Two suited cards and the flushes they create

Two suited cards and the flushes they create

September 19, 2017 3:00 AM
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Playing limit hold’em, on the flop, you can expect to pair up one of your hole cards about one out of three hands. Sometimes, it’s the top pair on the board. That’s nice! But what if there are also two suited cards on the flop? You are concerned; an opponent could very well catch a flush when three or more of his suit appear on the board. Likewise, what if a higher card falls on the turn or the river?

Say you started with a big King in the hole. Often, you will improve to a pair of Kings – top-pair on the board; but you would lose to a flush, even if you connected with two-pair or trips. It happens often.

Suppose an opponent’s two hole cards are both hearts, and the flop brings two more hearts. With four to a heart flush, he has 9 big outs, with two shots at connecting – the turn and the river. The odds of flushing are less than 2-to-1 against him. He’s in the hand to stay! You can only hope no more hearts fall on the board. It’s all up to the poker gods.

Hopefully, and more often, none of your opponents has two hearts in the hole. Much more likely is one or more opponents has one heart in the hole for a three-heart flush draw. It’s not uncommon for runner-runner suited cards to fall on the turn and river. And, if an Ace falls on the board, your top-pair of Kings may well become second-best.

Your top-pair is quite vulnerable. Now you want to force out those players before they connect. To do so, on the flop, you would be wise to bet – or raise. You are hoping opponents with a single heart or a weak Ace in the hole will muck their hands – substantially increasing the probability your hand will survive and win the pot.

But what if there are loose players at your table? More likely, one or more will call your raise. Is there any other means by which you can thin the field to protect your top pair?

Use the Esther Bluff tactic. It’s a way of getting into your opponent’s head to convince him you hold a very strong hand. It works amazingly well, even against loose players. But there is no guarantee. Nevertheless, to the extent you are able to thin the field, your chance of winning with your top-pair is markedly improved.

Here’s an example. In a middle position, you see the flop with K-J spades in the hole. Four opponents are in the hand with you. There were no raises preflop. The flop is Kh-10h-5d, improving your hand to a pair of Kings, the top-pair on the board.

Being alert, you note there are two hearts on the board. Any player who holds two hearts in the hole is bound to stay the rest of the way. Much more likely, there may be one or two with a middle or high heart card. There may also be an opponent holding an Ace in the hole. (That will happen about 30% of the time.)

An early-position, a rather loose-aggressive player, opens the betting on the flop. Wisely, you decide to raise using the Esther Bluff tactic; it may very well get him and others to fold their hands. But, let’s assume he and a late-position call your raise on the flop. That’s quite likely in a limit hold’em game.

If the turn is neither a heart nor an Ace, your pair of Kings still looks best, by all means make the opening bet if it is checked to you. Use the Esther Bluff to encourage your opponents to muck their hands. You are trying to protect your vulnerable top-pair – sort of like a semi-bluff. If you do not improve on the river (as is most often the case), no matter what the river card is, check along with your remaining opponent(s)… and hope you have the best hand.