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Mom Taught Me Not to Steal, but Mom Never Played Poker

by Roy West |  Published: May 17, 2005

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Hi. Come on in. We haven't had meatloaf for quite a while, so I've baked a large one containing the secret blend of spices and herbs that my sister taught me. (I think Grandma taught her about 30 years ago.) Carve off a hunk and dig in.

A surprising number of medium- and low-limit poker players don't have a grasp on the concept of thievery in seven-card stud – not cheating, but the legal kind of thievery we call ante stealing. Let's talk about that for a moment.

Generally, you won't encounter an ante until you get to about the $3-$6 limit and higher, and ante-stealing strategy changes as you go up in limits. We're talking here about limits up through $10-$20, but when you play in any game with an ante, you must think about ante stealing. What is ante stealing and why do you want to do it?

First, ante stealing is raising on third street, trying to win the antes and low-card forced bet without opposition when you do not necessarily hold a hand of value. You are "stealing" the antes. Why steal the antes?

If done correctly, it can produce a profit. If not done at all, and you haven't replaced the antes that you have put in on every hand by winning a pot, your stack will be drained. Let's consider a $10-$20 game with a $1 ante, as in Las Vegas. Figure that 30 to 40 hands per hour will be dealt. It's not too difficult, then, to figure that if you didn't play a hand, your stack would deplete by $30 to $40 every hour in antes and your share of the forced low-card bring-in. That's a lot to overcome, and you overcome it by ante stealing. Now that we know "what" and "why," let's look at "how."

Ante stealing is almost always done from a late position, after all or most of the other players have acted. If everyone has folded when the action gets to you, and there is only the forced-bet low card in the pot, it would be extremely foolish of you to fold and surrender all of that money lying out there to what is probably a nothing hand. So, you raise, he folds, and you profit. So far, so good.

If everyone has folded when the action gets to you except for one or two players yet to act after you, usually raise if your upcard is higher than either of theirs. If not, fold if you have no value. If you raise to steal the antes while holding a hand of no real value and are reraised, give it up. Don't throw good money after bad. Yes, you'll be bluffed a time or two, but in the long run, you'll save money.

Forget about stealing the antes if another player already has voluntarily entered the pot before the action gets to you. He came in with something, and if you don't also have "something," fold and wait a moment for the next hand.

Always have the idea in your head that you want to steal as many antes as you can, as often as you can. When you eventually get "caught," back off for a while. Remember, when you are stealing antes, you are always stealing from the same player to your left. He won't like that, and will eventually play back at you with a raise of his own, just to put a stop to it. (You must do the same when some player to your right wants to keep stealing your antes.) Most players will eventually play back at you, but there are exceptions.

A few years back, I once had a guy on my left in a $10-$20 game whom I would like to have there in every game I ever play. He never played back at me in about a five-hour session. I stole the antes from him a dozen times. At $11 a pop ($8 in antes and $3 of low-card bring-in money), I picked up more than $130. That's a lot of money that I could reinvest in antes of my own.

How much ante stealing you can get away with will be different from game to game. It depends on the aggressiveness of your opponents. Pay attention, so that you won't put your neck into any traps. If they are tight and non-callers, steal a lot. If they are loose, aggressive types who play back, steal less.

As a child, you probably were taught not to steal. You learned, "Crime does not pay," and similar such phrases. But in poker, steal you must, or watch your stacks deplete a dollar at a time.

I'm sorry, but my sister has sworn me to secrecy about the "secret blend of spices and herbs" in the meatloaf. But you can take a couple of slices with you to have for breakfast. Now I tire and require repose. Kill the light on your way out. ♠

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. Get Roy's toll-free 800 number from his ad on Page 136.