Poker Coverage:

Explain Poker Like I’m Five: Free Card Play

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jul 08, 2015


Not everyone jumped on the poker bandwagon during the Moneymaker boom. When you’ve been playing the game for years, it’s easy to forget that poker speak may as well be a different language. A lot of players are just picking up a deck of cards for the first time and may be wondering what the hell the rest of us are talking about.

Maybe you are new to poker as well and want to start analyzing hands for yourself, but sometimes the lingo or a foreign concept gets in the way. To combat this barrier to entry,_ Card Player_ brings you this series, Explain Poker Like I’m Five.

Every issue, we’ll take on a new term or idea, perhaps one you might come across elsewhere in this very magazine, and we’ll break it down to its simplest components.

The Concept: Free Card Play

What Is It?

A bet or a raise on a cheap street that encourages players to check to you on a more expensive street, giving you the opportunity to see the next card or showdown for free. This is often done with drawing hands or for pot control. This play is almost always used when in position behind your opponent, although it can occasionally be used out of position with a check raise to slow down the aggressor on later streets.

Okay, Now Explain It Like I’m Five

Players earn a free card later in hands by betting or raising earlier in the hand.

Give Me An Example

You are holding ADiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit and raise from the button. The big blind calls and the flop comes down JDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit 4Club Suit. The big blind checks to you. You decide to bet with your nut flush draw, and your opponent calls.

The turn is the 2Spade Suit, not helping your hand. Because you bet the flop, your opponent checks, assuming you may bet again. He may be doing this with a draw himself, a value hand, or a monster he plans to check raise with. Now, you have the option to check behind and see the river card for free.

You can also utilize the free card play with a value hand in order to control the size of the pot. Say you raise a limper preflop with KClub Suit QClub Suit and he calls. The flop comes down KHeart Suit 10Heart Suit 9Spade Suit. He checks and you bet. He calls.

The turn is the 9Diamond Suit and he checks. There is a chance you still have the best hand, but because you want to keep the pot small, you can now safely check behind because your flop bet earned you a free card. Then you can re-evaluate your hand on the river depending on your opponent’s action.

You can also sometimes earn a free card out of position. If a late position player raises and you call out of the blinds with 10Spade Suit 9Spade Suit , then the flop comes 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit 3Club Suit, you can lead out or check raise your opponent, and possibly get him to check behind on the turn if a blank card hits, giving you a free look at the river. ♠