A scare card is every player’s nightmare

GamingToday.com is an independent sports news and information service. GamingToday.com has partnerships with some of the top legal and licensed sportsbook companies in the US. When you claim a bonus offer or promotion through a link on this site, Gaming Today may receive referral compensation from the sportsbook company. Although the relationships we have with sportsbook companies may influence the order in which we place companies on the site, all reviews, recommendations, and opinions are wholly our own. They are the recommendations from our authors and contributors who are avid sports fans themselves.

For more information, please read How We Rank Sportsbooks, Privacy Policy, or Contact Us with any concerns you may have.

Gaming Today is licensed and regulated to operate in AZ, CO, CT, DC, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MD, MI, NV, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, & WY.

Do you remember back when we were children growing up, when there were many occasions in which we found ourselves in a state of nervousness, or even felt a sense of panic — fear. 

We were scared! As we aged and gained experience, it was much easier to handle when something unexpected happened. Example: While walking across the road in a crosswalk, suddenly, a speeding car makes a left turn and you are in its path. Scary — but thankfully, you were able to jump aside to avoid a bad accident.

Check Out More Poker Here

A somewhat similar experience happens in poker, too. In this case, the dealer turns up a card that seriously threatens the health of your hand. We call that a “scare card.” When cards are dealt face-up as in Texas hold’em and other forms of poker, one (or more) may very well be a scare card.

Very simply, it’s a card that could substantially improve an opponent’s hand to shatter yours. But you cannot be sure. It happens so often. Second-best is no fun. Every poker player yearns to go home a winner.

Here’s an illustration to better explain what I’m talking about.

Playing limit hold’em, in a middle position, you were dealt pocket Kings — a strong made hand. You raised preflop to thin out the competition, giving your K-K a better chance to survive to win the pot.

The flop comes: Queen of hearts, 9 of diamonds and 2 of spades. Your over-pair, K-K, looks so good. You smile to yourself (to avoid tells) as you study the board and then take a quick peek of confirmation on your hole cards.

But then it happens. The turn is a big black Ace — a scare card! Knowing that hold’em players love to play any Ace, you have good reason to be concerned. You are fearful — yes, scared that an opponent has caught a pair of Aces, rendering your pocket Kings second-best with just two outs to improve to a set.

With eight opponents at the table, chances are that at least one has an Ace in the hole. Your pocket Kings is no match for a pair of Aces. But you cannot be certain.

An early-position opponent comes out betting. Now you have a tough decision. “Should I call his bet?” The wrong decision could cost you dearly. You announce “Time,” as you go into a huddle. There are several questions you need to ask yourself — and quickly answer as best you can:

• What kind of player is he?

You have been carefully observing your opponents for over an hour, so you have a good idea as to his playing traits. Check your notes just to be sure.

If he is a tight player, chances are he has the goods. Consider mucking your hand. I know it’s hard to give up with such a strong starting hand.

What if he is a deceptive player — one who is wont to bluff? Check your notes. If so, calling his bluff could make you some big money.

• Does he offer any tells?

Tells can give you clues — whether that Ace on the flop improved his hand. For example, covering his mouth and/or rubbing the back of his neck as the Ace was turned up, would suggest he is bluffing; call his bet.

Alternatively, if he suddenly stopped chatting with a friend standing behind him, that Ace most likely paired him up. That’s poker. Save your chips; fold.

• Did another opponent call his bet?

If one or more opponents calls his bet, it’s almost certain that at least one of them has caught the big pair, A-A. Or, perhaps another opponent was slow playing a set of Queens on the flop. One way or the other, chances are your pocket Kings are virtually “dead in the water.” Fold your hand.

• What if it’s just the two of you, and you don’t have any other information?

There may be cases — perhaps too often — when you have little information, such as that which we described above.

You just cannot be sure he has caught a pair of Aces. Your best guess is about 50-50. Now is the time to consider the pot odds. If they are more than even-money, cover his bet — and pray.

WHAT’S IN A GT VIP ACCOUNT? Amazing content, analysis, stats, and a digital paper for only 6 cents a day.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

Get connected with us on Social Media