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Third Street Play

There are various important concepts related with third street play in razz. The most important one is ante-stealing. While it is true that you need a good hand to start with even in the high ante $30-$60 game, you only need this good hand if you know or almost sure you will be up against one or more rivals. However, if there is little chance that by raising you will steal the antes, you might very well be correct to raise with weaker hand. This can be a classic example of semi-bluff. The situation may arise when the high card has bet, you have a low card showing and no other low card has yet called. If you raise, you not only may steal the antes but you will also have a second chance to win the pot if you get called and continue to catch a good card on board on the next round of betting. This play can be correct if there is one or sometimes even two low cards showing behind you who has yet to act. For example you have

And after a king brings it in for $5 in the $15-$30 game, you raise one or two remaining low cards behind you who have not yet acted (it is assumed that all the high cards are automatically folded), you will win the $13 in antes including the $5 bring-in when both low cards fold. If you are not re-raised on third street, you have second chance of winning even if you are called by one of the other low cards. This will happen, for instance, if you catch another baby on fourth street and he catches a bad one and now throws away his hand. Even if he doesn't throw away his hand you have now caught up with him and you will have the better hand as you have the better board. Therefore if you are in a game where few players re-raise on third street and you have a chance to steal the antes as no other hand has yet called, you are in a situation in the $15-$30 game (when the game is eight-handed) of risking $15 to win $13 as well as the extra chance of winning even if you are called. In the $30-$60 game when it is eight-handed you are risking $30 to win $40. Obviously as long as you think you have around a 50-50 chance of stealing the ante in the $15-$30 game you should try to do so.

You should often try in games where people occasionally re-raise on third street . In the $30-$60 game you have to be only about 40 percent sure that you can steal the ante so as to make it correct to try for doing so. And, again you can reduce this requirement if there is some chance you will be re-raised. This is known as counter strategy which has been explained in the chapter "Defense against the Semi-Bluff" in The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. When you are in a situation where somebody else is raising and may be trying to steal the ante and you find yourself with any kind of playable hand such as three-card eight, it is important that you re-raise him so that he does not have these two different ways of winning the pot, especially by stealing or by out-flopping you on fourth street. Also by playing in such a manner it will make him less likely to try to steal through you.

Coming back to steal, it is preferred when stealing the antes to have one other low card. We have two good reasons for this: First, by restricting to a two-card low, you take this frequency of stealing less than 100 percent when you have one or two low cards behind you. If you always try to steal then the other players will realize it and start re-raising or calling without a hand knowing that you don't have very much. Restricting to two-card hand is a good way to randomly select to those hands that you will steal with. Second, as long as you are not likely to get re-raised, you have an extra little out by raising with a two-card hand. That is, for instance, you catch a good one on fourth street after being called and your rival catches a bad one but still decides to call your bet. As you have started with a two-card hand, you will have as good a hand as your rival unless you have paired your upcard so that if he does call you it won't make any difference to you. In this same situation, if you were only playing a one-card hand and had, let's say a K-Q in the hole, you will still be in rather bad position on fourth poker street and now need to catch another good one to his bad one.

When you re-raise on third street and have been trying to steal the ante, you should fold. To call in this situation, you need about a three-card nine. This can be adjusted depending on the player who re-raises and what you think he will re-raise with. It of course also depends on the cards that are out. A three-card nine is particularly worth raising on even if there are three low cards behind you. In many cases, trying to steal the ante is not correct if there are more than two low cards - although a three-card ten has a little value and in some kind of games you might consider low cards behind you. We expect that the reader understands that when talking about three-card nine and three-card tens that that 9 or 10 is in the hole. However, it is difficult to understand that in razz your board (the cards that are showing) is important as far as whether you can play a hand. A three-card eight or a four-card eight or an eight-made is a much weaker hand if the 8 is showing. The same also applies to nines and tens. There are many other reasons and we shall talk about it later. But first, just realize that if you have that higher card showing, you have taken away much of your betting power and deception.

To outline ante-stealing:

•  Just try it if no one else has yet called.

•  Try to have at least two-card hand with a low card showing (the only exception being if you are the very last low card and only have 10s or higher behind you. Here you can raise irrespective of your hole cards as you will often steal the ante and don't particularly mind if you don't.)

•  Steal little more in the bigger ante ($30-$60 game) than in the $15-$30 game.

•  Steal if you have only one low card behind you and sometimes if you have two low cards behind you, particularly if you have a three-card nine or three-card ten.

•  Steal with three low cards that haven't acted behind you and sometimes four if you have a three-card nine with the 9 in the hole.

•  Adjust your stealing frequency based on the rivals behind you and how often you expect to get called as well as how often you will get re-raised.

•  Throw all three-card jacks or worse away if you are re-raised when you try to steal the ante.

•  Steal few antes in the short-handed game.

Earlier this last concept was not mentioned and many readers would get confused by saying it to yourself, "Shouldn't you steal more in a short-handed game?" Well it is the most misunderstood concept in poker and razz provides the best example of why it is. To exemplify: Suppose you are in an eight-handed razz game, a king has brought it in, four people have folded and you find yourself the third from the last low card. In a $15-$30 game you will have to decide whether you should risk $15 to win the $13 already in there when the two cards and the original high card throw their hands away. However, let us compare this situation to a four-handed game where the high card has brought it in and you are next with a low card and there are two small cards behind you. The situation is same in all respects except one. Whether four people have already folded is not significant factor. What is significant is that you are now left with two other small cards and the initial high card that brought it in. However, in a four-handed game, you are risking $15 to win $9 thus you should be less inclined to steal the ante. In simple words, once people to your right have thrown their hands away, the important thing is that how many low cards are remaining that need to be stolen through. As you are getting larger price it is worth to steal antes in a ring game with some people already folding than through the same number of remaining people in a short-handed game. You should in fact constantly ignore, even by good players.

