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Blind Opening

Of all forms of draw poker, this is one in which it is most important to play sheer percentages. I mentioned before that you cannot afford to sit back and wait for a killing or a cinch in this game, because the overhead per round is so high. When you have a better-than-even chance to win, you must be in there.

Although the blind-opening game was created to add to the amount of action, the game should actually be played quite conservatively because the average bet is so high. I am taking a typical game in which dealer antes $1, next player opens blind for $1, next player raises blind to $2, limit still $1 before the draw and $2 after. There are $4 in the pot, but it costs at least $2 to come in (and usually the automatic first bet is a raise to $3) so that the first man in is getting at most 2 to 1 for his money and usually only 4 to 3—little better than even money. He has to have a pretty good hand to do this.

The first three men aren't going to have merely a straight or flush possibility; they are going to have very high pairs or better. Of course this
game is necessarily pass and out, because the pot has already been opened, so you can always figure how many players after you are still alive and dangerous. In counting the players yet to speak you must, of course, count the blind opener and the blind raiser; but they were forced to bet, and until they have taken voluntary action you do not figure their hands to average any higher than those of any other players who have not been heard from.

The following tables will tell you what you should have to make the first call or raise (when you are the first player to speak, which means a bet of $2 or $3), and to stay in when someone else has bet.

Blind opening; eight players; dealer (G) antes $1, A opens for $1, B raises to $2.

PLAYER
SHOULD CALL ($2) SHOULD RAISE ($3)
C Kings Aces
D Kings Aces
E Queens
Kings
F Tens Queens
G Eights Tens
A Ace-high ($1) Tens ($2)

A, of course, is in a special position because he already has $1 in there and is getting 4 to 1 from that pot if he merely calls.

Players Ahead
of You
Who Have
Come in
(not including opener  or Blind Raiser)                   
If Game Is Conservative If Game Is Liberal
1
Kings Queens
2
Two low pairs Aces
3
Queens up Two low pairs
4
Kings up Tens up
5
Aces up Queens up
6
Three Threes Kings up

The play of straights and flushes is very important in this game. You will note that player A (the blind opener), when everyone except the blind raiser has dropped, should not draw to an open-end straight or to a four-flush. The pot is offering only 4 to 1 and for such a draw you should have 5 to 1 or better.

Because this game may tend otherwise to become dull, many groups seek to enliven it by the introduction of two or more of the special hands—dogs, cats or tigers, skeets, etc. In playing such hands, you simply count the number of cards that will give you a straight or better, subtract that number from 47, and know the odds against you. Though such a hand will usually win if you fill, you should still require substantially higher odds from the pot than the odds against you.

Here is an example of figuring those odds: You are playing dogs (the big dog being ace to nine with no pair) to beat a straight but lose to a flush. Your hand is Q-J-1O-9. There are twelve cards that will give you a straight or better—the four aces, any of which will give you a big dog; the four kings and the four eights, any of which will give you a straight. This is a twelve-timer; you subtract 12 from 47 and find that the odds against you are 35 to 12, or almost exactly 3 to 1. If the pot offers you 4 to 1 or better, you can afford to draw to such a hand. Against one opponent this is a good draw at any odds because any one of twelve other cards will pair you and any pair you make has a chance to win. I do not advise raising on such a hand, or on nearly any hand that must be improved to win, because every raise shortens the odds offered by the pot.

Sometimes, when you are playing the special hands, the inside straight comes into its own—the only time in the game of poker in which it does. For example, if you are playing both dogs and tigers, K-J-10-9 gives you the same twelve opportunities as does K-Q-J-10. Except when these special hands are played, there is almost no conceivable case in poker in which it is wise to draw to an inside straight.

One of the most frequent and therefore one of the most important situations in a blind-opening game concerns the play of player B (the blind raiser) when one other player has raised and everyone else has dropped. There were $4 in the pot origi¬nally; the raiser put in $3, making $7; and player B can stay in for $1, getting 7 to 1 for his money. Attracted by such odds, most players stay on almost anything. In fact, even in fairly good games it is not unusual to see a player toss in his dollar and draw five cards.

You will note that the odds offered by the pot, 7 to 1, justify drawing one card to a four-flush or an open-ended straight, where the odds are 4 or 5 to 1 against filling; they are still against drawing to an inside straight, where the odds are 11 to 1 against filling; they justify drawing four cards to an ace. Drawing four to an ace is very slightly better than drawing three to an A-K of different suits; about the same as drawing three cards to A-K of the same suit; and considerably better than drawing two cards to a three-card flush possibility, a three-card open-ended straight possibility, or even a three-card straight possibility.

In general, even the 7 to 1 odds justify drawing only when you have an ace; or a K-Q of the same suit (to take advantage of certain freak draws); or three cards in sequence no lower than 10-9-8 (so that if you pair one of your cards you will still have a fair chance to win against an unimproved hand); or three cards of the same suit of which at least two cards are ten or higher. In the long run, very little will be lost if you do not even pay your dollar to draw to less than an ace or a low pair, but of course it is fun to be in there drawing.
 
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