonplayable,
       ragtag  predraw hands  we  can be  dealt,
       which   should   correctly   be   totally

            Knowing which they are is important,
       but  the  easiest  way  to  develop  this
       knowledge  is  to   simply  remember  the
       lowest ranking PLAYABLE  HAND and discard
       all cards if the  hand doesn't measure up
       to this minimum playable hand.

            In Jacks or Better - full pay or 8/5
       progressive -  the minimum  playable hand
       is the  double-inside three-card straight
       flush with  no high cards, such  as 3h 5h
       7h  8c 9c,  in  which we  would hold  the
       three  hearts.  As  poor  as  it is,  its
       expected     value    (average     return
       considering   every  possible   draw)  is
       considerable higher  than any alternative

            How   do  we   know?   By   computer
       analysis and memorization only.  Consider
       these apparently reasonable options:

    1. Hold    the   three-card    double-inside
       straight flush with no high cards.

    2. Hold the three-card straight.

    3. Hold the four-card inside straight.

    4. Hold the two-card straight flush.

    5. Play it  as a  razgu by drawing  five new

            Option  1,  calling for  a  two-card
       draw,  has  1O81 unique  draws  possible.
       This  is figured  as  follows: The  first
       card can be any on  of 47, the second any
       one  of 46  so there  are 2,162  two-card
       combinations.   Since  the order  of  the
       cards is of no  importance, half of these
       are identical with  the other half.  Thus
       only 1,O81 unique possibilities exist.

       These will be distributed as follows:


       ST.FLUSH  5O         1         5O
       FLUSH      6        44        264
       STRAIGHT   4        15         6O
       3 OF KIND  3         9         27
       TWO PAIR   2        27         54
       HIGH PAIR  1        24         24
       LOSERS     O       961          O
       TOTALS       1,O81,479

       EV = O.44

            The  distribution of  possible draws
       for option  5, a ragzu, drawing  five new
       cards, shows 1,533,939 outcomes:
       HAND        PAYS      WAYS   TOTAL PAYOFF
       ROYAL        8OO        4       3,2OO
       ST. FLUSH     5O       23       1,15O
       4 OF KIND     25      344       8,6OO
       FULL HOUSE     9    2,124      19,116
       FLUSH          6    3,251      19,5O6
       STRAIGHT       4    5,545      22,18O
       3 OF KIND      3   31,5O2      94,5O6
       TWO PAIR       2   71,8O2     143,6O4
       HIGH PAIR      1  241,68O     241,68O
       LOSERS            177,664           O
       DRAWS           1,533,939     553,6O2

       EV = O.36

            The EVs  of options 2, 3,  and 4 are
       all below O.36, so  they should be termed
       razgus and totally discarded to realize a
       O.36 (36  percent) return.  So if  the 5h
       were  a 5s  in the  hand above,  the only
       play available would have  been that of a

            The above analysis  applies to Jacks
       or Better, exclusively.   Each version of
       video poker  has its own  minimum playing
       hand and therefore  its own definition of
       razgu.   In  Jacks  or  Better,  about  3
       percent of  our predraw hands  are razgu,
       but  other versions  have as  much as  13

       Editor's Note:  This article  was adapted
       from Frome's new  book AMERICA'S NATIONAL
                      Poker Essays

                    by Mason Malmuth

          Differences Between Stud and Hold'em

            Several  years back,  in one  of the
       major  cardrooms in  Nevada, I  overheard
       this conversation between a tourist and a
       floorman.  "I  just won $1O,OOO  at keno,
       and  I  know  poker," said  the  tourist.
       "But what  game is this?" "This  is Texas
       hold'em," replied the floorman.  "It is a
       form of seven-card stud."  "I know how to
       play   stud,"  said   the  tourist,   who
       promptly  took a  seat and,  as expected,
       lost a good chunk  of his keno win.

            Even though hold'em and stud do look
       similar,   the  two   games  are   vastly
       different.   In  fact,   it  is  hard  to
       believe  that  two  games which  look  so
       similar can be as  different as they are.
       Yet very few  people understand this.

            In my opinion,  stud plays something
       like a poker game  should play.  In other
       words,  if you  think you  have the  best
       hand, you  usually bet.  But  in hold'em,
       correct  strategy  often  seems  reversed
       from  what  at   first  appears  logical.
       Let's  discuss   some  of   the  distinct
       differences between these two games.

       Difference #1:  Most of your  luck occurs
       early in hold'em, while most of your luck
       occurs  late in  stud.  In  hold'em, your
       second  bet  is  associated  with  seeing
       three new cards, but  in stud, you get to
       see only  one new  card at a  time.  This
       means that  there is  a large  element of
       luck between the  first and second rounds
       in hold'em,  while in stud,  the opposite
       is true.

            On  the other  hand, because  of the
       community  cards, the  amount of  luck in
       hold'em   is  minimized   on  the   later
       streets.   For  example, when  the  board
       pairs,  both you  and  your opponent  add
       that  pair to  your hands  (assuming that
       this card  does not make either  of you a
       set,  or perhaps  a flush).   Think about
       all the  times in stud when  your pair of
       aces does  not improve  and loses  to two
       small pair.   (In reality, there  is more
       luck  overall in  stud  than in  hold'em.
       This  is especially  true  at the  higher
       limits  where   the  ante   structure  is
       relatively large.   However, this  is not
       true on the early streets.)

       Difference #2:  Kickers are  more crucial
       in  hold'em.  In  both hold'em  and stud,
       kickers play an  important role, but they
       are  much more  crucial in  hold'em.  For
       example,  it is  quite common  in hold'em
       for two players to  have the same general
       hand, such  as two  aces.  The  winner is
       usually  the   person  with   the  better
       kicker.  This means that the size of your
       kicker and  how it relates to  your other
       card   becomes   absolutely  crucial   in
       hold'em.   In stud,  if  for example  you
       have  two  aces  on  third  street,  your
       kicker has virtually no impact on how you
       play  your hand.   Of course,  with other
       stud  holdings -  such as  small pairs  -
       your   kicker   can    be   critical   in
       determining  whether the  hand should  be
       played.  But in  general, this concept is
       much more important in hold'em.

       Difference  #3:  You   get  to  see  your
       opponent's last card in hold'em.  Because
       of  the community  cards in  hold'em, you
       are  able  to  see your  opponent's  last
       card, which also happens  to be your last
       card.  This means  that the expert player
       is often able to save or get an extra bet
       on the  end, or even sometimes  steal the
       pot.  For  example, if you are  very sure
       that your  opponent is  on a  flush draw,
       and if the appropriate suit hits, you can
       just throw your hand  away.  In stud, you
       cannot do this.  The size of the pot will
       force you  to call automatically  most of
       the  time.  (This  is another  example of
       why there  is more luck in  stud later in
       the hand.)

       Difference  #4: In  stud you  have to  be
       concerned with how live your hand is.  In
       Seven-Card  Stud  For  Advanced  Players,
       which I co-wrote  with David Sklansky and
       Ray  Zee, we  show that  it is  sometimes
       correct  to  throw  the best  hand  away.
       This  would be  when  both  of your  pair
       cards are dead and one of your kickers is
       also  out.   This  idea is  of  paramount
       importance  to  winning  stud  play.   In
       hold'em, since all  the private cards are
       dealt  face down,  whether  your hand  is
       live  or  not  is a  concept  that  plays
       virtually no role.  Consequently, stud is
       much more tiring to  play, since you must
       be  aware  of  the cards  that  are  out,
       especially on third street, and how these
       cards  impact the  strength  of your  own
       hand.   In hold'em,  it seems  that there
       are times when you  don't need to pay any
       attention to  what is going on.   This is
       virtually never true in stud.

       Difference  #5: You  need to  check-raise
       more  in hold'em.   One  of the  problems
       with limit hold'em is that the bet on the
       flop can  be very small when  compared to
       the size of the pot.  Consequently, a bet
       cannot  always protect  your hand,  which
       means that it is often correct to try for
       a check-raise  if  you  are in  an  early
       position and there are several players to
       act behind you.   This is especially true
       if you think it  is likely that the first
       bet will  come from a late  position.

            In stud, the situation is often very
       different.  Large  multiway pots  are not
       as common.   Part of the reason  for this
       is that  the typical  stud game  has only
       eight players, while  the typical hold'em
       game  has 1O  players.   This means  that
       trying  for a  check-raise  is much  less
       likely  to be  correct,  even though  you
       don't steal the pot  very often on fourth

       Difference  #6: It  is  often correct  to
       chase in stud.  One  of the problems with
       seven-card stud is  that the pots quickly
       get very large, meaning  that it is often
       correct to chase.  Specifically, if it is
       correct  to  play   your  hand  on  third
       street, it is often correct to go all the
       way to  the river,  even if you  are sure
       that you  are up  against a  better hand.
       Hold'em  is  very  different  from  this.
       Because the  cards in  the center  of the
       table  are   shared  by   everyone,  your
       chances  of drawing  out  are much  lower
       than they are in  stud.  Hold'em is not a
       game where a lot of chasing is correct.

       Difference #7: You can steal more pots in
       hold'em.  Since  it is incorrect to  do a
       lot of chasing in  hold'em, and since the
       majority  of the  time  the  flop is  not
       helpful  to  any particular  hand,  there
       will  be many  opportunities to  steal on
       either the  flop or a later  street.  The
       situation is not the  same in stud.  Even
       though you can do  some stealing on fifth
       street (where the  betting limits double)
       ? and  taking  advantage  of  appropriate
       scare  cards  is  absolutely  crucial  to
       winning play  ? it is still  not the same
       as in hold'em.   For example, stealing on
       fourth street  in seven-card stud  is, in
       reality, only a rare event.  Compare this
       to stealing on the flop in hold'em.

