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Do You Need to Play Hold’em?

There is a huge rush these days with nearly all poker players to play nothing but hold’em. One might say that this is where the action is and they would be right. But yet for many players and especially those who only play single tables then playing hold ’em may not be the optimal choice. Texas hold’em is no doubt the most widely played form of poker that there is at the moment. As long as that form of poker is played on television as widely as it is then this situation isn’t likely to change soon.

Yet there is value to be found in playing and specializing in other forms of online poker. Imagine that some the first-ever games that you played online was Omaha Hi/Low split. You may have never played this game seriously but had just read Ray Zee’s excellent book on the game and decided to give it a go. Now suppose the play was ridiculously bad and you still managed to make easy money, it wasn’t great money but it was easy money and that is no way entirely disappointing.

Pretend that you quickly switched to limit hold’em but never forgot past experiences playing Omaha or O/8. Since then, of course, the average players in all forms of online poker have become tougher to beat but you will still wager that playing other less popular forms of poker can be where the money is in 2021.

Specializing can be a very good thing in poker as you can often get drifters into your game who just fancy a change of scenery. It can be these types of players that are your biggest profit potential if you are a specialist in a certain game. Even if there are not too many games available then it may be worth your while to wait instead of playing until your chosen game fills up.

Or have you ever considered starting a game yourself? If you haven’t then why not? Someone has to start a game of poker and look at all of the advantages of starting a game yourself. Firstly you are now speeding up the process of finding a game. Most online players will not sit at an empty table but will place their names down on a waiting list with the fewest names on.

So all it can take to snowball into a full-ring game is one other player to sit with you and then two becomes three then four and so on. But this process also has one other decided advantage and that is if weaker players sit down with you then you could have these players all to yourself for a while until the better players show up.

If you are a decent hold ’em player then there is nothing wrong with learning other forms of poker. Big multi-tabling regulars will shy away from this of course and rightly so but as I said earlier, I am aiming this article at single tabling players who also may not be great hold’em players or players who could do with learning another form of poker to give them more earning potential.

Playing the River – Sample EV Calculation

Decisions should be more straightforward on the river than they are on other rounds of betting. With no cards left to come, implied pot odds are no longer relevant; straight pot odds calculations are all that is needed in order to figure out EV (expected value).

Here is all the required information: your hand, the flop turn, and river cards, the previous action, and a profile of your opponent. Then, we will make an educated guess about our opponent’s range. At that point, we can determine the expected value. This will be a fairly math-heavy process, a necessary evil for the non-mathematically inclined.

The point of the article is to illustrate how to use pot odds calculations to determine the value of a given play on the river. Although the example is from Limit Hold’em, the same type of calculation can be used in any game.

Background Info

Game: $15/$30 Limit Hold’em

Your hand: K7

Flop: T73

Turn: 4

River: J

Opponent: A loose and very aggressive, winning player. He goes to showdown quite a bit but also knows how to fold. A very good player.

Previous action: Your opponent open raised on the button. The small blindfolded and you called in the big blind (this call may seem loose, but you must defend hands like these against aggressive blind stealers. You check-raised the flop and bet the turn, which he called. Now you must decide whether or not you want to bet again on the river, with the J coming on board.

Opponent’s range: This can only be a guess, one that is based on our player profile and the previous action in the hand. We can eliminate most strong hands because our opponent would have shown more aggression either on the flop or turn. I would guess our opponent could have:

22, 55, 66, 88, 99

A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, AJ, AQ, AK


T9, T8s

The question now is should we bet or check? 

First, we will calculate the EV of betting:

EV of betting

Our opponent will fold A2, A5, A6, and KQ if we bet, so we can ignore them.

He’ll call and we’ll win 1 big bet if has: 22 (6 combos), 55 (6 combos), 66 (6 combos), A3 (12 combos), A4 (12 combos), AQ (12 combos), AK (16 combos). There are 6 ways to make each pair, 12 ways to make A3, A4, and AQ because there is one 3, 4, and Q out, and 16 ways to make AK.

He’ll call and we’ll lose 1 big bet with 88 (6 combos), 99 (6 combos), T9 (12 combos), T8s (3 combos), and A7 (8 combos).

He’ll raise and we’ll lose 2 big bets with AJ (12 combos) and KJ (12 combos).

So our big, messy EV equation is:

EV = (1X(6+6+6+12+12+12+16)bets – 1X(6+6+12+3+8)bets – 2X(12+12)bets)/Total number of combinations (including ones he would fold)

= (70 – 35 – 48)/217

= -0.060bets

The EV of betting is -0.060 big bets

Now we have to determine the EV of checking and calling if our opponent bets.

EV of checking and calling

If we check, what hands will our opponent bet? Most of his range has showdown value, so the only ones he’d bluff are KQ, A2, A5, and A6. Most players would be unlikely to bet as a bluff with Ace high here, so we’ll limit it to KQ.

Let’s assume he bets with a pair of 7s or better. That would be A7 (12 combos), 88 (6 combos), 99 (6 combos), T9 (12 combos), T8s (3 combos), AJ (12 combos), and KJ (12 combos).


EV = (1X(16 combos of KQ) – 1X(12+6+6+12+3+12+12))/217

= (16-63)/217

= -0.217 big bets

The EV of checking and calling is -0.217 big bets.

If you think he would also bet with a pair of 4s, 5s, or 6s, it’s closer, but it’s still better to lead with a bet than to check and call.

You may ask what the purpose of doing this type of calculation is. Of course, one could never go to these lengths during a hand. 

However, a serious poker player will pursue his or her interest even away from the table (it’s what you’re doing reading this!). Taking difficult hands from your previous session and working out answers mathematically prepares us for similar situations in the future. We develop and enhance the intuition that informs us at the table.

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