Fourth and fifth street play is the ability to combine your knowledge of player’s styles, likely starts, accumulated clues and come up with an optimum play. The cheaper rounds of stud are now and with judicious use of raising, you should be able to settle any questions you may have about what is against you. If you think a player is on a draw and he catches a dud, you must make it expensive for him to stay, even if you are not the best hand yet. Use your board when it is strong no matter if it has improved your hand or not. If your board looks scary, your opponent’s actions will give you an indicator as to the type of hand he is working towards.
There are some quick clues to add to board play. Almost everyone is familiar with the fast check of the down cards when fourth street is suited. That signifies a pair checking for suit in a low-limit game, but as limits go up, verify the accuracy first. Better players can be just as predictable with a four-card flush on the same move in an attempt to be tricky. A long look at the pair is usually no suit. Another good prediction is the second face card on fourth street. If they check the down cards and do not bet, that is an indication of a third face card down or a three-card suit, unless you turned a scare card.
If you suspect a flush draw, watch their eyes as their suit hits in someone else’s hand. Any doubts between what you believe the opponents have and what they represent must be resolved now. You do not want to be drawing dead after fifth street and you do not want to let anyone catch up for free.
There are too many situations to cover in a single column, so I will set up a sample hand, which combines the type of analysis necessary to good board play.
You are a conservative player who has just raised with a jack up on third street. A strong aggressive player just calls your raise with a nine. There was a queen behind him who folded, as did everyone else. You noticed four-suited cards and three-straight cards gone, plus your raise should add another straight card missing. His betting and posture show strength. Your hand improves to jacks over tens and he has two more suited non-straight cards on board. He has raised your bet. What are his likely down cards?
There are two possible hands that this player could have. First, he does not have a made flush because his draws were limited at the start and a strong player would not have entered with that kind of hardship. Cancel his possible straight, also for the same reason. He does not have an under-pair that he tripped, because the nine kicker is not higher than your jack. He could have an over-pair with one suited card, making a four-flush and a draw to a higher two pair, or a set.
There are certainly enough outs to warrant a raise. But something is not right. If he had an over-pair, why didn’t he raise on fourth street when the first flush card hit? And if he is aggressive, why didn’t he raise on third street to narrow the field instead of letting them in our out? One over-pair is not strong enough to go to fifth street with no raise. The only hand left is trip nines. As long as you caught blanks, he could afford to let you bet. Plus, that accounts for the cold call on third street and not wanting to drive out players. No matter which hand your opponent has, you must proceed with caution. You have four outs to win and two cards to come. You probably need to improve to win, but you have enough to call out.
Notice in the example how the board played a factor in your decision. If you are playing a weak player and you have an over-pair concealed, but your board shows no threat, no raise or shifty strategy will take the pot outright. Weak players must see threat or power. In the previous example, if the aggressive player had raised on fourth and again on fifth with the third flush card, the weak player would believe the flush. The raise on fourth street created more cards to hit in order to win the pot. If a small, non-suited card causes a weak player to raise, he has at least two pair, if not small trips. The trips are even more likely if the player is a calling station. Remember, the weak player has no problem entering a pot with long odds to win. Also, they tend to believe that all players are drawing if they don’t show face cards.