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Folding the nuts? Poker strategy

Written by:   Kevin Stevenson

Folding the best hand? Are you nuts?

Many card players start out their careers in small buy in no-limit Hold 'em tournaments. From there they move to real money tables and try to find a structure they are comfortable with. Be that no-limit Hold'em, higher stakes fixed-limit, or pot-limit. Occasionally a pure Hold'em player decides to try one of the other popular poker games such as 7-card, or Omaha or often the somewhat exotic Omaha-Hi-Low.

These three games present a situation that is much more unusual in Hold'em, a situation where two or more players hold the nuts. Examples are as follows; in 7-card you and another player both have 2 cards down and 4 up and the four up either form a straight or with the two hole cards could form a straight equally high. In Omaha there are plenty of times where more than one player has the nut straight. Omaha Hi-Low presents the most examples and the most complications. It is also our best evidence that sometimes the nuts just don't cut it.

With hi-low as a separate issue let's first consider 7-Card and Omaha. Here, given the right information about your opponent you will choose to act differently. If your opponent is a maniac and you have the best possible hand - for example a straight with a flush draw on the board, or trips with a straight draw on the board - you are going to raise as much as possible. Or in 7-Card a straight in your hand and what could be an equally high straight and also a flush draw in his hand

If your opponent is a rock then you will have to reconsider. The last thing you want to do is let him free roll on your money. Free rolling meaning that in the worst case situation he is going to split the pot with you and in the best case he is going to win. It is also important to realize that in Omaha, the highest trips can be the favorite to LOSE against a serious draw. In the worst case scenario you have the top trips and the flop has a straight flush draw on it. Your opponent could be holding a hand No Pair 9 High that has a 68.47% chance of winning! This would be the case if he had #4s #5s #8c #9c while you had #7d #7h #Ah #Kh and the flop was #3s #6c #7s. Here if you have the set and your opponent, the rock, raises in such a way that you have to put in more than 1/3 of the pot you should fold. If he is a maniac you should raise or call depending on what you think he might be holding.

In Omaha-hi-low the nut low is often split by a number of people. Do not call pot bets with just the nut low and no high card or draw to a new nut low in a multi-way pot. You run the risk of only winning back ¼ or less of the pot and that is a losing proposition.

The most common free roll situation which is very difficult to recognize is be it in Texas Holdem or Omaha is if you should fold the nut straight while there is a flush draw out there. Here you have to ask yourself is my opponent the type that will only raise with nuts and a draw? Or is he the type that will raise to protect the nuts or is he the type to semi bluff hard. If he only enters raising wars with the nuts and a draw you are putting money into a pot in the hopes of splitting it at best and losing it at worse. This is not a good idea. The important thing to remember is that there are hands out there superior to the nuts due to their ability to improve. With this in mind just make sure that you occasionally consider the option of folding your nuts.

About the Author
Kevin Stevenson is a freelance writer focusing on poker. Has done a lot of work for the worlds biggest online poker guide, PokerListings.com.

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