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You'll Need a Bigger Buy-In for Hold'em

by Roy West |  Published: Mar 22, 2005


Hi. Come on in. Scarf down a pound or so of the frozen grapes. They're good for regularity.

You were asking how much you should buy in for in your poker game. It depends on if you're playing seven-card stud or hold'em. I advise my stud students to start with enough chips on the table to play two hands through to the end. Anytime your stack gets below the amount needed to play one hand through to the end, add to it. An example would be a $5-$10 game in Las Vegas, in which the house requires you to buy in for $50, enough to play a hand to the end without playing short. I suggest buying in to that game for $100. That way, if you take an early beat, you'll still have enough chips to play the next hand without fumbling for more money or getting caught with a good hand and only a few dollars on the table.

Hold'em students are advised to triple the amount of the house requirement because of the great amount of "action" in today's expanding poker universe. You've seen it happen. You make a big hand and someone hits the one card in the deck to send you for your crying towel. And, oh yes, two of your three stacks are now missing.

Change of subject: There's a great poker quote that leads directly to the heart of the game. It's from well-known poker writer Shane Smith.

"Poker is a game in which you have to make the correct decision based on incomplete information leading to an uncertain conclusion." Therein lies the gamble, and I don't like to gamble – never have.

Even as a schoolboy, I didn't like to play marbles because I couldn't afford to lose them. And if I lost them, that was all there was; I didn't have money to spend on more marbles. Consequently, as an adult, my philosophy of poker has become, "Take the gamble out of your game." Of course, I can't do that completely, but I have over the years developed a style and strategy of playing that comes as close as possible to that goal. In fact, it's the method I use in teaching my poker students, both stud and hold'em.

Let's see how much gamble we can take out of a hand that is generally considered to be one with which you gamble. Let's consider the play of one-gap straights on third street in seven-card stud. As the term implies, one-gap straights are straight draws that have a card missing from the sequences. On third street, Q-10-9 would be a one-gap straight beginning, as the jack is missing; Q-J-9 would be another, with the 10 missing.

Do you want to play/gamble with any of these types of hands? Yes, you do, but under the right circumstances. And there aren't many of those circumstances. We've talked before about how much better off you are playing hands with live cards. That continues to hold true, but even more so with one-gap straights. Your "gap" card must be absolutely live, and the cards on either side of your one-gap straight draw must also be live (the eights and the kings for a Q-J-9 draw, along with the tens). You also want at least one overcard – a card in your one-gap hand that is higher than any card showing by a player who is in the pot. That gives you another way to go, by hitting a big pair and then making trips, or making two big pair.

Ante stealing is usually the only time you'll want to raise with a one-gap straight. Calling a raise requires you to have an overcard to the raiser's probable pair, and two suited cards. Those two suited cards will make it considerably easier to make a flush if your hand develops in that direction. And if it does, you'd like to have several players in the pot to build your pot odds. However, if your hand develops in the pair area, you'd like to have few players. Play accordingly – passively in the first instance, aggressively in the second.

You won't be giving up much if you just decide not to play one-gap straights. I don't (but then, I don't like to gamble).

You got "brain freeze" because you put too many frozen grapes in your mouth at once. Take a pocketful and let them thaw out on the way home. And kill the light on your way out. spades

Roy West, author of the bestseller 7 Card Stud, the Complete Course in Winning (available from Card Player), continues working on a hold'em curriculum in Las Vegas for both tourists and locals. Ladies are welcome. Call 1-800-548-6177 Ext. 03.