       Difference #8: Hold'em is  much more of a
       positional game  than stud.   This should
       be fairly  obvious to most  people, since
       the  blinds in  hold'em always  determine
       the order  of the  players to act  on all
       betting  rounds.   In stud,  the  highest
       board  determines who  should act  first,
       except on  third street, when  the person
       who has the lowest card showing is forced
       to  enter  the  pot before  anyone  else.
       However,  understanding  the  meaning  of
       position  and  adjusting   your  play  to
       account for it is still an important part
       of  winning stud  strategy.   It is  just
       that   in   hold'em,   playing   position
       correctly is even more important.

       Difference #9: There  are more maniacs at
       the hold'em tables.  This has a lot to do
       with  the  large  element  of  luck  that
       occurs  early  in  a hold'em  hand.   Put
       another way, getting a little out of line
       before the  flop at the hold'em  table is
       not penalized  as much as getting  out of
       line on third  street in seven-card stud.
       This  accounts for  the larger  number of
       wild players that you  see at the hold'em
       tables  and in  many ways,  at least  for
       some  people, makes  hold'em more  fun to
       play.  By the way, playing like a maniac,
       no matter what the game, will not win the
       money.  It  is just that playing  in this
       fashion in hold'em, especially before the
       flop, is not penalized as it is in stud.

       Difference  #1O:  Ante stealing  is  more
       important in  stud.  This has to  do with
       the small blind structure in hold'em when
       compared  to the  antes  and bring-in  in
       stud.   I am  primarily referring  to the
       bigger  stud games  where  the antes  are
       proportionately larger  than they  are in
       the  smaller (stud)  games.  This  is not
       true   in   hold'em.   Here,   with   the
       exception of some  very high-limit games,
       the blind structure  stays relatively the

       Difference  #11:   In  stud,   your  most
       important decision is on third street; in
       hold'em, if  you do not play  well on the
       flop, you  cannot win.  In  stud, someone
       who plays  well on third street  but just
       OK after  that should still be  a winner,
       especially if  the opposition is  not too
       tough.  The same is  not true in hold'em.
       If you  don't play  well on the  flop and
       beyond, you will only break even at best.
       The reason is that  in hold'em, your hand
       changes  quickly  between the  first  two
       cards and  the flop.  In stud,  your hand
       changes  much more  slowly at  first.  In
       other words,  the difference  between two
       cards and five cards is much greater than
       the  difference between  three cards  and
       four cards.

       Final Comment: I'm sure  there is a great
       deal more  that can be written  about the
       differences  between  stud  and  hold'em.
       But  remember, these  two games  are very
       different,  and  few  people  can  really
       claim to  be an  expert in both.

            By the way, being  an expert in both
       games is something you should strive for.
       This  way,   you  will  have   many  more
       opportunities to select good games.
            Gambling Theory and Other Topics

                    by Mason Malmuth

       Special  Note:  A   powerful  force  that
       occurs in tournament play where the money
       is distributed  on a percentage  basis is
       that  the value  of  the  chips that  are
       present on the table is not constant from
       player to player.  (This is not true in a
       regular ring game where each chip has the
       same value.) Specifically, the more chips
       you have,  the less each  individual chip
       is worth,  and the  less chips  you have,
       the more  each individual chip  is worth.
       This extremely powerful  idea, as we will
       see will have a major influence on proper
       tournament  strategy.
            However, it  needs to be  noted that
       this   force   only   becomes   extremely
       significant late  in a  tournament, while
       early  in a  tournament  it  is not  that
       crucial.   The reason  for  this is  that
       early in  a tournament, a large  stack is
       still  only  a  small proportion  of  the
       total number  of chips,  while late  in a
       tournament, a  significant amount  of the
       total  chip pool  can be  present in  one
       large stack.  This means  that early in a
       tournament  the  difference  between  the
       value of individual chips, when comparing
       a large  and a  small stack,  may not  be
       very  much.  But  late  in a  tournament,
       this difference  in chip value can  be so
       significant  that  it can  cause  dynamic
       changes in  strategy, when compared  to a
       standard  game,  to   become  the  proper

       Concept:  When you  can't  rebuy, try  to
       survive -  This can happen when  you have
       won  enough chips  to  put  you over  the
       rebuy threshold,  the time  allocated for
       rebuys  has  ended,  or   you  are  in  a
       tournament  that does  not allow  rebuys.
       Now your emphasis  should be on surviving
       since the worst thing  that can happen to
       you is  to finish just out  of the money.
       One misconception, which many players who
       know to  survive have,  is to  play super
       tight.   (In  fact, super  tight  players
       don't do well  in tournaments.)

            Surviving does not mean this at all.
       It means  not to go for  those extra bets
       and  marginal hands  which the  very best
       players  use to  make  extra profit.   In
       some spots, one  can actually play looser
       (see below).  Also, the further along the
       tournament is,  the more important  it is
       to  survive.   For  example, if  the  top
       eight players  receive money, it  is much
       more  important to  be  in your  survival
       mode if  there are nine people  left than
       if  there  are  fifty  people  left.   An
       exception to the above  might be when you
       are above the  rebuy threshold, but still
       have lots of time left to rebuy.  Now you
       may want to continue to play fast, trying
       to get a big jump on your opponents.

       Concept:  When  trying to  survive,  stay
       away from the large stacks - When you are
       in your survival  mode, usually after the
       early stages of  a tournament, especially
       if  you have  a lot  of chips,  your only
       purpose  should   be  to   maximize  your
       expectation,     not    maximize     your
       probability  of  winning the  tournament.
       This  means  that   you  should  be  very
       reluctant to get into big confrontations.
       Consequently, it is  usually best to stay
       away  from  opponents   who  (also)  have
       strong  chip positions.   This means,  as
       has  already  been emphasized,  that  the
       best strategy is to often not play a hand
       for  its  maximum  value.  (There  is  no
       contradiction here.   Survival means that
       you often give up those small edges which
       the expert players  use in standard games
       to increase their expectation.) Remember,
       the price you pay to get maximum value is
       often a  much higher  standard deviation.
       When  you are  trying to  survive, it  is
       sometimes  best  to  keep  your  standard
       deviation as  low as  possible.  Concept:
       Avoid speculative hands when low on chips
       and you  can't rebuy  - Even  though this
       concept should be obvious, it is probably
       violated  by most  players.  When  low on
       chips, don't be willing  to play the very
       first   hand  that   comes  along.    The
       problems with speculative hands, when low
       on  chips are  (1)  if  you complete  the
       hand, you can't always get full value for
       it simply because you  will often run out
       of money, and (2) when you can not rebuy,
       you should  be in your survival  mode and
       these are not the  type of hands that one
       should   try  to   survive  with.    Also
       remember  that  if   your  opponents  are
       playing tight,  which usually  happens in
       tournaments, especially after rebuys have
       ended,  the value  of speculative  hands,
       when completed, may not be as great as it
       normally would be.

       Concept:  Don't go  out  with  a bang  in
       percentage payoff  tournaments -  We have
       seen that it is correct to rebuy when you
       are out  or low on  chips and that  it is
       incorrect to rebuy when you have a lot of
       chips.  As has  already been mentioned, a
       logical extension of this, which can also
       be  shown  mathematically,  is  that,  in
       percentage  payoff tournaments,  the less
       chips  you  have   the  more  (relatively
       speaking) each individual  chip is worth,
       and  the more  chips  you  have the  less
       (relatively  speaking)   each  individual
       chip  is worth.   This means  that "going
       out with  a bang" is totally  wrong!  You
       should try  to "go  out with  a whimper."
       That is, try to make those last few chips
       last  as long  as possible.

            One of the most common mistakes that
       typical players  make in a  tournament is
       to  raise  on   an  early  round  putting
       themselves all  in when they only  have a
       marginal raising  hand.  The  correct way
       to usually  play in this spot  is to just
       call and try to  preserve enough chips to
       play  another  hand   in  case  this  one
       quickly becomes a  loser.  (The exception
       to this is if  you believe that the raise
       will make it much  more likely for you to
       win the pot  or significantly narrow down
       the field.)  This is  clearly one  of the
       most common mistakes that typical players
       make   in  poker   tournaments.   Another
       example is  when a  player has  a calling
       hand and  has a little bit  more in chips
       than the call  requires.  Sure enough, it
       all goes  in as the player  raises.  They
       would  be so  much better  off trying  to
       preserve this extra  little bit, allowing
       them to  play another  hand in  case they
       don't  win   this  pot  and   their  hand
       develops  in such  a  way  that they  can
       quickly fold.

       Concept:  Overplay  hands  against  short
       stacks -  Even though  we know it  is not
       correct, players on  short stacks do tend
       to  go out  with  a  bang.  In  addition,
       their limited amount  of chips will often
       stop  them from  getting full  value from
       their  hands.   This means  that  against
       these players, who find ways to put their
       remaining  chips  in  jeopardy,  you  can
       sometimes   overplay   your  hands.    Of
       course, this should  be tempered somewhat
       if you  are currently trying  to survive.
       However,  this   is  often   the  correct
       strategy  even  when  you are  trying  to
       survive and is  not inconsistent with the
       idea of  survival.  In addition,  keep in
       mind that their chips are worth more than
       yours, meaning that  you are receiving an
       overlay  on  your bets.   Concept:  Avoid
       major confrontations late in a tournament
       - Even though this  idea has already been
       mentioned,  let's  look   at  a  detailed
       example.   Suppose late  in a  tournament
       there are  three players left,  call them
       A,  B,  and C,  each  of  them has  1,OOO
       dollars, and first place gets 75 percent,
       second place  gets 25 percent,  and third
       place gets nothing.  First note that each
       person has the same  amount of chips, and
       assuming  that   they  all   are  equally
       skilled  players,   each  has   the  same
       probability  of finishing  first, second,
       or third, meaning that  they each have an
       expectation  of  winning  1,OOO  dollars.

