Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Playing big

Manage your position with pomp

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What's the best way to play a draw to the nuts while out of position? Well in poker there are several different ways to play the same hand, but there are certain factors you should take into account while determining your course of action.

For me, the most important thing is stack sizes. Knowing how much your opponents have in front of them is a key factor in determining my approach in the hand. In fact, not understanding stack sizes is one of the biggest leaks bad or inexperienced players have, in my opinion.

The reason this is important is if you are both deep stacked, then you will have more ways to win the hand even if you don't hit your draw. On the other hand if your opponent is short stacked, more often than not you are going to get him all in, which means if you don't improve you are probably going to lose the pot.

If you are in a hand and both of you are playing around 100-300 big blinds deep, knowing what type of player you are up against will help you make the best decisions during the hand. Is he loose, aggressive, tight or passive? Knowing how your opponent plays will benefit your play.

Imagine you call a raise from the hijack position with A 5 of spades and the flop is 10 8 3 with two spades. You have a few options. First, you can lead out. If your opponent folds, you win the pot right there but what happens if he raises you back? Well, you can call but when out of position I don't really like doing this. The reason is, what are you going to do on the turn? Check-call? If you do this and hit your flush on the river you are left in a weird spot. If you check the river hoping to check raise, it probably won't work as most good players will go ahead and check behind. If you lead, it is highly unlikely you will get paid off.

What I prefer to do if I lead and get raised is to raise them back. The reason is most players might raise you light, thinking that you are leading light. Once you go ahead and raise them back, more often than not you will get them to fold. If they don't, you still have at least nine outs or maybe 12 if your ace is live.

In the above scenario instead of leading you can opt for a check-raise. Continuation bets are so standard that by check-raising every so often you are going to win an extra bet on the flop. If you get called, you have two more streets to semi-bluff and bluff if you don't make your hand. Typically when I play my hand this way (and get called but miss my flush on the turn) I like to make a close to pot sized bet on the turn. Unless they have a really strong hand they are not likely to continue. By betting big you don't allow your opponent to have fold equity as you are committing yourself to the pot.

Playing nut draws out of position is never fun or easy, but by having an understanding of your options you will find yourself making much better decisions.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2011 B13

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Updated on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM CDT: Added to columnist listing

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