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Seven Card Stud: A Marginal Situation

by Kevin Haney |  Published: May 01, 2024

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The following hand came up in a training video from Run It Once of a high-limit, $2,000 seven card stud tournament:

Five-Handed: 50,000-100,000 Limits with a 10,000 ante and 15,000 Bring-In
(X X) 5Club Suit brings in for 15,000,
(X X) 9Spade Suit folds,
(6Club Suit 6Heart Suit) 10Spade Suit completes to 50,000,
(X X) 8Heart Suit folds,
(X X) JDiamond Suit reraises to 100,000 ,
(X X) 5Club Suit folds bring-in

The Hero in the hand ended up folding the pair of sixes to the reraise on third street, a play that received a fair amount of criticism in the comment section. Was this critique fair, or did the player make a reasonable early exit?

The initial open was clearly correct, and isn’t really considered a steal since he often has the best hand and it’s somewhat unlikely that anyone left to act would fold something better. If getting reraised by the eight he has a clear continue since his opponent’s most likely holding would be a pair of eights, and Hero has an overcard kicker. Getting re-raised by a jack, however, is a more concerning matter.

On third street, Hero needs to put in another 50,000 into a pot of 215,000. Effectively he’s getting 4.3:1, corresponding to a target equity of around 19%.

So, what is the range of hands that the jack could have and how does Hero’s holding fare against it? In this high buy-in tournament it’s reasonable to assume that your opponents are aggressive and would attack a potential steal attempt with a wide array of hands.

Given that, let’s assume the jack has a range of rolled up trips, pairs of jacks, wired pairs tens or greater, and other wired pairs 2-2 thru 9-9 when accompanied with a two flush. In addition, we should also consider drawing hands such as three flushes, high cards with straight potential (e.g. Q-J-10, J-10-9, K-J-10), or even just A-K-X. And against this range, Hero has decent equity; around 45% give or take.

Given this estimate of equity in relation to the immediate pot odds offered, it’s easy to be critical of the fold, but there is much more to consider.

The impact of reverse implied odds should always be considered as even a somewhat wide reraising range would still contain a good amount of split jacks and big wired pairs. We are in quite bad shape against these hands, and making two smaller pair is frequently a payoff hand.

The hand also doesn’t end on third street. Is the plan to continue on until seventh street regardless of what we catch? That’s probably not the case, but when calling future streets our true odds are much worse than the 4.3 to 1 currently being offered. We must also keep in mind that in a tournament situation the chips we stand to win are worth less than those that we can lose.

Most of the time the plan is to call and re-evaluate on fifth street, and if this is how we do choose to proceed, how often are we going to improve to a degree where it feels correct to continue on? We will improve to two pair or better around 20.4% of the time which includes catching a running pair. Around 41.2% of the time we will pick up an overcard (a queen, king, or ace), and have a 3.3% chance of arriving on fifth street with a pair along with a gutshot straight draw (i.e. 6-6-10-9-8).

Summing this up, we will improve to a holding that we can consider proceeding with around 65% of the time. This might seem like a high probability, however, we cannot neglect the fact that our opponent may also improve in sight, and thus we may still be forced to fold even when we do improve.

For example, we are going to have to fold the majority of our hands when he pairs his door-card, and often when he makes a running pair as well. We are also going to have to muck our holding when our opposition’s board gets dangerous, such as three diamonds showing.

All things considered, we may only be able to continue on fifth street around 55% of the time, which greatly erodes what appeared to be a significant overlay on third street. Thus, when viewing our third-street decision, it’s probably more accurate to assume we have approximately 25% equity (55% * 45%) as opposed to the pure 45% “hot/cold” we estimated against his possible reraising range. This makes it a much closer proposition, where continuing on might have a small positive expectation.

That said, this situation is highly player dependent. For example, if we were to assume that our opponent has a tighter reraising strategy than indicated above, our estimated equity against it will be much lower.

For example, would our opponent possibly fold or just call with hands such as (4Diamond Suit 4Spade Suit) JDiamond Suit or (AClub Suit KSpade Suit) JDiamond Suit? Even though this is a high buy-in event some players might even flat a three flush. If we assume any of this is probable, or even just possible, then continuing on with the pair of sixes would likely be a losing proposition.

Of course, we must also consider meta-game factors and the impact that may come from folding too many hands that we initially complete. If our opponents get a sense that we may be over-folding, they might subject us to more frequent re-steal attempts in the future.

Overall, it appears unlikely that Hero may be over-folding in this situation as a pair of sixes without even a two-flush is quite a weak holding. A hand like (7Spade Suit 7Club Suit) 10Spade Suit is somewhat similar in immediate hand strength, but has a lot more potential to pick up a strong draw by fifth street.

It’s fair to debate the fold, but one cannot simply view the decision point as simply estimating our equity against a range and comparing it to the pot odds on third street as it’s much more involved than that. And some deference must always be given to the Hero playing the hand, and any reads that he may have accumulated over the course of the tournament. Even when applying the most advantageous assumptions the decision is probably closer than many anticipate since this is quite a marginal situation. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. The certified personal trainer owned a gym in New Jersey, but has since moved to Las Vegas. He started playing the game back in 2003, and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. Learn more or just say hello with an email to haneyk612@gmail.com.