            Now suppose  Players A and B  go all
       in  against each  other.  Since  we don't
       know  their hands  we assume  that it  is
       equally likely for either of them to win.
       That   is  they   each   have  the   same
       expectation.   But what  about Player  C?
       Since  he still  has  his original  1,OOO
       dollars, and he will  now be against only
       one  opponent  who   has  2,OOO  dollars,
       player   C's  probability   of  finishing
       second   will  now   be  2/3   while  his
       probability of finishing first will still
       be  1/3.  (Notice  that he  cannot finish
       third anymore since either  player A or B
       has  that  honor.)  This means  that  his
       expectation is now 1,25O dollars.


       The point here is  that by staying out of
       the  major confrontation,  Player C  made
       money.   Also, if  Player  C made  money,
       Players A  and B  had to lose  money.  By
       going all  in against each  other, before
       the  hand   is  decided  each   of  their
       expectations have fallen to 875 dollars.

        875 = 1OOO - (1/2)(1,25O- 1,OOO)

       This  is  just  another  example  of  how
       percentage  payback   tournaments  really
       work.   Clearly,  the  person  trying  to
       survive, especially late  in the contest,
       is better off.

       Concept: Late in a tournament, if you are
       in a  good chip  position, be  willing to
       make   bets   with   seemingly   negative
       expectation against a short stack - David
       Sklansky shows in  his book Winning Poker
       that you should usually  make bets on the
       end only when these bets win the majority
       of  times  that  they are  called.   Even
       though this concept  is certainly correct
       in  a standard  game, the  mathematics of
       tournaments, where  the money  is awarded
       on  a percentage  payback basis,  changes
       what is correct.   Specifically, it often
       becomes correct  to make bets  which will
       lose the majority of  times that they are

            The reason for this is the fact that
       chips  change  value   in  a  tournament,
       depending   on   how   many   you   have.
       Remember,  the more  chips that  you have
       the less  each individual chip  is worth,
       and the less chips you have the more each
       individual  chip  is worth.   This  means
       that if you have a  lot of chips and your
       opponent  is on  a short  stack, he  will
       actually be  calling you with  more money
       than you have bet, even though he will be
       calling you with the same number of chips
       that you  have bet.   In other  words, in
       this  situation,  it becomes  correct  to
       make bets that lose the majority of times
       that they  are called,  even though  in a
       regular game these type  of bets would be
       incorrect.  This idea  is especially true
       if your opponent's call  will put him all
       in  and   can  eliminate  him   from  the
       tournament  if  you  do have  the  better
       hand.  Also, the later in a tournament it
       is,  the   more  powerful   this  concept
           Hold'em Poker For Advanced Players

          by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth

            To simplify the presentation of some
       of the strategies to follow, the starting
       hands  have  been placed  in  appropriate
       groupings.  The  reason for this  is that
       many of the hands in each grouping can be
       played roughly the  same before the flop.

            The rankings are  as follows with an
       s meaning suited  and an x  meaning small
       card.  Note  that a 1O is  represented as
       T. Also, if no s appears then the hand is
       not suited.  (This  notation will be used
       throughout this book.)

       Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs.

       Group 2: TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, AK.

       Group 3: 99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, AQ.

       Group 4: T9s, KQ,  88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJ,

       Group 5:  77, 87s, Q9s, T8s,  KJ, QJ, JT,
       76s, 97s, Axs, 65s.

       Group 6:  66, AT,  55, 86s, KT,  QT, 54s,
       K9s, J8s.

       Group 7:  44, J9,  43s, 75s, T9,  33, 98,
       64s, 22, Kxs, T7s, Q8s.

       Group 8:  87, 53s, A9, Q9,  76, 42s, 32s,
       96s, 85s, J8, J7s, 65, 54,74s, K9, T8.

          The First Two Cards: Early Position

            Hold'em   is   a  positional   game,
       perhaps even more so  than any other form
       of  poker.  This  is  because the  button
       determines the order that players act for
       all betting rounds.   (The only exception
       to this  are the  blinds who act  last on
       the first betting round  but act first on
       all    succeeding     betting    rounds.)
       Consequently, this means  that the number
       of hands  that can be safely  played from
       an early  position (which we  will define
       as the first three  positions to the left
       of the big blind in a ten handed game) is
       quite  limited.   Since  you are  out  of
       position on all betting rounds you need a
       superior starting  hand to make  it worth

            Specifically,  in a  typical hold'em
       game, if you  are the first one  in or if
       there  is  a  call   to  your  right,  be
       prepared to play only  those hands in the
       first four groups.  In  a loose game, you
       can add the  group five hands, especially
       those  which are  the suited  connectors.
       In a  tough game, it is  probably best to
       discard the Group 4 hands.

            If there  is a raise to  your right,
       and the  game is  typical or  tough, then
       you should limit your play to only Groups
       1 and  2  hands.   Against  an  extremely
       tight player  in a tough game,  it may be
       correct to throw away some of the Group 2
       hands such as AJs and  KQs.

            If there  is a raise to  your right,
       and the game is loose, you should be able
       to  safely play  Group 3  hands as  well.
       However, beware  of AQ.  Even in  a loose
       game,  this  hand   does  not  play  well
       against an early position raiser if a lot
       of other players are  still to act behind
       you.  (Of  course, if  it was  suited you
       would  definitely play  the hand.)

            If  no one  has  yet called,  almost
       always raise with AA, KK, QQ, AK, and AQ.
       Part of  the reason  to raise  with these
       hands  is that  they lose  much of  their
       value in large  multi-way pots.

            Also,  if  no  one has  yet  called,
       raise  approximately two-  thirds of  the
       time  with AKs,  AQs, AJs,  and KQs.  The
       reason for  sometimes calling  with these
       hands is not  only for deception purposes
       but also  for the fact that  they do play
       well  in   multi-  way   pots.   However,
       because of  the large blind  structure in
       today's  game  which  already  encourages
       multi-way  play, it  is not  necessary to
       call  with  them   too  much.   In  fact,
       against weak  opposition, it  is probably
       always best to raise  with them since the
       deception that you are  trying to gain by
       just  calling  won't  do  you  much  good

          The First Two Cards: Middle Position

            How  you  play  your  hands  from  a
       middle position, which  we will define as
       the fourth, fifth, and sixth positions to
       the left  of the  big blind,  is actually
       very similar to the play of hands from an
       early position.   The main  difference is
       that you  can now  play a few  more hands
       since your positional disadvantage is not
       as great.

            This means that  in an unraised pot,
       play all  hands up  to Group 5  or better
       when the game is  typical or tough.  In a
       loose, passive  game, it is all  right to
       play the Group 6 hands as well.  Also, if
       you  are not  the  first one  in, try  to
       consider  how  weak your  opponents  are.
       Specifically, the  weaker your opponents,
       the more hands that  you can play, or put
       another way,  be more likely to  play the
       marginal   hands   against   the   poorer

            If the pot is already raised, almost
       always reraise with AA,  KK, QQ, AKs, and
       AK.   In  addition, occasionally  reraise
       with other good hands  such as T9s or 88.

            Also, if  you are the first  one in,
       raise with any hands  which are in Groups
       1, 2, or 3.  This is also usually true if
       there  have been  callers to  your right.
       However,  when there  are callers,  don't
       always  raise  with  the Group  3  hands.

            Specifically, if you  hold a Group 3
       hand,  consider how  well your  opponents
       play,  and  whether  you want  a  lot  of
       players  or  a   few  players.   If  your
       opponents  are  strong,   tend  to  call,
       otherwise raise.   If you  want a  lot of
       opponents, such as with JTs as opposed to
       AQ, then  this would  be another  time to
       just call (when you are not the first one
       in) with a Group 3 hand.

           The First Two Cards: Late Position

            On  the button  and in  the position
       just   to   the  button's   right,   (and
       sometimes  in  the  position two  to  the
       button's right), much  of what is correct
       play is quite different than what we have
       seen  in the  early or  middle positions.
       One of  the reasons for this  is that you
       will  have  excellent   position  on  all
       betting  rounds which  will allow  you to
       make better  decisions than what  you can
       make in  the earlier positions.   This is
       simply because when  your opponents check
       or bet,  you have gained a  great deal of
       information about their hands, while they
       do  not  have  this type  of  information
       about  your hand.

            Specifically, if  you are  the first
       one in  in late  position, any  hand that
       you should play is  always worth a raise.
       If there are  already callers, raise with
       Groups  1  through  3  and  sometimes  4.
       However, if  there are a lot  of players,
       do  not raise  with unsuited  high cards,
       but,  for reasons  already mentioned,  be
       somewhat inclined to  raise with hands as
       weak   as    Group   5   if    they   are
       straight-flush    combinations.

            Also, another reason  to raise is if
       you  think  that  it  may  "buy  you  the
       button." Being able to  act last on every
       succeeding  betting  round   is  a  major

            Sometimes, you  can raise  with some
       weaker  hands  in  late  position.   This
       would  occur if  you are  against one  or
       (perhaps) two  callers who did  not enter
       the pot from the  early positions and you
       have  a  playable  hand  that  you  would
       prefer to play against  a small number of
       opponents.  This would include hands like
       A7s, KJ, QJ,  and even a hand  as weak as

            One of the reasons  for this type of
       raise  is  that against  weak  opposition
       (and as usual  you should always consider
       your opponents  when making  your playing
       decisions) it allows  you to take control
       of the pot.  That  is if your opponent(s)
       does not  flop a  hand, a bet  after they
       have  checked, will  often steal  the pot
       for yourself  if you  also do not  have a
       hand,  especially  if  a  high  card  has
       flopped.   In  addition,  if you  do  not
       choose to bet, this raise may have gained
       you a  free card.

