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Home > Poker Pros > Articles > Howard Lederer

Articles - Howard Lederer

Logical Reads vs. Instinctive Reads
by Howard Lederer

I want to deal with an oft misunderstood concept in high limit poker. Although I often make a pure read based on a "tell" or just a feeling, most of my "reads" in poker are based on logic. Also, as this hand will illustrate, you don't have to use your read to make a huge fold. Especially in limit, you can use it to limit your losses or maximize your gain in a hand.

The game is triple draw 2-7 lo-ball. I know many of you may not have played this game, but I think this hand can be followed. And, I think the final betting round will offer one of the purest logical reads I have ever seen in poker. The game is played like draw poker, only difference is the WORST high hand wins. A wheel (the best hand) is 2-3-4-5-7 with the second best being 2-3-4-6-7 etc. One example is: 9-8-7-6-4 beats 10-5-4-3-2. Just find the losing high hand, and it wins in lo-ball. The main feature of this version is the triple draw. There is a betting round followed by a draw, betting round, draw, betting round, final draw, final betting round. In 10-20 the betting rounds are 10-10-20-20. Needless to say, the game plays big and there is a lot of action.

We are playing 1000-2000 five handed. One fold to me, I have 2-4-5-x-x and I raise. I don't have a great hand, but it is quite playable as I have three pieces to a wheel and three draws to make a hand. The button re-raises, and the small blind calls. The big blind folds and I call. Both the button and the SB are strong players who know the game well. The small blind draws two cards, I draw two cards and hit 2-4-5 (8-6). The button draws two also. SB checks, I bet, button raises, the SB calls, I re-raise, button and SB call. My hand is quite strong, but can easily be beaten. SB draws two, I stand pat, and the button draws one. SB checks, I bet, button raises, SB calls, and I call. I think I am probably beaten, but there is too much in the pot to fold. Also, if I folded every time I didn't have a seven low when I got raised, I would be bluffed out a lot. SB draws one, I stand pat, and the button stands pat. SB checks, I check, the button bets and the SB raises. I fold. I am probably beaten by both hands.

Now let's switch our attention to the button's hand. He happens to have 2-3-4-6-7. The only hand that beats him is a wheel. What do you think he should do?

I think most of you will be surprised at how clear the right decision is. If you haven't developed a clear opinion of what the right play is, I would encourage you to do that before reading on.

Lo-ball more than any other game lends itself to "logical" reading. I feel that with a few simple but logical assumptions about what the SB was drawing to, combined with one assumption about how he would play his hand on the end, we can place the chances of the button winning with 2-3-4-6-7 at about 25%!

First, we must consider what the SB might have drawn to. I think we can assume he must have been drawing to a wheel that included both a 7 and a 2. He could not have a 6 in his hand because he might have been drawing dead, and he didn't if I was going to raise behind him. Even a small chance that he might be drawing dead would make drawing at 2-3-6-7 suicidal in this spot. So, given the information that the button holds, we can assume that the SB was drawing to 2-3-4-7 nine different ways, 2-3-5-7 twelve ways, and 2-4-5-7 another twelve ways. To get these ratios, I am assuming a 2 and a 7 and then looking at the possible combinations of 3-4, 3-5, and 4-5 left in the deck.

Now let's look at the resulting seven lows that the SB will make given these draws. There is no chance he could be raising with an 8-7-x-x-x low here.

The 2-3-4-7 draw will make (9*4) wheels and (9*3) 2-3-4-6-7's. The 2-3-5-7 draw will make (12*3) wheels and (12*3) 2-3-5-6-7's. And the 2-4-5-7 draw will make (12*3) wheels and (12*3) 2-4-5-6-7's. Let's look at the totals. He will make (108) wheels, (27) 2-3-4-6-7's, (36) 2-3-5-6-7's, and (36) 2-4-5-6-7's. I will also make one simple assumption about the SB's play. I think that with a likely overcall from me, he would almost certainly just call with 2-4-5-6-7.

We can also ignore the (27) 2-3-4-6-7's because these are a tie. It does not matter whether we call or raise against this hand. So where does this leave us? It leaves the button as a 108-36 underdog with the second nuts!

So what happened you ask? The button just called and was shown a wheel. He, of course, said "I knew you had a wheel." Some at the table might have thought he took a brilliant "instinctive" read and avoided making a disastrous re-raise. I think he made a "logical" read and made an easy "just call."')

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