The time you steal the antes are about the only times you will be playing without a good hand to start with. When we mean a good hand, it means three-card eight or better. Unless everybody has high card showing where even a three-card ten, for instance, would have to be played for its own sake as it is the best hand.

Before talking about how to play your normal starting reading poker hands, we shall mention two other times when you might consider playing a bad hand. One time arises almost often in the $30-$60 game. Suppose the high card has brought it in for $10 in an eight-handed game, a low card has called, all other low cards have folded and you are the last low card and have

Even if you are almost sure that the initial caller had good hand, it may be correct to call in expectation of out-flopping him. This is true if you know your rival will throw away his hand if you catch a small one and he catches a big one. This is so because in a full $30-$60 game there is $60 in the pot when it is $10 to you. You are getting 6-to-1 odds that you will out-flop him and the odds are only about 4-to-1. Therefore, under those circumstances, it is correct to call with a two-card hand (as long as you have a low card showing). However, the play is not that good if you think that he will call you on fourth street even if you do catch a good one and he catches a bad one. If that is the case, it becomes closer as to whether you should have called first. In addition to this, the fact that the high card might have two small ones in the hole and might have a tendency to call if he catches a baby even though you do too and you have a very close play. This play is not correct when two or more low cards have already called, especially if you think that the two low cards that have already called have good three-card hands. It is incorrect if they are the kind of players who won't think you have very much as you limped in last position. The reason why it isn't correct to call here when two or more low cards have come in is because in spite of the fact that your odds have increased, your chances have decreased even more. You are now getting 7-to-1 instead of 6-to-1 but your chances of out-flopping both of them is in the neighborhood of 10-to-1. This is another example of a classic mistake made by many other players in the pot as they are getting high odds. The main point is that the higher money odd is not enough to compensate for the still higher odds against winning.

The second time to consider playing a non-three-card hand is when you are the high card and there has been a raise behind you. At this point, we can say that the high card is played more frequently in this situation in Las Vegas even by good online poker players. If you always throw away a 10 or higher irrespective of the situation in those games where the raise back to you is double the initial bring-in, you wouldn't be that far off. However, this could be bit too tight. When you are considering calling with your high card and two babies in the hole you must consider four factors:

•  What are those two babies i.e. are they bicycle cards or just two cards to a seven?

•  The cards that are out in other words your hand is better if all of the cards that make your hand are still in the deck than if many of those cards are gone. It is better still if your cards are still in the deck and your pairing cards are gone.

•  How many players are already playing?

•  Might you be against a person who does not have to have a hand because he was stealing?

There is a difference between a 10 and a king and this could be considered a fifth factor. If all the above factors are positive, it would usually be correct to call, especially in a higher ante game. Therefore if you brought it in with a

There were two 3s and a 4 gone and the last player raised with a 7 you would surely be correct in taking a card. As discussed in last paragraphs you do not want to be up against two or more low cards in this situation because while your odds have increased, your chances have decreased even more so. However, in this particular situation you are up against one player who was in the steal position and you might even have the best hand right now.

We also point out, however, that even if he has no hand his hand is in practice better than yours only because he has that low card showing. If he catches a baby and you catch a big one you should fold and this gives him an edge. If you have anything other than these better conditions, you should throw away your hand. In fact, even under these better conditions it is a very close play as to whether you should call when you have a king showing. In other words, even if the player who has raised is in the total steal position and would raise with any three cards and you have bike cards in the hole, there is nothing wrong with throwing your hand away, especially in the $15-$30 game where you are only getting 2.8-to-1 at this point. In a $30-$60 game you are getting 7-to-2 and this could swing it to a call. It also slightly depends on how well your rival plays. The worse he plays the more you might be induced to call.

To review: Even when you are high, don't call a raise if you are up against a player who you are sure has a hand, if you are up against two or more players or if your cards are not live.

This concept of how live your cards are is a good starting point for our discussion of normal playing hands. Many players do not realize the significance of the cards that are out in the game of razz. They easily see it in a game like seven card stud, but don't think it means much in a game like razz. They are wrong, especially with a medium type hand. A hand like

can be anything from a good hand worth maximum raises to a hand that should be thrown away.

Anytime you pick up three low cards the first thing you should do is notice the cards that are out. While it is good that the cards that make your hand are still in the deck, it is good if the cards that pair your upcard are gone. As razz is a game of strong boards, if the cards that pair your upcard are gone you can only make a pair if it is hidden. This is a great advantage. But even forgetting the last factor, the fact is

is a favorite over

if there is, suppose one 7, one 4 and one ace gone. After seeing the cards that are out, you can adjust the strength of your hand depending on those cards that out. Obviously, everything else being equal, a three-card bike would be considered a best hand, a three-card six or seven-four would be considered a good hand, a three-card rough seven or smooth eight would be considered a decent hand while a three-card nine or rough eight would considered a poor hand. It has been given just to describe how to play various hands. However, the cards that are out can easily shift your hand to at least one category. Therefore,

can become a fair or even a good hand if the right cards are gone and

can be only a good, or possibly fair hand is the wrong cards are gone. This concept cannot be over-stated. You had a 7 showing and put in the last raise even though you are sure you are up against three-card sixes or three-card bikes. Similarly, you have thrown away three-card sixes when many of needed cards were showing. (Mainly for a "cold" double raise.)

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