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Chardrian’s Guide to Small Stakes Live Limit Poker (Part 9)

After 8 posts which could easily be summed up by saying raise with your value hands preflop and tighten up otherwise, we are finally on to postflop play.  I believe that a good preflop game will make you a breakevenish player, but when you add good postflop play to that you will become a consistent winner.

Pot Odds

In the preflop section, I wrote about the importance of always knowing how many bets are in the pot.  This remains true postflop.  One of the main reasons we always want to know how many bets are in the pot is because we want to know what our pot odds are as well as what odds we are giving our opponents.

Pot odds are simply the ratio of the pot to the bet you have to call.  If the pot has $40 and you have to call a $4 bet then you have pot odds of 10:1.

Pot Odds and Pot Equity

Pot Odds are important to know because they will usually determine how we play our hand.  If we have pot odds of 3:1 and there will be no more betting that means that our hand must have at least 25% pot equity to continue to at least breakeven.

To demonstrate why this is so I’ll use the following example.  If the pot has $3 and I have to call a $ 1 bet and we know that there will be no more betting, then that means if I put $1 in the pot, the pot will have $4.  If I win the pot 1 out of 4 times then I break even (3 times I lose $1 for a net loss of -$3 and 1 time I win $3 profit).

So to determine your breakeven pot equity you divide your bet by the pot plus your bet.  For example if you have 9:1 pot odds then 1 divided by 9+1 is the same as 1/10=10%.

Outs and Equity – the general multiply outs by 2 rule

“Outs” are a poker term which mean the number of cards left in the deck which you need to hit on a later street to win you the hand.  For example, if I have 87 on a board of 56QA and there is no possibility of a flush then I have 8 sure outs to win the hand because I need any of the 4 remaining 9s or 4s in the deck to hit the nut straight and win the hand.

A quick rule to use is that you can multiply your outs by 2 and this will give you your percentage chance of hitting your outs on the next street and thus winning the hand.  In the example above, where we had 8 outs to hit our straight on the river, that means that we would have about a 16% chance to hit our outs on the river.  This means that the pot needs to be laying us at least 5:1 to continue with the hand because 1/6 = 16.6%.

When we count our outs from the flop we have two streets remaining to hit our hand, so we need to double our percentage.  Thus an 8 out hand on the flop generally has about 32% to win the hand by the river.

I need to emphasize that this is a very general rule.  In the example above, 87o has 34% equity versus AQo on a rainbow flop of 56Q but it only has 26% equity versus QQ.  However, it is still a pretty useful rule which means I don’t have to memorize any sort of table of outs.

Putting it all together with an early example

Let’s say that we are in a pretty normal $4/8 game where there is a lot of passive play.  5 players limp, the Small Blind completes and we check our option with 8s7c.  After the rake + our presumed tip the pot has 4.5 Small Bets.  The Flop comes 5s6cQd.

The Small Blind leads out on the flop.  So the pot has 5.5 Small Bets and we have to call 1 Small Bet.  We have pot odds of 5.5:1 meaning we need to win approximately 1 in 6.5 times to continue with the hand.  We immediately see that we have 8 outs which means that we will hit our outs approximately 16% of the time on the turn.  So we call here because we have about the right pot odds to do so and we think more players might call behind us.

4 of the remaining 5 players call behind us (this is very common in a passive game).  The pot now has 11.5 small bets, but on the turn the bets double in size so the pot now has just under 6 Big Bets.  The turn is an Ah which is a bad card for us because it is very likely that someone has the A or the Q and that none of these people will fold at this point.  So we can’t bluff and win this pot.

The Small Blind still leads out at this pot.  So the pot now has 7 Big Bets and we have to call 1 Big Bet giving us 7:1 pot odds.  1/8 =12.5% so we need to have at least 12.5% equity to stay in the hand.  We still have 8 outs to win the hand.  By our general rule 8*2 = 16%.  Since 16% is more than the 12.5% chance we need to win the hand we call.

Many limit players just don’t get these odds.  They know that since passive players don’t often lead out into multi-player pots it is very likely that he has 2 pair or better here.  They also know that they will only hit their straight on the river about 1 in 6 times.  But what they don’t get are the odds.  Some will make the mistake of folding in a pot like this because they know that they will miss their straight 5 out of 6 times and have to fold on the river.  Others will make the mistake of calling with a hand like this in a heads-up pot when the pot has only 2 or 3 Big Bets and they just don’t have the odds to call.

What we want to make sure is that we aren’t one of those players.  We call here because we have the odds to do so.  If we didn’t have the odds to do so we would fold.  And when we lose this pot, which we will the vast majority of the time, we are still happy with how we played the hand even though we lost money.

The river play in this hand is pretty unimportant.  If we miss our straight then we just check or fold.  If the river gives us our nut straight and the Small Blind checks, then we should always bet.  If the river gives us our straight and the SB leads again then we have a decision to make about whether to raise or just call.  Raising will increase the probability of the players behind us folding so if raising gets us only the one more bet from the SB, but calling could likely get us more than one call from the players behind us then we should just call.

In my next post I will continue with more thoughts on postflop play.

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