Mixed games are a ton of fun but as you head into the middle to upper limits you will find that they are populated by very good players. However, that isn’t to say that mistakes are not being made as it is quite the challenge to avoid them if you are playing many games. Poker is all about trying to find and exploit your opponent’s leaks while at the same time trying to ensure your own house is as tidy as possible.
This is the first article of a three part series that will attempt to analyze various mistakes committed by players who in general are very good poker players. Given that we are talking about solid experienced players, none of these errors are tremendously egregious, just ones that I have noticed over the years in the games and in discussions on the forums. So without further ado, let’s begin with the stud variants.
Super Stud Eight or Better
In Super Stud Eight or Better you are dealt four down cards, however, you must discard two of them before 4th street. Your upcard is fixed as usual but it is the highest card that is forced to bring in the action, not the lowest.
Aces are a powerful starting hand in regular Stud but their value decreases when everyone is dealt more cards, thus overplaying them is a common and costly leak. Good players may overestimate their ability to eliminate the field and/or make sound decisions on the later streets. This game is geared for big hands and this holding will often end up in some difficult spots even when you improve to aces up.
When your opponents are all receiving four down cards it is around six times more likely that you will be up against a rolled up hand. Thus when a low card completes it is much more likely that they have trips but even when they don’t their overall range is much stronger. It will more include strong two-way hands such as 3♠ (4♠ 5♥) or 3♠ (7♠ A♠) as opposed to hands such as 5♠ (4♠ 5♥) or 3♠ (6♦ A♣).
If the pot is likely to be shorthanded you should still definitely re-raise with aces in order to try and get the pot heads-up but the difference in Super is that you should make slighter tighter folds on 5th street than you normally would in the non Super game. This is because you are up against a stronger starting range and will more often be in situations where you are getting free-rolled.
Multiway pots are where you must really exercise some caution because your aces could easily end up in bad situations even when it looked like the cards fell your way on 4th.
Consider a hand where a 5♣ completes and is called by a 2♥ and a 4♦. You are next with aces but unless your holding could also begin to build a flush, straight, or a good low it should probably hit the muck. Thus a hand like A♠ (A♥ 3♠) is highly playable but many players will call with a with a hand like A♠ (A♣ 8♥) figuring they have a chance to potentially weed out players who caught bad on 4th street. Most often your attempts to limit the field will fail. Starting ranges are stronger which makes it more likely a hand is helped one way or another and also players who started strong are apt to get obstinate even if they brick out on 4th. Even when it does work you may have just isolated yourself against a hand that is an equity favorite against yours and one that has hopes to free-roll you.
Let’s look at a situation where the cards appear to fall fairly well for aces on 4th street:
(XX) 5♣ 9♠
(XX) 2♥ J♥
(XX) 4♦ 7♠
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦
Even though you did not improve this was a pretty good development for your hand because two of the low hands appeared to catch useless cards. The 4♦ bets and you raise in an attempt to thin the field. Let’s first assume that you are successful and the other two players do in fact fold. As previously discussed, your opponent’s range is stronger so you could easily be in the following situations:
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ – 54% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ – 46% Equity
(5♠ 6♦) 4♦ 7♠ – 61% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ – 39% Equity
Now let’s look at the times you are not successful and start with the particularly dreadful scenario where the initial raiser was rolled up:
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ – 44% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ – 10% Equity
(5♠ 5♥) 5♣ 9♠ – 46% Equity
Certainly you should not always assume other players have monsters but the above situation is terrible and it will happen a lot more often with the extra down cards so a healthy concern is justified.
Now let’s assume the original raiser folds but the other player calls with a flush draw.
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ – 40% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ – 21% Equity
(7♥ 4♥) 2♥ J♥ – 39% Equity
Or perhaps the five started out with a powerful starting hand and decides he will see 4th street no matter the cost:
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ – 44% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ – 33% Equity
(2♣ 3♣) 5♣ 9♠ – 23% Equity
In the situation above you do have your exact fair share of equity however the probability is high that at least one of your opponents will improve on 5th street which can lead to some difficulties with three betting streets left:
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ 8♠ – 60% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ Q♦ – 31% Equity
(2♣ 3♣) 5♣ 9♠ K♦ – 9% Equity
Here you opponent appearing to go low caught an eight which is not good news for you. The pot would need to be very large for you to continue in the hand and that is probably not the case here. In this game it’s more likely your opponent started with cards clustered around the four such as the threes, fives, and sixes and less likely he started with a small pair with a straight flush kicker. Thus you are less likely to be up against a four card low with a pair, which is the hand you hope you are up against.