            To call  a raise cold, even  when in
       late position, you still need a very good
       hand.   However,  if  there  are  already
       several people in the pot, even though it
       has been raised, you  can also play hands
       like  T9s and  88.   In addition,  almost
       always  reraise with  any  Group 1  hand.

            There is also a  time when you would
       reraise with  weaker hands, even  as weak
       as Group  4.  This is when  your opponent
       is the first one  in from a late position
       and  he  enters  the pot  with  a  raise.
       Notice  that  your   opponent,  like  you
       would,  may actually  be trying  to steal
       the  blinds and  a reraise  on your  part
       with  reasonably   strong  hands  becomes
       correct.  (By the way, with the exception
       of AJ and KQ, only reraise with a Group 4
       hand if  your opponent  is a  weak player
       and  you  feel  that you  have  excellent
       control  over  him.  Otherwise,  you  are
       probably better off  to limit yourself to
       Groups  1 through  3 for  this play.)  As
       above, if  neither you nor  your opponent
       flops a hand, your raise may now not only
       stop your  opponent from trying  to steal
       the pot, but may now  allow you to do the
       stealing.   Also, keep  in  mind in  this
       situation, that the  correct play on your
       part is  to either  raise or  fold before
       the flop.  It is  almost never correct to
       just call.

            If dead last, that is you are on the
       button,  and there  are already  callers,
       you   can  play   Groups  1   through  7.
       However, if you have a small pair and you
       are  against four  or  five callers,  the
       correct play is to sometimes raise.  This
       is  another  example  of making  the  pot
       larger so that if you hit your hand, your
       opponents  may be  more inclined  to call
       you with something like just overcards on
       the  flop.   In  addition, they  may  all
       check to you, thus giving you a free card
       and another  (small) chance to  make your
       set.   Also,   this  play   is  sometimes
       correct with small suited connectors.

            If no one has  called, you can raise
       the   blinds  from   the  last   position
       (button)  with  any   hand  in  Groups  1
       through 8.   With a hand like  Ace - weak
       kicker, you should still raise the blinds
       if  they are  either very  tight or  very
       weak players.   When we say weak,  we are
       thinking of  a player  who will  let your
       ace win in a showdown.

            The First Two Cards: Live Blinds

            Playing your first  two cards out of
       the  blinds is  very  different form  the
       other  positions.   This is  because  you
       have terrible position for the next three
       rounds, but this  is somewhat compensated
       by the fact that you  only have to call a
       partial bet.   What this does is  to make
       you   play   extremely  tight   in   some
       situations   but  allows   you  to   play
       extremely loose in others.

            Specifically, suppose you are in the
       (live)  big blind,  and no  one else  has
       raised.   Now  you  should  usually  only
       raise   with    extremely   good   hands.
       Remember, in  late positions, one  of the
       reasons to raise was  to help you to take
       control  of the  pot.   However, this  is
       much harder  to do when you  are first to
       act on the flop.

            Suppose you  are the big  blind, the
       pot  has been  called  on  your left  and
       someone  now raises  on your  right.  Now
       you  should call  only  with your  better
       hands.   This  is   because  you  can  be
       reraised  on  your  left.  If  a  lot  of
       players  are  in,  you should  play  more
       hands,   especially   hands   that   have
       potential  to  make  big  hands  such  as
       straight  and  flush draws.   This  would
       include hands like  A6s and 87 (offsuit).

            However,  if the  raise  is on  your
       left, you can call with more hands.  This
       is because you do not fear a reraise.

            If  the  pot  has been  raised,  and
       there are a lot of players, you can begin
       to  play  hands like  33  or  86s out  of
       either  blind position.   And of  course,
       you would usually reraise with hands like
       AA or  KK when  you are in  either blind.
       But    as   already    discussed,   don't
       automatically reraise with a hand like AK
       (or QQ  for that matter).

            One situation  where big  blind play
       changes  drastically  is   when  you  are
       against a possible steal raise, that is a
       raise from  a late  position by  a player
       who you feel would attempt to pick up the
       blinds  with  a   weak  hand.   Remember,
       against  a  legitimate raise,  you  still
       need  a fairly  good  hand  to call.   In
       fact, a  good guideline  is to  call with
       essentially the same hands that you would
       normally cold call with  if you were in a
       late position.   But a  steal raise  is a
       different    matter.

            Against  weak opposition,  who won't
       make   good  use   of  their   positional
       advantage on the flop,  you can call with
       hands  as  weak as  Group  8  in the  big
       blind.   However, if  someone else  calls
       inbetween  the  two  of you  or  if  your
       opponent  plays   well,  then   you  must
       tighten up some.  But  you can still play
       a lot of hands.  Perhaps Groups 1 through

             Many  of the  above comments  apply
       also to the  little blind.  However, when
       the little  blind calls a raise  not only
       does he have to  put a larger fraction of
       a bet into the pot, there is also still a
       player to act  behind him.  One situation
       where correct  little blind  play differs
       from big blind play is against a possible
       steal raise.  Now if  the little blind is
       going to  play, (usually  with a  hand in
       Groups 1 through 6), he should just about
       always  reraise.   The  purpose  of  this
       reraise is to drive  the big blind out of
       the  pot.  However,  if there  is also  a
       caller or  a cold caller, then  this play
       is probably  not correct because  you now
       know that at least  one of your opponents
       is likely to have  a legitimate hand.  In
       addition, you  should as  usual, consider
       how well your  opponent plays.  Remember,

       the better  he plays, the  higher quality
       hand you need to make this type of play.
          Omaha Holdem Poker: The Action Game

                    by Bob Ciaffone

          Proper Evaluation of Starting Hands

       Texas  Holdem  players taking  up  Omaha
       Holdem usually have  these feelings about
       their ability  to adjust to the  game; "I
       know how to play  all right once the flop
       is dealt,  but I'm not sure  what to look
       for in a starting  hand." They may or may
       not be right  about their competency from
       flop to finish, but the uncertainty about
       what  constitutes  a  desirable  starting
       hand is nearly universal.  Good judgment
       before  the flop  is  more important  and
       harder to acquire in Omaha Holdem.  "What
       you sow is what you reap" is an excellent
       adage when  applied to Omaha.   Before we
       discuss the correct  method of evaluating
       starting  hands,  let  us  look  at  some
       incorrect    views    widespread    among
       newcomers  used  to regular  Holdem.

            "A  four-card hand  that contains  a
       good  starting  hand for  regular  Holdem
       within  it is  a good  Omaha hand."  This
       view  is  not  proclaimed out  loud,  but
       seems  to  be   the  criterion  initially
       adopted by regular  holdem players.  They
       evaluate  Jh Jc  6d  2s  as being  almost
       equal  to  a  pair of  jacks  in  regular
       holdem.   I  don't   claim  the  hand  is
       unplayable in  all situations, but  it is
       nowhere  near as  good  as the  beginning
       Omaha player imagines.  Any hand with two
       useless-looking cards  in it cannot  be a
       premium hand at Omaha.

            "Two  decent  Holdem  hands  in  one
       four-card  holding are  going  to make  a
       good Omaha  hand." This is next  level of
       sophistication  past  the beginner  view,
       but it is also wrong.  Look at this hand:
       As Qh 7d 7c.  There are two decent holdem
       hands that compose  it; Ace-Queen offsuit
       and  two  sevens.   Yet this  hand  is  a
       definite piglet at  Omaha.  The reason is
       the holdem player is  only looking at two
       of  the  six possible  card  combinations
       present in  this hand.  He  is forgetting
       about the other  four combinations of As-
       7d, As-7c,  Qh-7d, and Qh-7c.   This hand
       is actually  worse than the two  Jacks in
       our previous example,  in my opinion.

            "A good Omaha hand  is one where all
       four cards  coordinate with  each other."
       This  statement  is  the  only  one  that
       appeals to  common sense, once  you think
       about  it.   A   hand  with  six  working
       card-combinations is  a super  hand.  For
       example, look at this hand: Qs Jh 1Os 9h.
       Every card has working value with all the
       other cards.  It is  easy to imagine some
       real powerhouse flops  to a mountain like
       this one.  If you flop two pair, you will
       also have an open  end straight draw or a
       straight made.  There are many flops that
       will    yield     a    thirteen-way    or
       seventeen-way straight  draw.  If  we can
       turn a  flush draw  in addition  on these
       flops,  so  much  the  better.   Starting
       hands like  this one are the  most likely
       to produce  a multiway hand on  the flop,
       and  the multiway  hand  is  what we  are
       really hoping for at  Omaha.

            I  think  the  following  hands  are
       close in  value: Qs Jh  1Os 9h, Qs  Qh Jh
       1Os, and Qs Qh Js  Jh. I will leave it up
       to the computer experts  to give us their
       exact  order of  ranking.  The  important
       thing  is the  way  the cards  coordinate
       with each other.   Naturally, the hand of

       Qs Jh 1Os 9h is  worth more than 8s 7h 6s
       5h, but  the second  hand is also  a good
       hand even  though the cards are  lower in
       rank than the first hand.  I want to take
       the  flop  with   any  hand  composed  of
       four-in-a row  double suited, even  5s 4h
       3s  2h, if  the  price isn't  exorbitant.

