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How to play overcards in Texas Holdem poker
The problem of playing overcards
The correct perception of the overcards
The necessary and sufficient condition for playing overcards
The important factors to consider when playing overcards in Texas Holdem
Bluffing with overcards
The problem of playing overcards in Texas Holdem poker
All poker players often face the same problem of playing overcards on the flop. That problem happens on a regular basis. Every time a poker player has premium cards before the flop, he raises hoping to connect on the flop. Small cards show p on the flop and a player sits with his big cards contemplating what to do – to fold if somebody bets or continue to chase them. A player misses the flop about two third of the time. Many poker players don’t have a clear idea on how to proceed in this situation. Some of them stubbornly chase their overcards all the way to the river wasting a lot of chips. Others sheepishly fold them automatically and miss profitable opportunities. Some poker players invent mechanical rules for playing overcards, which can not substitute a careful analysis.
The correct perception of overcards in Texas Holdem poker
When a poker player has nothing but two overcards on the flop, all he can realistically hope for is to hit at least one of his high cards on the turn or river and win the pot with a top pair accompanied by a high kicker. That means that in an essence overcards give a poker player nothing but a draw. It’s a weak draw for a top pair. Top pair, however, wins often enough to justify that draw under the right circumstances.
The necessary and sufficient condition for playing overcards in Texas Holdem poker
Drawing to a top pair, like any other draw, is only justified by the relation of the pot odds to the odds of making the hand. The pot should offer bigger odds than the odds of making the hand – this is the sufficient and necessary condition for continuing with the draw. If a poker player has the right ratio between the pot and hand odds, he is justified with chasing his draw. On the other hand, if a poker player pursues his draw that means that the correct ratio is present.
If a poker player has nothing but overcards on the flop, his odds are roughly 7 to 1 to make a pair on the turn. That means that the pot should offer better than 7 to 1 odds on the flop.
The important factors to analyze when playing overcards in Texas Holdem poker
The only criterion for making a decision to continue or to stop playing overcards on the flop is the ratio of the pot and hand odds. The hand odds are determined by the number of outs. Thus, the realistic evaluation of the outs on the flop becomes the crucial task for a poker player holding overcards. When a poker player has two overcards on the flop, it looks like he has 6 outs to make a pair on the turn. However, often that number does not realistically represent the player’s chances for a winning hand. Many factors may revise that 6 outs number down.
If a flop is rank and color coordinated other players may have strong straight and flush draws (if not already made straights and flushes). Even if a poker player hits his overcards on the turn and gets a top pair, other players may complete their strong draws. If they won’t complete them, they will have a redraw on the turn with a good chance to make a superior hand on the river. When a flop is coordinated, a poker player’s 6 outs for his overcards can not be considered “full” outs, but should be devalued probably to half outs. Thus, all a poker player realistically has in this situation is 3 outs instead of 6. If a pre-flop raised pot offers 10 to 1 odds on the flop, a poker player with overcards on a coordinated flop has 44 to 3 or 14.7 to 1 odds against him. So, he should check if nobody bets in front of him. If somebody bets raising the pot odds to 11 to 1, a poker player should fold his overcards.
If a poker player has average overcards, like for ex. KJ, again the realistic number of his outs should be revised down. Even if he’ll make a pair, his hand can be beaten by KA, KQ or JA.
The number of the poker players in the pot is also an important factor that affects the number of outs giving a player a best hand. The more players are in the pot, the higher the chance that somebody will have eventually strong enough hand to beat a single pair.
On the other hand, if a poker player holding overcards, has both overcards of the same suit that may improve the number of his outs. If one of the cards on the flop is of the same suit as overcards, a poker player has a backdoor flush draw in addition to his overcards. A backdoor flush draw is probably worth one full out. In result, if a board is ragged on the flop, a poker player’s number of outs increases from 6 to 7.
All factors that are worth considering should be considered under one and only one angle – how they affect the realistic number of outs for a poker player’s overcards and, consequently, what the final ratio between pot odds and the hand odds will be.
Bluffing with overcards in Texas Holdem poker
If a poker player with overcards chooses to continue on the flop and misses on the turn, he may bluff from the late position on the turn hoping to win the pot immediately if everybody has checked. The circumstances should be right for that bluff. Preferably, there must be one opponent on the turn. It’s very hard to bluff few opponents out of the pot. Also, the texture of the board should suggest that the opponents are on the weak draw like for ex. a gutshot or overcards.
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