In poker, tainted outs will also help an opponent

In poker, tainted outs will also help an opponent

March 19, 2018 3:00 AM


Several issues ago, we discussed Texas hold’em drawing hands that hold great promise – loads of outs; but in the end, would cost you lots of chips if you were to connect. As we explained, the problem is some of your outs may be “tainted.” As defined by poker celebrity Byron Ziman, tainted outs will also help an opponent; and as it often happens, would give your opponent an even better hand than yours.

In that column, we explained in much detail how to convert the number of outs to your card odds – the probability you will catch one of your outs to give you a made hand – a hand that could win the pot without further improvement. Then, compare your card odds to the pot odds (the ratio of the number of chips in the pot, or expected to be in it by the showdown). So long as the pot odds are higher than your card odds, you have a positive expectation; call that bet to win the chips. But, sometimes your hand is so good you don’t need to waste your precious time to do the math. Here’s a good case.

This was a hand I subsequently discussed at length with a friend. She could only commiserate with me; no suggestions as to how I might have better played this hand. She would have played it just as I did. “But, that’s poker,” she reminded me.

Here’s what happened:

While playing in a low-limit game at a local casino, I started from the Cut-Off position with Kc-Jc in the hole. The flop looked great for me: Ks-Js-7c. Top two-pair on the board! That had to be the best hand at this point, I reassured myself. I had a warm, cozy feeling that comes with a high level of confidence. And I was careful to keep a poker face. I was not about to give any tells as to the strength of my hand.

A loose player in the big blind came out betting and was called by two others. I decided this was a good spot to raise it up; all three called. The pot looked pretty good to me. The turn was the 7h putting a pair on the board; it was possible an opponent might have caught trip 7’s. When my opponents all checked to me, I felt reassured my big two-pair was still in the lead. I made the big bet and was called by all three of my opponents. Of course, they had no idea as to the strength of my hand.

The river was the Kh, giving me a big full-boat, Kings full of Jacks! Again, the big blind opened the betting. Both of the other opponents called. My turn to act. Feigning doubt as to the strength of my hand, I studied the board and twice glanced at my hole cards. Then looking down on my chips, I sat quietly as if trying to decide what to do – feeling like a movie star playing a leading role. Of course, I raised the bet. Then, I was stunned when the big blind re-raised me. I would have re-raised him but I was now all-in.

My opponent in the big blind turned up his two hole cards, revealing a pair of 7’s in the hole. Quad 7’s kills any full-house – even my Kings-full-of-Jacks! I tossed my cards into the muck, reluctantly accepting defeat. I had to take a long break after that hand.

Later, as I discussed this hand with my friend, I turned to her and looked her in the eye, “How could the poker gods be so cruel to me?” Her facial expression told it all: “It will all level out in the long run,” she reassured me.

Meanwhile, I’ll try not to let this hand affect how I play the game. What else could I do?