            Another  premium  hand is  two  Aces
       combined with cards  that coordinate with
       them.  The best type of coordination here
       is  to be  of  the same  suit.  Two  aces
       "double-suited" is a great hand.  Compare
       these two hands:  As Ah 7c 2d,  and As Ah
       1Os  9h.  The  former hand  needs to  buy
       another  ace to  stay in  contention; the
       latter hand  has two nut  flush-draws and
       some  straight-draws  to lend  additional
       value to the Aces themselves.  Of course,
       if you  can get heads-up  against someone
       when you  have two junky-looking  Aces, I
       like your chances.  However, to raise the
       pot on a hand that probably needs to turn
       a set in order to  win is not good poker.
       It is next to  impossible to ram two Aces
       through in a limit  Omaha game, and often
       difficult  at pot  limit  also.  Only  at
       no-limit are  two unsupported Aces  a big
       hand,  and  no-limit  Omaha games  are  a

            Sometimes  a  hand  is  very  likely
       marked  with two  Aces  because of  heave
       pre-flop  betting.   This  is  especially
       true  at  pot-limit  play  when  a  solid
       player  puts in  a raise  of the  maximum
       amount.  In these  cases an opponent will
       usually  back with  his  whole stack  any
       hand  that has  out-flopped two  Aces, or
       has a good chance to beat them.  When the
       aces have managed to flop a big hand with
       the  other  two  cards, the  opponent  is
       going  to  get  a  rude  surprise.   It's
       really  sweet when  you flop  a set  or a
       straight.  Obviously it is much easier to
       flop  a big  hand if  your sidecards  are
       paired  or  a useful-looking  combination
       like  J-1O than  if  they are  unrelated.
       Being  suited  can   also  have  surprise
       value.  When the Aces  flop a flush draw,
       this can be instrumental in misleading an
       opponent into  playing for all  his money
       in an adverse situation.  You should look
       closely  at the  two supporting  cards in
       evaluating  an Omaha  hand with  two Aces
       (or any big pair).  Omaha is definitely a
       four card  poker game!

            It would be nice if we could pick up
       lots of hands with two double-suited Aces
       or four-in-a-row in  every Omaha session.
       However, these hands are hard to come by,
       so  we   must  bend   a  little   in  our
       requirements.   Otherwise we  will be  in
       the  same category  as  the Texas  Holdem
       player who only enters  the pot with A-A,
       K-K, Q-Q, or A-K.  In other words, we are
       liable to ante off  all our money and not
       get played  with when we bet.   Four in a
       row is  nice, but suppose there  is a gap
       in  the  hand  somewhere.  Which  one  of
       these   hands  is   the  most   playable:
       J-1O-9-7,  J-1O-8-7,   or  J-9-8-7?   The
       answer  is   that  they  are   listed  in
       descending order  of value, because  if a
       card  on the  board hits  in the  gap, we
       would  like to  have  more  of our  cards
       higher-ranking  than  lower- ranking.   I
       think that J-1O-9-6 may  be a better hand
       pattern  than  J-9-8-7 for  this  reason,
       despite having a wider gap in the rank of
       the cards.
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          Seven Card Stud For Advanced Players

          by  David  Sklansky, Mason  Malmuth,
                      and Ray Zee

        Part One: Third Street

                   Playing Big Pairs

            Besides  rolled-up  trips the  other
       hand  that you  should just  about always
       play  is a  pair  of aces  (even if  both
       other aces are  out).  The only exception
       to  playing a  pair  of  aces is  against
       several fast players if  there is a raise
       and many calls before  the action gets to
       you and  if both your aces  are dead.

            As  for  the  other big  pairs,  you
       should almost  always play them  as well.
       The time to throw away a big pair is when
       you are  positive that you are  against a
       bigger pair or when  your cards are dead.
       However, you should throw  away a pair of
       tens  or  jacks   if  there  are  several
       overcards still to act  behind you and if
       your kicker is weak.

            Here  is  an  example  of  the  last
       concept.  Suppose you have

                        4s Ts Th

       and there is a queen,  a king, and an ace
       behind you.  The correct play normally is
       to fold  (unless the ante is  very high).

            Another time  that you  should throw
       away a big pair is  when the pot has been
       raised  and  reraised, and  both  players
       have higher exposed cards than your pair.
       In fact, you often should throw your hand
       away with  just a  raise and a  call from
       the same upcards  just described.

            Here's an example.  You have

                        Jh 6s Js

       An ace raises and  a queen calls.  Unless
       you  know these  players  very well  (and
       know there is a  good chance that they do
       not have what they are representing), you
       probably  should  throw your  hand  away.
       Even  if you  know  your opponents  well,
       calling  is extremely  marginal.

            If you  have a  big pair but  two or
       more  unduplicated  upcards  higher  than
       your  pair are  behind you,  you probably
       should fold if your kicker is poor and if
       you don't have a  two flush.  However, if
       your kicker  is good  and is one  of your
       downcards, or if you  do have a two flush
       (even if  your kicker is poor),  go ahead
       and call.  If your kicker is up and it is
       the  highest  card  on  board,  then  you
       usually should  raise.  Notice  that this
       is  consistent  with  our  ante  stealing
       requirements.   Also  notice that  having
       the additional out of the two flush makes
       your hand playable.  Having an additional
       out, no matter what the form of poker, is
       often   enough   to    make   your   hand
       significantly    more   valuable.

            One   undesirable   situation   that
       sometimes develops is that you will raise
       and  a   higher  card  behind   you  will
       reraise.   If you  have  a higher  kicker
       than his  upcard, you should call  and be
       prepared to  go to the river.   Without a
       higher  kicker, fold  if  it is  unlikely
       that  this person  would  raise you  with
       anything  but a  higher pair.   Otherwise

             Playing Small and Medium Pairs

            The first thing to keep in mind when
       you have a small pair is that these hands
       are  much  worse  than  big  pairs.   For
       instance,   a    pair   of    eights   is
       significantly  weaker  than   a  pair  of
       queens.  This is  especially true if your
       kicker is also small.  Here's an example.
       Suppose a deuce brings it in, and you are
       next with:

                        7c Jd 7s

       Automatically playing  this holding  is a
       big  mistake.

            To  determine  whether  a  small  or
       medium pair is playable  when you are not
       in  a steal  position, you  must consider
       the following  six factors:

             1.  How high  your kicker  is.

             2.  Whether  your   cards  are  all
                 live.   (If  one of  your  pair
                 cards is out, you rarely should
                 play.  If one of your kicker is
                 out,  it still  might be  worth
                 it, but not if  two of them are

             3.  What the other upcards are.

             4.  What  the  game  is  like.

             5.  Whether  your  pair is  in  the
                 hole.  (It is usually better if
                 the  pair is  in the  hole, but
                 the reverse may  be true if you
                 have an ace  or a king kicker.)

             6.  Whether   you   also   have   a
                 two-card  flush, especially  if
                 the   flush  cards   are  live.
                 (Also,  it  is slightly  better
                 for the two-card flush to be in
                 the hole.)

            The two  most important  factors are
       the size of your  kicker and whether your
       cards are  all live.  How high  does your
       kicker have to be?  The answer is that it
       needs to be higher than any card on board
       (but if it isn't an  ace or a king, it is
       not that strong).

            Now suppose you  have a medium pair,
       such as two nines.  If there are no cards
       or only  one card behind you  higher than
       your nines, go ahead and raise, no matter
       what your upcard.   Another time that you
       should raise is when you have a concealed
       small  or  medium  pair and  the  highest
       upcard,  and you  are the  first one  in.
       Notice that  this is consistent  with our
       ante stealing  strategy, and be  happy if
       you just get the  antes.

            If it is raised ahead of you and you
       have  a  concealed  pair lower  than  the
       upcard of the  raiser, you usually should
       fold if there are  any players behind you
       with unduplicated upcards higher than the
       raiser's upcard.  One  of the reasons why
       you should fold in  this spot is that you
       can be  raised again.  Another  reason is
       that  since  the  raiser was  looking  at
       higher upcards and  still raised it means
       that he probably has a real hand.

                 Playing Three Flushes

            Another  set   of  quality  starting
       hands  are the  three flushes.   However,
       not all three flushes are the same.  Some
       three   flushes   are  virtually   always
       playable while  others should  usually be
       immediately   discarded.   A   few  three
       flushes can  be played  very aggressively
       while others  can only  be played  if the
       cost  is kept  to  a  minimum.  And  some
       three  flushes play  well  head up  while
       (most) others usually prefer a crowd.  As
       you can  see, correct strategy  for three
       flushes is quite  varied.

            To  begin  with,   there  are  three
       things that you should consider that help
       determine how  and whether you  play your
       starting  three  flush.   They  are  your
       position, your door card, and how many of
       your  cards are  out.  As  we shall  see,
       what  seems to  be  small differences  in
       these three parameters can greatly impact
       the proper approach  to these hands.

            For  instance, if  you have  a three
       flush where none of  your suit is out, it
       is almost always playable unless you have
       three small cards and it is three bets to
       you or two high  cards raise and reraise.

            If  three of  you suit  is out  your
       three   flush   is  just   about   always
       unplayable.  An exception is if it can be
       played as  an ante  steal or if  the hand
       has value besides  the three flush aspect
       of it.  In  addition, a possible straight
       draw or high cards can give a three flush

            In  fact,  even  if your  cards  are
       completely  live  if   you  are  head  up
       against  a raiser  and  your three  flush
       contains all  small cards you  might want
       to fold  especially if you are  against a
       good player.   But if the raiser  may not
       have anything  now it is clearly  a call.

