Dancing two-step seated at table

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The “Two-Step” poker concept consists of:

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 – preferably more. Otherwise, muck your cards (unless everyone checks and you get to see a “free” card on the turn).

Perhaps most important, selecting and playing the best starting hands gives you a great chance to take the pot. Wouldn’t you rather play K-Q offsuit than 8-7 offsuit? Both have the same chance of improving. In both cases, one out of three times, you can expect to pair one of your holecards. Using the Hold’em Algorithm, the K-Q is playable in any position, whereas the 8-7 is playable only from a late position, providing the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied – a multi-way pot with no raises.

The odds of improving your hand on the flop are the same in both of those cases. It’s just as likely your K-Q will improve, say to a pair of Kings, as your 8-7 improves to a pair of 8’s.

But, a pair of 8’s always loses to a pair of Kings. It would have to connect to a set after the flop to take the pot; but a pair of Kings has just as much chance of turning into a set of Kings. Which hand wins?

A typical case

You are at a full table of nine players in a $4-$8 limit hold’em game. It is a fairly passive game with little raising. After a half-hour of play, a total of 15 hands were dealt out, and you stayed to see the flop on three of those (Step 1).

Then, the flop improved your hand (Step 2) on one of those, warranting further investment to see the Turn. You folded all of the others. At that point, you have invested just $8.

Your opponents – who do not use the Hold’em Algorithm, play inferior hands, and may even be prone to chase with few outs after the flop – will invest considerably more chips in that hand.

Let’s assume four opponents stay to see the flop and then to see the Turn. That adds up to 4 x ($4 + $4) = $32. That’s four times your investment. Even considering the rake, that is a great return on your investment (ROI)!

Let’s say, on the flop, your hand improved to top two-pair on the board, which may well be the best hand at the moment; but it is vulnerable. You are in a middle position. Two opponents check to you. Now you bet $8 on the Turn, hoping to protect your hand by thinning the field. You have now invested $8 + $8 = $16. Three of your opponents call to see the Turn; that’s an additional $24 in the pot from your opponents, for a total of $56. That is a good ROI if you take the pot.

Two opponents check to you. After due consideration, knowing one of your opponents tends to be somewhat deceptive, you decide to just check along. For all you know, he could have flopped a set and is slow-playing. Showdown: As it turned out, your two-pair held up. You have earned a very nice profit.

Perhaps more important, think of all the chips you saved by folding preflop and on the flop with hands that had to be underdogs. Suppose you stayed to see the flop with a marginal (mediocre) hand that failed to satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm criteria (in accordance with Step 2).

What if the flop gave you middle pair on the board – a hand in which you would likely have invested more chips to see the Turn, and even more to see the River? And then lost to a real hand. Think of all the chips you saved. Chips saved are more valuable than those won.

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.

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