Let’s now look at a situation where the low hand bricks but the other hand picks up a flush draw.
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ K♠ – 36% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ Q♦ – 33% Equity
(2♣ 3♣) 5♣ 9♠ K♣ – 31% Equity
Here again you appear to have your exact equity share on this betting round but there are many ways to lose and you will probably experience reverse implied odds.
Lastly, when they both improve you are in a terrible situation:
(3♠ 5♦) 4♦ 7♠ 8♠ – 54% Equity
(A♣ 8♥) A♠ T♦ Q♦ – 21% Equity
(2♣ 3♣) 5♣ 9♠ K♣ – 25% Equity
It is important to remember that these examples assumed that 4th street fell relatively good to you; your situation can easily be worse in many hands. Super Stud Eight or Better is game of big hands and big draws and in multiway pots, a pair of aces with limited other opportunities is just not strong enough.
Razzdugi is a split pot game where the best Razz hand splits with the best Badugi hand. Optimal strategy usually revolves around playing your hands as you would play them in Razz and hope to develop a good badugi along the way. Three suited hands like (3♠5♠)7♠ should typically be folded unless you are on a steal but a similar two suited version such as (3♠5♣)7♠ can often be played. This hand will actually make a badugi far greater than half of the time when played to the end
The most frequent mistake made by inexperienced Razzdugi players is that they often enter the pot with bad three card badugis. Hands like (2♥ 9♦) Q♠ are terrible especially when played multiway. You are drawing extremely thin on the razz side and will often end up with an inferior badugi as well.
A hand like (2♥ A♦) Q♠ is a little better and is one in which you can defend your bring-in versus a single opponent but should still hit the muck if it is multiway. In this game your up card matters a lot so you can certainly try and steal in later position with the (2♥ Q♦) A♠.
Seven Card Stud
In Stud High the most frequent and costly error appears to be getting obstinate and calling down with a high pair against an opponent who paired their door card on 4th street. Consider a hand where a nine up limps in middle position and you complete the bet with an ace up and another ace in the hole. The nine pairs his door card and comes out with a double bet. If you have not improved and are up against trips you only have around 10% equity. Obviously that is a situation to avoid but you must also realize that you are also an underdog to two pair and are not a huge favorite against a pair and a three card drawing hand:
(5♠ 5♣) 9♠ 9♥ – 55% Equity versus Aces
(T♠ J♣) 9♠ 9♥ – 40% Equity versus Aces
(5♠ 2♠) 9♠ 9♥ – 40% Equity versus Aces
To consider calling down you need at least one of the following to be true:
- You have improved to at least two pair preferably both of which are greater than nines
- You can account for at least one other nine
- You have a good read that your opponent would not have limped with a pair
Be careful with the last criteria as it is very possible that your opponent just called the bring-in with a pair to see what some higher cards behind him did before deciding to commit many chips to the pot. Some players will limp/call with a pair of nines while others would never play in that fashion.
This is very frustrating event and seems to happen often but in reality your opponent will only pair his door card around 6% of the time. In poker sometimes the situation just isn’t right and you have to fold what very well could be the best hand but it doesn’t happen enough to worry about being exploited. Regardless of his holding, your opponent simply caught a very good card so the majority of the time you should make a prudent early exit.
Regarding cash game mixes the most glaring mistake in Razz has to be adding it to the mix in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Razz more than most people and think it’s a worthwhile form of poker but compared to the other games it just doesn’t have any action. People who are steaming and ready to dump off the rest of their chips get a chance to calm down and collect themselves. They may be anxious to make some loose calls in attempt to get unstuck but even in that state they will be folding their high cards. Some may even take a walk, come back for the next round, and get back to their ‘A’ game.
When this game is played in tournaments, players typically play this round competently. Still I have observed that some players still the call a steal raise with a very high card when they have the bring-in. No Limit Hold’em players often can’t help themselves because they know the player is most likely stealing and they are getting very high pot odds. This is a bad strategy because your board is very important in Razz and it’s always important to preserve your tournament chips.
This month’s discussions on the stud variants mostly dealt with avoiding situations where you can easily experience reverse implied odds, be drawing very slim (or dead), or get free-rolled. It’s a great feeling when you have your opponent’s “head in a vise” so do your best to deny him that same pleasure.
The series continues next month where the focus will be on several of the draw variants.