            If you have a three flush and it has
       one  card above  the  raiser's door  card
       then  you  should  always at  least  call
       unless your hand is  not very live.  This
       is true even if  you are fairly sure that
       you will  be head  up against  a probable
       big pair.  If you  have a three flush and
       two  big cards  ahead  of  you raise  and
       reraise you can play  only if you have at
       least  one card  over theirs.   Here's an
       example.  Suppose  a ten raises,  a queen
       reraises, and you have:

                        Ks 2s Js

       Go ahead  and play as long  as your cards
       are live.  If  it was just a  raise and a
       call then you could  play any three flush
       if your cards are live.  However, if your
       three flush is small and two of your suit
       are  out you  should  usually throw  your
       hand away.   To play  a three  flush with
       two of  your suit elsewhere on  the board
       you usually need big cards.

                Playing Three Straights

            The  next  class of  starting  hands
       that  we  will  look  at  are  the  three
       straights.    Obviously,  they   are  not
       usually  as good  as  the three  flushes.
       However,  three  straights in  the  right
       spots  can  be  profitable  hands.   When
       deciding   whether   to  play   a   three
       straight, you must consider the following
       eight factors.

            1.  How  high  your cards  are.

            2.  How  live  your  straight  cards

            3.   How live your pair cards are.

            4.  Whether you have a two flush.

            5.  The other cards on board.

            6.  Who is  already playing.

            7.  How much  it is to you,  that is
                whether  you  can play  for  the
                bring-in, one bet,  or two bets.

            8.  The  ability of  your opponents.

            Needless to say,  the more favorable
       these factors are, the more you should be
       inclined  to  play.    In  fact,  if  the
       factors are extremely  favorable, you may
       even want to raise.

            If   you  have   a  three   straight
       (without  a   gap)  and  three   of  your
       straight  cards are  dead you  definitely
       should not  play unless  you have  a good
       chance  to steal  the antes.   If two  of
       your   straight  cards   are  dead,   you
       probably should  not play,  especially if
       other  considerations (such  as how  high
       are your cards) are not favorable.
                      Super System

            by  Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson

                    No Limit Hold'em

                     A-A   and  K-K
              how to play before the flop

            With a  pair of Aces or  Kings in an
       early position before  the flop...I would
       probably limp-in with them (just call the
       Blind) hoping  that somebody  would raise
       it behind me so I could re- raise.

            In a middle position - if nobody in
       the early seats came in - I would play
       them the  same way.  But, if  somebody in
       the early seats did  come in...I'd put in
       a raise with  them (of about the  size of
       the pot).

            In  a late  position, I'd  obviously
       raise  with them  and hope  that somebody
       trailed their  hand around  to me  - that
       is, slow- played their hand so they could
       re-raise me.  If they did, I'd play-back,
       of course, and might move-in depending on
       the  circumstances.  If  I did  play-back
       and got  about half  my money in  the pot
       before  the Flop  with  two  Aces or  two
       Kings...there'd  be  no question  that  I
       would get the rest of it in on the Flop -
       regardless  of  what  came on  the  Turn.
       Nothing  could stop  me.  If  my opponent
       didn't set  me in on the  Flop...I'd move
       it all in myself.  The reason I'd do that
       is  because there  are  too  many ways  I
       could outguess myself...and I'm not going
       to  try. If  I  get either  of those  big
       Pairs cracked...well,  I'm just  going to
       have to lose my money.

           A-K - how to play before the flop

            I've  already   mentioned  that  I'd
       rather have  Ace-King then either  a Pair
       of Aces  or a  Pair of  Kings.  A  lot of
       players    will   probably    find   that
       surprising.  But  it's not.   You'll soon
       see why.

            Of course, I know  that an A-K would
       never  outrun A-A  or K-K  if you  played
       them  against one  another hot  and cold.
       An  A-K  couldn't  even beat  a  Pair  of

            But, I'm  not talking  about playing
       hot  and  cold here.   Now...I'm  talking
       about playing Poker.

            An A-K  is a "better" hand  than two
       Aces or two Kings  for two very important

   (1) You'll  win more  money when  you make  a
       hand with  it; and  (2) You'll  lose less
       money when you miss a hand with it.

            And  I  can't  think of  two  better
       reasons than those to  prefer an A-K over
       the very big Pairs.

            The  reason why  you  can make  more
       money with an A-K  than with two Aces (or
       Kings) is because  it's a drawing-type of
       hand as opposed to  a made hand.  I mean,
       you  don't  have  anything  with  an  A-K
       unless  you flop  something.  So  you can
       get away  from it real easy.   You're not
       tied-on to  it like  you might be  with a
       Pair of Aces (or  Kings).  And that's why
       you'll lose less money with it.

       Ace-King is also a more flexible hand (in
       the way  you can play it)  as you'll soon

            There's   also   a  big   difference
       between A-K suited and A-K offsuit.  (Any
       time the cards are suited it's a somewhat
       stronger hand than  when they're offsuit.
       This is especially  true with A-K because
       you  can make  the  nut  Flush.) The  big
       difference between the  two hands is that
       it only takes three cards to make a Flush
       with A-K suited.  True,  you can make one
       or two Flushes  with A-K offsuit...but it
       takes  four  cards  to make  either  one.
       That's a lot harder to do.  And, with one
       of them  (the Flush  you might  make with
       the King), you may not have the nuts.

       In   the   discussion  to   follow,   the
       difference  between  the   two  hands  is
       sometimes ignored.  That is, I'm going to
       suggest playing them  the same way.  But,
       you  should  always   remember  that  A-K
       suited   has   more    value   than   A-K
       offsuit...and it  can always be  played a
       little stronger.

            The reason why  A-K is more flexible
       than A-A  or K-K is because  you can play
       an A-K  in the  lead or  you can  play it
       slow to  raise with  it.  Also,  I'd play
       A-K  from any  position for  a reasonable
       size bet.  And, on  occasion, I'd get all
       my money in before the Flop (as I'll very
       shortly discuss).

            Specifically, in  an early position,
       I'd  bring-it-in  (raise the  Blind)  for
       whatever the normal bring-in was for that
       particular  game.  If  I was  raised, I'd
       probably call...although I  don't like to
       call a  raise with  A-K (as  most players
       do).  I like to raise with it.

            If I  was in  a middle  position and
       someone  else had  brought -  it-in...I'd
       just  call  with  it.  I  wouldn't  raise
       because I'd probably  be raising just one
       man.  I'd want at least another player to
       come in.

            In  a  late position,  I'd  probably
       raise with  it -  especially if I  was on
       the Button.

            There  are times  I might  even move
       all-in   with    A-K.    Let's    say   I
       brought-it-in in an  early position and a
       couple of  people behind me  just called.
       When   it  gets   to  the   guy  on   the
       Button...he  raises.   Well...if  he  did
       that, I'd think he  was trying to pick-up
       the  pot since  he'd  probably think  the
       only person he had to come through (worry
       about) was me since the two people behind
       me showed  weakness.  So I  might move-in
       in that situation.

            Or,  if I  was  on  the Button,  and
       three or four people  were already in the
       pot...I  might  move   all-in.   At  that
       point,  I'd be  trying  to  pick the  pot
       up...even though I'd know if I got called
       I'd probably be an underdog.

              How to Play a Pair of Queens

            I've  put  a  Pair of  Queens  in  a
       separate category  for the  simple reason
       that it's a particular hand that deserves
       special treatment.  You'll soon see why.

            When  I   get  two  Queens   in  the
       pocket...I play  them very  carefully.  I
       try not  to play  them too  strongly from
       any  position.  Unless  a good  situation
       arises...I don't  want to  move-in before
       the  Turn with  two  Queens.   By a  good
       situation, I mean that I'm in a very late
       position  (possibly  on the  Button)  and
       four people have called  a raise in front
       of me.   Here, I  might try to  shut them
       out  by  moving-in.   I'd  be  using  the
       combined  strength of  my pair  of Queens
       and my position.

            If you're up against two Aces or two
       Kings  with  a  Pair  of  Queens...you're
       about  a 4  1/2 to  1 underdog.   And, if
       you're  up  against A-K...you're  only  a
       little  better than  a 6  to 5  favorite.
       When   people   go  all-in   before   the
       flop...they  usually  have one  of  those
       three or four hands.

            So,  your   money's  in  a   lot  of
       jeopardy  when you  get it  all-in before
       the  Turn with  two Queens.   If you  get
       called, you'll usually be up against A-A,
       K-K or  A-K...in which  case you'll  be a
       big dog  or just  a small  favorite.  You
       can pick  a better spot than  that to get
       all your money in.

            That's not  to say two  Queens don't
       have a certain amount of value.  They do.
       They're   a   considerably  better   than
       average hand.  But, for the reason I just
       mentioned,  I  seldom raise-back  with  a
       Pair of Queens from any position...unless
       it's an unusual situation.

            But,  I  will  raise (the  Blind)  a
       reasonable  amount with  two Queens  from
       any  position if  nobody  else raised  in
       front of me.

            In  a middle  position, if  somebody
       raised in  front of me...I'd just  call ?
       as I would with  any Pair.  I'd just call
       with  them in  a late  position, too.   I
       wouldn't    re-raise    (except   as    I

        How to  Play Any  Pair other  than Aces,
                    Kings or Queens

            I'm going to call all the Pairs from
       Jacks down to Deuces a small Pair (except
       when I name a particular pair).  However,
       it's  obvious that  the  bigger the  pair
       is...the more  valuable it is.   And that
       principal extends all the way down to the
       very  small Pairs.   That is,  a Pair  of
       Fours is better than  a Pair of Treys for
       the simple  reason that when the  flop is
       4-3-2, if someone  turned 3-Fours he'd be
       a huge  favorite  (about  22 to  1)  over
       someone who turned 3-Treys.

