First Position Play in Practice

Now let us consider how first position play heads-up on the end runs in practice.

For example, in draw poker you draw three cards in first position and make aces up. Your rival draws one card. He can have two pair, or he may be drawing to a straight or a flush. You think that such kind of rival will call with two pair if you bet but will bet them for amount if you check. How you will play?

There is no thrill here. Precisely, you should check and call. If you check and call, you may save a bet in one situation and gain a bet in another situation. Having two pair, your rival will call if you bet and bet if you check. So you win in both the case. If your rival was drawing to a flush or a straight and does makes it, he will definitely bet if you check, but he will call, or likely raise, if you bet - which may cost you an extra bet if you call the raise. However, having a busted hand, your rival will not call if you bet hence you gain nothing by betting. But, your rival may bet a bluff if you check. In this one situation, you win an extra bet by both checking and calling. So checking and calling ahs large expectation than betting. And to remind: The aim of poker is not to win the pots but to win money; it is these extra bets won or saved that you win money.

Let's take another example of draw poker. You draw one card to two small pair and your rival draws three. You do not improve. You know your rival doubts you were drawing to a flush or a straight and you also know this player is a pay station, the type who will call "to make you trustworthy." How you will play?

You must bet. We assume your rival was drawing three to a big pair, so you are about 71 percent favorite to have the best hand. You may even be a small favorite against someone who calls every time, so in that case you should bet. But, in this situation, you are wagering money as a 71 percent or 5-to-2 favorite. That's a wager with positive expectation even if you expect to lose 29 percent of the time.

For example, in hold'em you have:

and the board at the end is:

(Observe that there is no flush possibility.) You are the first to perform. How you will play?

You should come out betting. If you are up against something such as A, 10 or K, 10 or J, 10, you lose in any of the situation. If you check, your rival will, of course bet and you will call. If your rival has Q, 10 you may lose a double bet by betting out at the time your rival will raise. However, if your rival has hands something like 10, 8 or 10, 7 or 10, 6 you win in any of the situation; if you check, your rival will possibly bet. The two possible hands that a rival can have would either be A, Q or K, Q which he may surely not bet if you check but with which he may call if you bet. As you gain a bet more often than to lose one (when your rival raises), betting has large expectation than checking and calling. As a rule given earlier, in this situation your rival will call with more hands than he will bet.

The below examples from the draw lowball will determine how your play poker on the end in first position fluctuates directly in terms of your rival. Both players in the pot draw one card and you are first to perform:

You

You are up against a player who does not bluff but fears that everyone else does. How you will perform?

You must bet. Your rival will likely call with a queen-low or better, though only a seven-low or better will beat you. So, your rival may call with more hands that you will beat and a relative less that will beat you. However, if you checked, your rival will not bet most of those losing hands. Therefore, you tend to win more frequently by betting than by checking.

Assume you have the same hand in draw lowball against hostile, rigid player and you are first to perform. How you will play?

Under such circumstances, you should check and call because your rival will probably bet more hands he calls with. Other than beating your rival's 8s, you also blow off his bluff, which you cannot do if you come out betting. Generally, if you bet, your rival will quit the idea of bluffing. However, a player who bets with more hands than he calls with is a kind of player who not only bets for amount but also bluffs indeed more often than is correct. Therefore, when you check, your rival's bluffing hands are included to those he bets for amount.

Now assume instead of a perfect eight-low, you have:

Once again you are up against that player who does not bluff but fears that everyone else does. You are first to perform. How you will play?

In this case, you should check and fold if your rival bets. As your hands beats only queen-, jack-, and ten-lows (the losing hands with which your rival would call), it is not worth a bet for amount because you beat with his nine-lows and better. And as this rival never bets on a bluff, you should fold in terms of a bet. The odds that you are beat are devastating.

Against the hostile player, you should also check, but you should call a bet as there are many hands this rival may be betting that you can beat. In other words, a call against this kind of player would have positive expectation.

First Position Play in Terms of the Strength of Your Hand

We will sum up the play in first position by reviewing it according to the strength of your hand.

If your hand is a cinch or a close one, you have two alternatives. One is to bet and another is to check-raise. You may decide what to do according to the check-raise formula as discussed earlier. However, if you are confident you have the best hand but doubts your rival will raise if you bet, you should bet out trying to win three bets when your rival raises and you re-raise.

If your hand is a favorite when called but is not good to check-raise, you have two alternatives - to bet or to check and then call. Generally, you bet if your rival will call with more hands than he will bet with and you check and call if he will bet with more hands than he will call with.

If your hand is an underdog when called, you have three alternatives. One is to bet, another is to check and call and last one is to check and fold. (A bluff check-raise is a possibility against the rigid players who are competent of very hard folds.) You should check and call if your rival will bet more hands than he will call with, in addition to some reading hands you can beat. You should also check and call when your rival will check more hands that will beat you but might come out bluffing with few hands you can beat. And you should come out betting if you have a calling hand but your rival will call with more hands than he will bet.

Consequently, if you have no chance of winning if you check and your rival bets and you are an underdog if you bet and he calls, then the correct play is to check and fold if he bets.

Review

The aspects in this big chapter are essential and tough enough to give a final outline review. The beauty of each such play is judgment of its expectation.

• Last Position Play

• If you are second to perform when all the cards are out and your rival bets:

• You should call if your hand is not worth a raise but has a good chance of winning than the pot odds you are getting. Your chances of winning are the total that your rival is bluffing plus the chances that your rival can beat his legitimate hand.

• You should raise if your rival will still be an underdog after calling your raise. You can even raise as a bluff if you think it will work frequently enough to have a positive expectation. Also determine raising with what seems to be a calling hand if your rival is competent of giving away a good hand than yours for one more bet.

B. If you are second to perform when all the cards are out and your rival checks:

• You should bluff if you think it will work frequently enough, recalling that a bluff does not tend to work as often in second position as it might be in first position.

• You should bet your hand for amount if you are a favorite to have the best hand, even though your rival calls your bet. However, you should not bet in close situations to prevent a check-raising.

II. First Position Play

A. If you are first to perform when all the cards are out and have a best hand:

• You should try to check-raise if your rival will bet and call your raise more than half as often as he will call you when you bet.

• You should come out betting if you do not think a check-raise will work frequent enough to be beneficial or if you think you can win three bets when your rival raises and you re-raise.

• If you are first to perform and have a worse hand:

• You should bluff if you can get away with it frequent enough for the play to have a positive expectation.

• Otherwise you should check and fold if your rival bets.

• If you are first to perform and have a hand that is a favorite to win if called but not best enough for you to try a check-raise.

• You should bet if your rival will call with more hands than he will bet with if you check.

• You should check and call if your rival will bet with more hands than he will call with.

• You should never check and fold.

• If you are first to perform and have a hand that is a small underdog to win when your bet is called.

• You should bet if your rival will call with more hands than he will bet as long as few of the hands you would have bet, had you checked, would be worse than yours. Check and call if you know your rival will check behind you with an important number of hands better than yours but might still bluff with some hands you can beat.

• You should check and fold if your rival will bet with more hands than he will call with, as long as your pot odds make it worth calling when he does bet.

• You should check and fold if your rival will never bet a hand worse than yours.