Stud: Fifth Street

“If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances.” – Julia Sorel

On fifth street we must begin to deal with the phenomenon of scary boards. You have a buried pair of aces but one of your opponents is showing a three-flush. And he raises. Does he have the flush? Or does he have two pair? Where do you stand on the hand?

Scary Boards

There are four boards that are scary (on fifth street): trips, a pair including the doorcard, three to a straight, and a three-flush. Just because an opponent has a scary board doesn’t mean they have a made hand; scary boards are also bluffing opportunities.

1. Trips

This is one time where your opponent has a made hand. Let’s say that you hold a moderately good hand, (KK)97Q; your two opponents are showing 1052 and 333 (he had the bring-in). You had completed the bet on third street and three players had called; one dropped out when you made the double bet on fourth street.

Your hand may have looked good at the start but you’re behind – potentially very far behind – your opponent with trip threes. Why did he call on third street? If he’s a loose player he may have done it with a draw; if he’s a tight player he had at worst a good draw and he might have a buried pair! There’s no real decision here – just fold in turn. Unless the pot is giving you a ridiculous price you’ll almost never have the right odds to call.

2. A Pair Including the Doorcard

Again, you hold a moderately good hand: (K9)K7Q. Your two opponents hold 1052 and J7J. You had completed the action on third street; the bring-in folded and you had three callers with one dropping out on fourth street.

Remember from Lesson 6 that an opponent pairing his doorcard is a very scary thing; his most likely hand is three of a kind. Ask yourself why your opponent stayed in the hand on third street? Most likely, he has a pair. If you’re lucky it’s a buried pair; if you’re unlucky, he has three Jacks. Either way, you’re trailing. If you’re up against a tight opponent the fold is clear.

3. Three to a Straight

Just because I don’t like straights doesn’t mean that some of your opponents won’t stay in a hand when they pick up a three-straight on third street. You must pay attention to your opponents and determine how they act. Assume you hold the same hand as in (2) above: (K9)K7Q. Your two opponents hold 1052 and J910. You bet, the 1052 folds and the J910 raises! What do you do?

You first must ask yourself if your opponent is likely to play a three-straight. If he is, and he held KQJ, he has a made hand. However, if he held QJT he has a pair of tens while if he held JT9 he has two pair (tens and nines). It’s also possible that all he has is a pair of Jacks. You must read your opponent and determine which is the most likely holding and act on that basis. If I had no knowledge of my opponent I would call: I’m ahead of two of his four most likely holdings.

4. A Three-Flush

Most stud players love three flushes on third street. So you need to be wary when there’s a three-flush on board on fifth street, especially if your opponent has a small doorcard. Thus, a board of 793 is more dangerous than Q73 vis-a-vis the flush. This is an application of the Law of Restricted Choice – a player with a Queen as an upcard could have a flush draw, a split pair, or a buried pair while a player with a seven as an upcard might have a buried pair or a flush draw (a split pair is less likely).

Of course, knowing your players is key – and watching their reactions. When they catch their second suited upcard does your opponent display any tell about his hand?

When Your Board is Scary

Suppose you ante steal with (94)A, but get called by three opponents (J, 10 and 2). By fifth street, the boards are (94)A27, J87, 1044, and 26Q. The pair of fours bets on fifth street (you put him on two pair), the next player folds and you must now act. What should you do?

If you raise, you’re likely to be heads-up with your opponent. Can you bet your opponent off a hand? Remember, you can’t bluff a calling station! Your opponent’s bet tells you that he’s unimpressed with your hand (or he’s making a play on the pot). If he’s likely to fold to repeated bets then bluffing makes sense. However, if he does have two pair he’s probably going to stay through seventh street – and he does have ‘outs’ to make an unbeatable hand (of course, he’s really ahead at the moment – your hand is the one with outs: either making the flush, two higher pair or trips). Your reputation is also important. If you’re known as a tight player you can get away with betting your scary boards more than a loose player. Of course, if you’re re-raised you will have to consider the possibility that your opponent has a made hand.

When You Have a Made Hand

Suppose you completed on third street with (94)A, but get called by three opponents (J, 10 and 2). By fifth street, the boards are (94)A27, J87, 1044, and 26Q. The pair of fours now bets on fifth street (you put him on two pair), the next player folds and you must now act. What should you do?

This should look familiar – it ‘s the exact same sequence I gave above; the difference is that here you have a made hand (an Ace high flush). Yes, your opponent could have a full house but it’s quite unlikely. You have two choices: raising or calling. If you raise you’re representing the made hand. If you typically bet (or raise) your scary boards you should raise in this situation (an observant opponent will pick up on you if you always slow-play your made hands).

Maximizing the Money

The main goal when playing a winning hand should be to get as much money from your opponents as possible. The great thing about poker is that there is no one right way of playing a particular game or hand (unlike, say, Monopoly®). You need to choose a style that you can handle.

Though the overall style for each player may be different, good players are always seeking means of getting more money from their opponents. Assume that on fifth street you hold an unbeatable hand: (910)J78 against three opponents: Q55, K102 and 299. You are in the one-seat and will act second on the hand. The pair of nines bets, what should you do?

First, it’s likely that the KT2 will fold – he appears to be trailing both of your other opponents. Second, it’s likely that the pair of fives has Queens up. Given that, what does the pair of nines hold? Most likely, a strong buried pair – Queens through Aces. Always ask yourself what your opponents are holding when you think about a hand. Is raising correct? Is calling the right move? Of course, the answer is ‘it depends.’ It depends on your game, your opponents, what your opponents think, and what they think of you, etc. Without any other information calling is correct on fifth street: you want your opponents to improve their hands!

I did not touch on hands where you are still drawing because of space limitations. In general, the principles of fourth street also apply on fifth street.

The next lesson covers sixth street where one must determine if it still pays to draw. Pot odds will be a major topic of that lesson.