            I also have a  breaking point that I
       use in my play with a Pair of Jacks, Tens
       and  Nines.   I mentally  segregate  them
       from  the other  small Pairs  and I  play
       them a  little stronger than  the others.
       I do  it simply  because they  are bigger
       Pairs and it's pretty easy for three Rags
       to fall.  When that happens...you'll have
       an  overpair.   But,  if you've  got  two
       Fives or two Sixes,  it's hard for a Turn
       to come without there  being at least one
       overcard.   And,  with  an  overcard  out
       there, your  hand is kind of  dead so you
       don't   want  to   get  too   much  money

       Progressively,  then,  each   Pair  is  a
       little bit better than the others...but I
       play  them all  as if  they were  a small

            Before  the flop,  with  any of  the
       small  Pairs  (except  Jacks,  Tens,  and
       Nines)...I'd  limp-in  (call the  Blind).
       If somebody  raised it  from an  early or
       middle   position...I'd   call   it.    I
       wouldn't re-raise.

       I'd almost  always take  a Turn  with any
       small Pair.  I'd be  trying to turn a Set
       so I could break somebody.

            With  a  Pair   of  Jacks,  Tens  or
       Nines...if somebody raised  from an early
       position, I'd  probably just  call.  But,
       if it  was raised  from a middle  or late
       position...I  might   re-raise  with  two
       Jacks, Tens or Nines if I felt the raiser
       was weak.

            One of  the reasons  I like  to play
       the  small  Pairs  from any  position  is
       because they  give me the  opportunity to
       slow-down   and   not    appear   to   be
       overbearingly  aggressive  when it  might
       work  against me.   They also  give me  a
       chance  to show  a little  respect for  a
       particular opponent.

       How to Play Small Connecting Cards Before
                        the Flop

            This  is the  hand  I'm looking  for
       when  I  play  No-Limit  Hold'em.   Small
       connecting  cards (suited)  - the  7s-6s,
       8h-7h, 5c- 4c.  That's the kind of hand I
       want.  It's my favorite.   And when I get
       it...I want my opponent  to have two Aces
       or two Kings and  to believe (as I don't)
       that  he should  play them  slow.  If  he
       holds  that  opinion  he'll give  me  the
       opportunity  to get  a  Turn.   And if  I
       do...I can break him.

            That's  the  whole thing  about  the
       small  connecting  cards.  I'll  come  in
       with them in an early or middle position.
       I might come in for the first bet (or, as
       you now know, even  the second if I think
       I can win  a real  big pot).   I probably
       won't  raise  with   this  kind  of  hand
       because I  don't want to get  shut out of
       the pot.  If  I raise...and somebody else
       re-raises - I probably won't be able to
       play it.  Or, if I  have to call a double
       raise cold...I probably  won't be able to
       play   it   there  either.    There   are
       exceptions, as  always...but, in general,
       I play the hand so I  can get a Turn with

       Small connecting cards  are a hand that's
       not designed to put  a whole lot of money
       in with  before the  Flop.  It is  a hand
       that's designed  to take  a lot  of flops
       with.  You  want to get a  Turn with them
       to  try  to  make a  little  Straight,  a
       little   Set   of    Threes,   a   little
       Two-Pair...or something.

            With    any   two    cards   to    a
       Straight-Flush (connected or not - except
       for  the  top  and   bottom  cards  of  a
       Straight-Flush such as  the 8s-4s, Jh-7h,
       etc.)...I'd come in  in any position.  In
       a late position...I'd raise with them.

            I'm  really  looking to  get  raised
       when I come in with this hand in an early
       or  middle  position.   In fact,  I  hope
       someone has  a big  Pair in the  hole and
       raises  behind me.   Then,  I  can put  a
       relatively  small  amount  of  additional
       money in the pot...and, if I get a Turn -
       I can break him.

            The beautiful part  about having the
       small  connecting cards  is  that if  you
       don't get any help...you throw them away.
       If the Turn comes 9-9-2, for example, you
       don't  get involved  with a  7-6.  You're
                       MIKE CARO
                     POKER SEMINAR

       FROM NOW ON

    1. Betting a  marginal hand into  a habitual
       bluffer.   It's much  more profitable  in
       the long run to check and call.

    2. Calling    weak-appearing   hands    when
       opponents    unexpectedly   raise.     An
       unexpected raise  from a hand  that looks
       weak is seldom a  bluff.  Unless you have
       specifically seen this opponent make this
       type  of  daring  raise without  a  stong
       hand, save your  money.  Pass with medium
       strong hands.

    3. Treating  a  short-handed ante  game  the
       same as  a short-handed blind  game.  The
       bunching factor  means you  should expect
       the  blinds  to hold  stronger-than-usual
       hands  when  other players  have  already
       passed.    But  in   short-handed  games,
       your're in a late position automatically,
       not  because  others have  passed.   This
       means   the  bunching   factor  is   less
       important in a  short-handed game, so you
       should attack the  blinds more liberally.
       However,  with  antes  and no  blinds,  a
       short-handed  game  may   call  for  more
       conservative play  than in  a full-handed
       game.  That's because,  while the absence
       of  the   bunching  factor   still  means
       opponents  have   weaker  hands   on  the
       average  than they  would  if many  other
       players had  already passed,  this factor
       is overwhelmed  by the reduced  amount of
       incentive  (money in  the  pot) when  the
       hand begins.

    4. Playing  tight  and  not  bluffing  often
       enough.  One of the primary benefits of a
       conservative  (i.e.   tight) strategy  is
       that you can be more successful bluffing.

    5. Playing  loose  and   not  value  betting
       enough.  One of the primary benefits of a
       liberal  (i.e.  loose)  strategy is  that
       you  can value  bet  with great  success.
       Value betting  means to  push a  hand for
       everything it's worth  and get calls from
       weak  hands  that   would  normally  fold
       against a tight player.

    6. Spending  your  bankroll.   If  you  ever
       decide  to treat  poker as  a profession,
       you're ready to think of your bankroll as
       a necessary   piece   of  equipment   for
       running your business.  Don't spend parts
       of   it   needlessly.   Doing   so   will
       jepordize  your  chances  of  staying  in

    7. Bluffing  after  frequent  bluffers  have
       checked  into you.   One  reason a  bluff
       succeeds is that players with worse hands
       pass.  This  means that if  timid players
       check  into  you  on  the  final  betting
       round, you can  sometimes bet and they'll
       throw  away  almost-hopeless  hands  that
       would  have bearly  beat  you.  But  when
       frequent  bluffers  check, thay  probably
       don't  have the  kind of  hand they  must
       throw away  (because they would  have bet
       out  of desperation).   So, they're  more
       likely than  usual to have  hands they'll
       call with.  Don't bluff!

    8. Value betting when you're losing.  One of
       the secrets  to successful  value betting
       is  an intimidating  image.  When  you're
       losing, you don't have that image.

    9. Fancy   Play   Syndrome.   Many   skilled
       players  yield to  their urge  to impress
       weaker  opponents.    FPS  sufferers  are
       always trying to use tricky plays against
       weak  opponents,  even  though  the  more
       obvious    plays    are   usually    more

   1O. NOT raising  in seven-card stud  when you
       have a  medium buried  pair and  the high
       card on  board.  It's clear  that raising
       is the most  profitable strategy for such
       a starting  hand.  Since  the opportunity
       to  make this  play comes  up frequently,
       failure to raise can  be expensive in the
       long run.


    1. Bet  a  quality  pair MORE  willingly  in
       hold'em when  there are two  suited cards
       on board after  the flop.  This agressive
       approach denies opponents  a free card if
       they're  flushing.   If  you want  to  be
       fancy by  slow playing that big  pair, do
       it when all suits on board are

    2. In seven-card stud,  down the river, when
       a sophisticated player bets into you with
       a small pair showing,  you CAN raise with
       a flush.  This assumes that your opponent
       knows  there's  a  good chance  you  were
       trying for a  flush (usually because your
       first two upcards  were suited and you've
       just   been    calling).    Sophisticated
       players often bet daringly when they have
       two  pair or  trips,  hoping you'll  call
       with a  pair big  enough to beat  the one
       they have showing.  The majority of these
       players  have  the   obnoxious  habit  of
       usually betting for  value without a full
       house    or     better,    but    usually
       check-raising  when  they can  beat  your
       flush.   This means  you should  often go
       right ahead and raise with your flush.

    3. For much  the same reasons (see  #2), you
       can successfully bluff  by raising if you
       miss your flush.   You probably won't win
       most of  the time, but  opposing laydowns
       will be frequent  enough that you'll make
       a profit in the long run.

    4. In hold'em, when  you've flopped top pair
       and  sucessfully been  called by  several
       opponents, you  should check on  the turn
       if the  board pairs a medium  rank.  Then
       you  should  usually  fold if  bet  into!
       Typical (i.e.  weak and  average) players
       won't bluff  with that pair on  board, so
       you can  safely make the  laydown.  Trips
       is very likely here, if someone bets.

    5. Wait for  your opponents  to catch  up if
       they're  probably weak  and you  flop the
       nuts.  It's clearly  better to check when
       you're  first to  act  in this  situation
       with two or more players behind you.  Not
       only  do you  give  players  a chance  to
       close the gap and make legitimate calling
       hands,  you also  give them  a chance  to
       throw away their money bluffing!

    6. When you're  in the  middle on  the final
       round  of betting  and  the first  player
       bets,  wait!  If  the bettor  freezes and
       refuses  to  act after  several  seconds,
       there's  a higher-than-usual  chance that
       it's  a  bluff.   Call  with  simi-strong
       hands;  and with  weak  hands, you  might
       consider  raising  (to  ensure  that  the
       player behind you doesn't overcall).

