Poker has it share of counterfeit hands

Nov 3, 2015 3:00 AM

According to my Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “something made to imitate another thing with a view to defraud” is said to be counterfeit.

The counterfeit is used to deceive or defraud another person. It could be something forged – like a counterfeit $100 bill. (Note: Many casinos scrutinize such large bills to make sure they are not counterfeit.) When something is counterfeited, it’s not for real. The key words are “imitate” and defraud.”

On the other hand, at the poker table the word, “counterfeit” has a similar connotation, but a somewhat different meaning. It could happen to you in several ways.

Perhaps, the most common form of having your hand counterfeited is when you hold two-pair, and a card falls on the board that pairs a card higher than one of your two pairs.

Example: Suppose you are the Big Blind holding 10d-2c, and get to see the flop for “free” when no one raises preflop. Of course, in any position other than the blinds, you would have promptly mucked those hole cards – even if it is claimed to be poker legend Doyle Brunson’s favorite hand.

The flop comes down: 10h-2s-Qd. Your hand has suddenly improved to two-pair, 10’s and deuces! That is likely the best hand at this point in the game. You know your opponents “love” to see the flop with picture cards, such as a Queen. It’s a full table of nine players, so the odds are 4-to-1 an opponent has a Queen in the hole, giving her top pair on the board. But your 10’s and deuces, two-pair, are well ahead of her.

The turn and river cards are 5c and 5d – a pair higher than your pair of deuces; so, now your best hand is 10’s and 5’s. Trouble is your opponent can also use that pair of 5’s on the board; if she has a Queen in the hole, her two-pair beats yours. Your hand has suddenly become second-best – a loser! Your pair of deuces was counterfeited by the pair of fives on the river. The counterfeited pair of deuces no longer helps your hand. You have just been “rivered;” and, it cost you a decent-sized pot.

Here’s another example of counterfeiting: In the Small Blind, in a 4-8 limit game, you look down at 8c-9c – suited middle connectors – in the hole. There is no raise, and four opponents are staying to see the flop, satisfying both the Hold’em Algorithm criteria and the Hold’em Caveat. You put up the other half-bet, hoping the flop will fit in with your marginal drawing hand.

And it fits beautifully! The flop has three medium/small clubs: 10c-5c-2c. You have a club flush, albeit only 9 high. But there is a problem: If another club – no matter its rank – falls on the board on the turn or river, then an opponent would need only one club in the hole to also have a club flush.

If his club is higher than your 9c, your hand will become second-best – a loser! And, a costly one, at that. Your hand would then have been counterfeited by that fourth club on the board. Pray for red cards or a spade – almost any red card, any spade – on the turn and river. No more clubs!

Counterfeiting can also arise in Omaha/8 with the low hand – 8 or lower – splitting the pot with the high hand. Let’s say you hold A-2-J-Q as your hole cards and the board shows 4-3-8. At this point, you have the nut low hand (A-2-3-4-8).

You are ready to scoop up your half of a big pot; you can almost taste it. Then the dealer calmly places another 2 on the board. Your hand may well have been counterfeited; an opponent holding A-5 would have made a wheel, A-2-3-4-5, murdering your low hand. Also, an A-6 or A-7 beats you.

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