Readers disagree with playing poker hand

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At a full 9-handed table of 4-8 limit at my local casino, I was the Big Blind (BB) with A-3 offsuit. I was a bit behind and ready to pack up and go home after this hand.

Several readers suggested I should not have played that hand. If an Ace falls on the board, my hand is dominated by an opponent holding a bigger Ace. I agree. Normally, I would muck that hand in any position. In this case, I was the BB and no one had raised preflop. I could never refuse a “free” flop. You never know what the flop will bring.

Note: I vividly recall a hand from several years ago. With 3-2 in the hole, I was the BB and stayed to see the flop when no one raised beforehand. I could hardly believe my eyes when the board showed 2-2-3. I had flopped a full-house. A monster hand! Moral of the story: Never refuse a “free” card. You never know what the flop might bring.

So, of course, it made sense for me to see the flop for “free” with my A-3 (rag) offsuit. Also, with five opponents staying to see the flop, this could be a big enough pot to help me leave a winner, if…

The flop was A-6-2 rainbow, giving me top pair on the board, and also a remote chance to make a small straight. Naturally, I was concerned another player might have a better Ace. In that case, I would have just three outs – hardly likely to win that pot. Opening the betting on the flop, I bet out, probing for information. Had I checked, I would have learned little about my opponents’ hands.

Aussie P. of Las Vegas suggested a different strategy for the preflop betting round: Instead of checking my option (for the “free” flop), I should have raised to represent a strong hand – as a semi-bluff. Then, when the Ace fell on the flop, my continuation bet, now representing a big Ace in the hole, might have “encouraged” the lady across the table who held A-8, to muck her hand. She would be faced with a tough decision, whether to “stay, fold or go for the showdown.”

As it turned out, she called all the way to the showdown – and took the pot with her higher kicker (her 8 vs. my 3).

Flipnphil of Henderson, Nevada, had a different response – brief and right to the point. He wrote: “I would have folded that hand unless the Ace-rag was suited; then played cautiously.”

My reply: In accordance with the Hold’em Algorithm, I would have folded that hand had I not gotten a “free” flop. Otherwise, I agree, A-rag offsuit is not worth an investment. And, even if my A-rag was suited, I would have played it to see the flop only if the Hold’em Caveat was satisfied – no raises and a multi-way pot.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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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