    7. After spotting  a tell, wait  and pretend
       to ponder.  Then  almost pass.  Then call
       at the last second,  as if by inspiraton.
       This makes it  unlikely the opponent will
       recognize that you've spotted a tell, and
       he  won't correct  for it.   Even better,
       your opponent  might think you  spotted a
       tell  at  the  last  second  and  try  to
       correct that!

    8. Encourage a bet you intend to call with a
       medium-strong  hand,  even if  you  don't
       want  your  opponent   to  bet!   If  the
       opponent  has a  better hand  than yours,
       you won't prevent the  bet.  The only bet
       you will prevent is a bluff.  And if your
       planning to  call anyway, you  don't want
       to discourage a bluff.

    9. In lowball, a great play (if not used too
       frequently) is to reraise with a two card
       draw  from  the  dealer position  if  the
       raise came  from another late  seat.  You
       hope to  drive out the blinds  and end up
       head-to-head  with the  raiser.  Then  if
       the  raiser draws  two cards,  stand pat!
       If he  draws one or stands  pad, draw two
       (this will  help your image).   Don't use
       this  play  too  often and  use  it  only
       against  raisers  who  often  attack  the
       blinds with two card draws.

   1O. When it's time to loosen up and play that
       extra hand,  do it from a  late position,
       not  an early  one.   A powerful  related
       concept  is  that  most  of  your  strong
       opponents have  an apparent  flaw they're
       unaware  of.  They  may play  exactly the
       same  percentage  of hands  overall,  but
       they  play  too  many  hands  from  early
       position  and  too  few hands  from  late
       positions  when no  one else  has entered
       the   pot.    You   will   be   able   to
       successfully  establish your  loose image
       without  adding  any   hands  from  early
                  The Theory of Poker

                   by David Sklansky

                   Head Up On the End

       Bluffing On The End

       There  are  two   basic  conditions  that
       determine how  you act when you  are head
       up on the  end - whether or  not you have
       made  a legitimate  hand and  whether you
       are   in  first   position  or   in  last
       position.   Without   a  legitimate  hand
       against  an  opponent with  a  legitimate
       hand, you cannot win except on a bluff -
       a bet  or   a  raise  that   causes  your
       opponent to fold.  You cannot hope to win
       by checking  or by  calling.  Determining
       whether or not to try  a bluff on the end
       is based  on the same logic  as any other
       bet.   You  have  to decide  whether  the
       attempt has positive expectation.  If the
       pot is $1OO and you bet $2O with nothing,
       you  have to  believe your  opponent will
       fold more than once in six times in order
       to  expect  a   profit.   Thus,  if  your
       opponent  folds once  in five  times, you
       will lose  $2O four  times, but  you will
       win $1OO once on average for a net profit
       of  $2O or  an average  profit of  $4 per
       hand.   However, if  your opponent  folds
       once in  seven times,  you will  lose $2O
       six  times and  win $1OO  once for  a net
       loss of  $2O or an average  loss of $2.86
       per  hand.  Whether  a bluff  works often
       enough  to  be profitable  depends,  like
       most plays  on the end, upon  an accurate
       assessment  of  what   your  opponent  is
       likely to do.



       When  you  are  in  last  position,  your
       opponent will have either checked or bet.
       First,  what  should  you  do  when  your
       opponent checks?   Some might  reply that
       you should bet if you think that you have
       the best  hand.  But  this is not  at all
       the  case.  Your  chances  of having  the
       best hand might be  as high as 9O percent
       or  better,  but  still  you  should  not
       necessarily bet.  Take the following hand
       from seven-card stud.

           OPPONENT                  YOU
       (X,X)7h,8h,Qd,2c(X)  (As)Jd,Jh,Js,Js(7d,7c)

       With  four jacks  your chances  of having
       the best hand are enormous, but in either
       first  or  second   position  you  cannot
       possibly bet the hand  on the end for the
       simple   reason   that   your   bet   has
       absolutely   no   positive   expectation.
       Since your four jacks are exposed for the
       world  to see,  your  opponent will  fold
       every hand he can have except four queens
       or  a  straight  flush in  hearts.   With
       either of those hands, he will raise.  So
       your   bet  has   nothing  to   gain  and
       everything  to lose.

            When you  bet for  value on  the end
       after your opponent has checked, you must
       figure your hand has  better than a 5O-5O
       chance  of winning  when you  are called.
       In  fact, you  have to  figure it  has at
       least  about  a   55  percent  chance  of
       winning  to  compensate for  those  times
       when your  opponent is planning  to check
       raise.   With  three-of-a-kind against  a
       flush   draw,  you   are  certainly   the
       favorite, but you are not the favorite if
       your  opponent  calls.   Yet  to  show  a
       profit on  your last round  bets, clearly
       you must  be the favorite even  when your
       opponent calls.

                        HAS BET

            Let us now  consider your options in
       last position when your opponent does not
       give  you  a  free  call  but  comes  out
       betting.   When he  bets  you can  either
       fold, call,  or raise.

            Deciding whether to  fold or call is
       relatively    straight   forward.     The
       question is: are  your chances of winning
       the pot better than the odds that you are
       getting from the pot, either because your
       hand  is better  than your  opponent's or
       because  your opponent  is bluffing?   If
       you  think your  chances are  better, you
       call.   If not,  you  fold.

            If you are thinking of raising after
       your opponent bets, you must ask the same
       question  you  would  have  asked  before
       betting had  your opponent  checked: What
       are the chances of winning that extra bet
       when  you  are  called?  You  should  not
       raise unless you figure  you are at least
       a 55  percent  favorite, since  you  also
       face  the possibility  of a  reraise.  In
       fact, one  way of  looking at  raising an
       opponent on  the end without the  nuts is
       that you are laying almost 2-to-1 odds on
       that   last  bet,   especially  if   your
       opponent  is  capable  of bluffing  on  a
       reraise.    When  you   raise  and   your
       opponent  raises back,  you usually  lose
       two bets, but if  he calls, you only gain
       one bet.   Of course,  this consideration
       does not apply against  a player who will
       never  bluff on  a  reraise.   If such  a
       player  raises  you  back, you  can  just
       throw  your hand  away,  knowing you  are



            With very strong  hands your options
       are to try  a check raise or  to come out
       betting.   The  key factors  in  deciding
       whether to check raise are 1) the chances
       your opponent will bet  if you check, and
       2)  the chances  your opponent  will call
       your raise.  The second factor is just as
       important as the  first, because if there
       were no  chance your opponent  would call
       your raise, it would  usually be wrong to
       check  since you  would risk  not winning
       even  a  single  bet when  your  opponent
       checks behind you.  However, all but very
       tough  players will  generally call  your
       raise  after you  have  checked and  they
       have put  in an initial bet.   They might
       grumble as they do it, but they'll do it.


            If  your hand  is  worth  a call  or
       almost worth  a call had you  checked and
       your  opponent bet,  you should  bet when
       your opponent  is one who will  call with
       more  hands than  he  will  bet, a  habit
       which  is  typical  of  the  majority  of

            If your  hand is  worth a  call, you
       should check and  call when your opponent
       is one who will  bet with more hands than
       he  will call.   As  we  shall see,  this
       player is usually the type who may try to
       bluff  after you  have  checked in  first

            You should  check and fold  when you
       are not  the favorite if called  and when
       your  opponent  is  one who  will  almost
       always bet  only with  a hand  that beats
       yours.   However,  since this  type  will
       only bet  with a hand that  clearly beats
       you, the  bets you save by  folding after
       he bets are greater than the few bets you
       might  pick  up  by betting  and  getting
       called by his worse hands.


            A   curious    situation   develops,
       though,  when you  are  an underdog  when
       called and your opponent  will bet if you
       check with only a few hands you can beat.
       It would seem that the correct play is to
       check  and fold  if  your opponent  bets.
       However, it often works out that the play
       with the  greatest expectation is  to bet
       your own  underdog hands even  though, if
       you checked, you could not call when your
       opponent bet.  Depending upon the size of
       the pot, this  situation occurs when your
       opponent  will call  with many  hands you
       can  beat but  will bet  with only  a few
       hands you  can beat.

            It  becomes  correct  to  check  and
       call, though you know your opponent would
       call with  more hands than he  would bet,
       if  when you  are an  underdog you  think
       your  opponent  will  check  some  better
       hands behind you and if you fear a raise.

            Remember, though, that  the last two
       situations we have described are unusual.
       The   general  rules   still  apply   the
       majority of  the time.   If your  hand is
       worth a  call, you  should bet  when your
       opponent will  call with more  hands than
       he  will bet,  and you  should check  and
       call  when your  opponent  will bet  with
       more hands than he  will check.  In other
       words,  you  should  make the  play  that
       gives you the greatest number of wins and
       the smallest number of losses.


            Suppose in hold'em you have 1O,9 and
       the  board  at  the  end  is  1O,1O,Q,5,2
       without  a  flush possibility.   You  are
       first to act.  How  should you play?

            You   should   probably   come   out
       betting.  If you are up against something
       like  A,1O  or  K,1O or  J,1O,  you  lose
       either way.  If  you check, your opponent
       will surely  bet, and you will  call.  If
       your opponent  has Q,1O,  you may  lose a
       double  bet  by  betting out  since  your
       opponent will raise.   On the other hand,
       if your  opponent has hands like  1O,8 or
       1O,7 or 1O,6, you  win either way; if you
       check your opponent will most likely bet.
       However,  two  very possible  hands  your
       opponent  might  have  are A,Q  and  K,Q,
       which  he may  very well  not bet  if you
       check  but with  which  he will  probably
       call if you bet.  Since you are likely to
       gain a bet more  frequently than you lose
       one (when your  opponent raises), betting
       has greater expectation than checking and
       calling.  Put in terms of the rules given
       earlier, in this  situation your opponent
       will call  with more  hands than  he will

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