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Straight Draw Poker

This is the game in which you can open on anything and in each turn you must bet or drop ("pass and out"). In each turn you must at least chip along, where in a jackpots game you could check free.

Much depends on the relative value of a white chip (the chip of lowest value; it may be blue). Some players make the white chip of nominal value only—say ten cents, when the limit is $1 before the draw and $2 after, and when the white chip is seldom bet except for perfunctory purposes. From such games came the entire present custom of checking free; the "white check" was worth so little that it seemed hardly worth while to keep a stack of them and bother to put them in.

But in the usual pass-and-out game, the white chip is twenty-five cents when the limit is $1 and $2. Also, in such games there is usually an ante by each player of one white chip, which in an eight-hand game creates a pot of $2 before the first bet. In such a game the overhead is high ($2 per round) and the player must look for action on small pots as well as big ones, as otherwise the overhead will ruin him.

To maintain your chance of getting action on your fair hands, you have to toss in your white chip. Yet there are at least two reasons for being conservative. First, the white chips do mount up. Second, if you are the first to toss in your white chip, technically you become the opener and have bad position after the draw.

One thing many players tend to forget in an "open on any¬thing" game is that although jacks or better are not required to open, there are going to be just as many good hands around the table as there are in a jackpots game. At the start the pot may seem to offer you 7- or 8-to-l odds on your white chip, but before the betting is finished it is very likely that someone will make the full bet of $1 and very likely someone will raise, and it will cost you just as much as it would have cost in jackpots. If you wouldn't have opened or stayed in jackpots, usually you shouldn't open or stay in this game. However, there are some important exceptions.

For example, in the early positions you should toss in your white chip with an open-end straight or a four-flush. Otherwise, it is usually unwise to play without a high pair (kings or better; many successful players say queens or better) or, of course, a better hand. With a really strong hand, one on which you might have sandbagged by passing in a jackpots game, it is usually best merely to chip along in this game, awaiting some action in the betting and then raising when it comes back to you.

One important difference between this game and jackpots is that you can play percentages in late positions, even if you wouldn't have had openers in jackpots. I will repeat the hands it takes to have a better than even chance to beat a given num¬ber of players who have not yet been heard from:

Hand Required To Beat
Any pair               1 opponent
Eights                  2 opponents
Jacks                   3 opponents
Kings                   4 opponents
Aces                    5, 6, or 7 opponents

That is, if you are next-to-last man—only the dealer yet to be heard from, the other players being out—you can make the limit bet with any pair; if you are third from the end, your pair should be at least eights; if you are fourth from the end, it should be at least jacks; and so on.

However, there is more theory than practical value in such a table. Usually one or more of the early players will have put in their white chips and you cannot be sure whether they are weak or strong. Especially you must watch the position of the players who are in ahead of you. If the first or second men from the dealer have chipped along, it doesn't mean a thing; they may have anything. If the fourth or fifth man has merely chipped, he probably does not have a very strong hand. He would probably have bet the limit if he had had a good hand.

In late positions you can't afford to let the first round go by with nothing but white chips in there. From about the fourth man on, and certainly no later than the fifth man, you should almost invariably make the maximum bet if you have aces or two pairs—any hand that figures to be high before the draw. Every now and then you will merely chip along on such a hand, either because you have reason to believe there is going to be action later or for the purpose of mixing up your game and keeping the other players guessing. Such cases should be rare.

Both the nature of this game and human nature are such that there are many more draws to straights and flushes than there are in any other form of draw poker. In jackpots a player will
(or at least should) throw away a straight or flush draw without hesitation when he is first or second man from the opener; he does not yet know how big the pot will be and it costs too much to come in. In this game, however, it costs only a chip, the pot already offers him excellent odds for that one chip, and he can make his final decision later.

At that later time, he must chiefly consider two things: First, the size of the pot; second, his position. If a couple of players have merely chipped after him, they may be waiting to raise and the price of his entry will go up. In such a case he should pocket his one-chip loss and get out. When no one can raise after him, he should stay if the pot gives him 5 to 1 or better.

The opener's position is not too bad. If he fills, he can judge from the draws whether to bet out or merely chip and wait. If he does decide to chip and wait, at least he will have heard from every player before his time comes again. A player can be seriously embarrassed when the opener is at his right and bets, because he may be in the middle of a couple of raising hands and lose a lot of money instead of settling early for his one white chip.
 
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