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Checking a Seven

This following essay is not so much important for a winning poker. However, the question which is often raised among good lowball players in California is whether it can ever be the correct play to check and then call after-the-draw with a seven low. The definite answer is given below.

First, we will explain why this question even comes up. It is because of the sevens rule that is used in almost all limit lowball games.

The rule says that if you check a seven low or better after the draw and then call a player who has bet behind you, you must return his last bet if you beat him. You will still win the pot but not the last bet. If he has the better hand you still lose that last bet. Therefore once you check a seven after-the-draw you can only lose bets but not win anything.

Now the situation might arise where you should check a seven with the intention of folding if someone bets. This should also be done if you are certain that you will only be called if you are beaten and bet only if you are beaten.

The difficult question is whether it can be correct to check and then call with a seven, especially in a poker holdem heads-up situation. Let's take the situation from a $10 "blind" game.

You have


You raise it to $20. An aggressive player makes it $30 and you make it $40. He calls and you stand pat and he draws one card. You can put him on something like



to draw to.

Let's assume that you know that he has this exact hand. Considering the cards in your hand, this gives twelve cards to beat you as well as four cards to make him an eight low and four cards to make him a nine low. Should you now check your pat seven after-the-draws?

If you do, you should surely call if he bets as he will bet an eight low as well as his better hands. If the bet is $20 you will be getting approximately 5-to-1 pot odds, even though you must refund his bet if he is betting the eight. However, you are only a 3-to-1 underdog as you will beat him if he catches four of the sixteen cards that will make him bet. (It is assumed that he will show down a nine low.)

How to play this hand depends on how you think he will play. Let's take three cases (It's assumed that he will bet an eight or better if you check):

•  If you bet he will call with an eight low and raise with a seven or better.

•  If you bet he will raise with an eight or better and fold otherwise.

•  If you bet he will call with a nine low and raise with a eight or better.

Case No.1 is not only simplest but it also how the typical player would play. Against him you should bet but then fold if you are raised. If he makes an eight low then you win a bet from him. If you check you have to call in case he made an eight but if you do, you have to return that $20. As long as the raise doesn't actually hurt you (because you do not have to pay it off), it is better for you to bet than to call.

Let's see how you do casino poker betting in Case No.2. For doing this, you must consider the sixteen times he makes his hand. Because he will raise with an eight or better, pot odds force you to call his raise. Thus, four times you win a double bet ($40) and twelve times you lose $40.

This works out to a total of $320 lost in sixteen trials

-320 = (4)*(40) - (12)*(40)

or an average of $20.

20 = 320/16

However, if you check and call you lose $20 twelve times and break even four times (as you have to give him his money back) for a net loss of a net loss of $240 in sixteen tries

-240 = (12)(-20) + (4)(0)

or $15 per trial.

15 = 240/16

This is a case where it is correct to check and call.

We will again work out mathematically for Case No.3. If you bet, you once again must call his raise. However, he will call your bet with nine low and raise with an eight or better. After twenty trials, on average you will win $20 four times (when he makes a nine); win $40 four times (when he raises with an eight); and lose $40 twelve times (when he makes a seven or better). This is a net loss of $240 after twenty decisions going for overcall.

-240 = (4)(20) + (4)(40) - (12)(40)

Checking results in a $20 loss twelve times and a refund to him the other eight times, which is also a $240 loss

-240 = (12)(20) + (8)(0)

or an average of $12.

Now the decision is a toss-up. If there is any chance at all that he will call with a ten low (or that he won't raise with a seven low) the correct play is once again to bet.

Without going into technical mathematical formulas, we see that situations rarely arises in which it is correct to check and call with a seven low. They occur when:

•  The pot is large.

•  Your rival will not call with many hands worse than yours.

•  Your rival is a complicated player who rarely raises (if you beat) with the hand that you can beat.

(The above situations will only occur when you have a pot holdem poker hand.)

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