Poker Two-Step concept part 2
July 18, 2017 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
In Part I, we described the Two-Step concept as it applies to the game of poker.
Step 1: Select a playable starting-hand. Step 2: Continue in the hand if the flop improves your starting-hand to either a made hand or a drawing hand with at least six good outs. Otherwise, muck your cards (unless everyone checks and you get a “free” card).
To illustrate this concept, we offered two typical examples when playing limit Texas hold’em, and promised several more in Part II. In some cases, we will also suggest how you might play your hand beyond Step 2.
Start with middle suited connectors from a late position – say you have been dealt 8-9 hearts. Step 1: According to the Hold’em Algorithm starting-hand criteria, that’s a playable hand from any position. You call to see the flop along with several other players. Step 2: The flop must improve your hand to a significant extent. There are many ways that can happen:
• Catch two cards for an open-ended straight draw; that gives you eight good outs – a hand worthy of further investment.
• The flop has two more hearts, giving you four-to-a-flush. With nine outs, the card odds are less than 2-to-1 against you. It’s worth investing further.
• Pair up one of your holecards. That will happen about one out of three times. Problem is, it’s only a middle pair. If it happens to be top pair on the board, and you believe it is top hand at the moment, play aggressively. Bet out or raise to thin the field so your pair has a better chance to survive.
But, if it’s not top pair, play cautiously from here on; fold if there is heavy betting. It’s quite possible an opponent has a higher pair; then you have only two outs.
Starting with 7-8 suited or lower from middle positions. Step 1: In a middle position, connectors lower than 7-8 suited – that’s 7-6 suited and below – do not satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm criteria for starting-hands; toss them into the muck (and don’t look back).
As for 7-8 suited, it barely satisfies the Hold’em Algorithm criteria in a middle position. Consider it a marginal drawing hand. Now, the Hold’em Caveat is important: There must be three or more opponents staying to see the flop, and no raise to you. If that is satisfied, it’s OK to see the flop from a middle position and hope it will substantially improve your hand (Step 1). If the flop does improve your hand sufficiently, continue in the pot (Step 2).
Starting with two unconnected, unsuited honor cards from any position. Other than 10-Queen, such holecards are bound to give you a viable starting-hand, meeting the Hold’em Algorithm criteria for every position (Step 1.) So, you eagerly watch to see what the flop brings. Hopefully, the flop will improve your hand (Step 2.) Where do we go from there?
Say you started with K-J offsuit. The flop is Kh-8c-3d. You raise to thin the field. But the turn is the Ac. Chances are someone has an Ace in the hole. If a tight player bets out, fold your pair of Kings. If it’s an aggressive-deceptive player, it may be OK to call. If it’s checked around to you, accept the “free” card.
• What if you started with A-J offsuit, and the flop is J-7-5 rainbow? Your hand has improved to top pair on the board, with Ace kicker. Now is the time to get aggressive. Make your opponents pay to stay in the hand – or fold their hands.
• Starting with the same A-J offsuit, and the flop is A-A-8. (It does happen!) Trip Aces is a very powerful hand, almost certain to be the winner. Make the most of it by building as big a pot as possible. If you come out betting, you are bound to lose most, if not all of your opponents. Slow-play is best. Let an opponent open the betting, and just call along to see the turn. If you were in an earlier position, you might even consider check-raising.