• August 1, 2021

Mastering Scare Cards

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Scare cards are those community cards that are most likely to adversely affect a particular player’s distribution of holdings and scare that player off of putting more money into the pot with a weak hand. Find more in our poker dictionary.
You call a preflop raise with a medium pair like 7♥ 7♦  out of position. The flop is 9♥ 3♠ 2♥ and you think “that’s not so bad.” You check to your opponent and call his continuation bet (c-bet). The turn is the K♠ and your heart sinks. You check and again your opponent bets. You are probably in for a bumpy ride! Is he bluffing? Would he bet again with only a nine? Or did he hit that king on the turn?
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Being prepared for the rare king on the turn means that we, as the out-of-position player calling the preflop raiser’s flop bet, need to have at least a few kings in our distribution. That way we can stand the heat at least a little bit better and also prevent our opponent from value betting as thinly. For example, if our opponent tries to value bet a hand like A♦ 9♦ on the flop, on a turn king, and on a river deuce, it’s less likely that we face that river bet with a hand that only beats a bluff and loses to his A♦ 9♦. That lowers the value of our opponent’s strategy. Nice. But we still have to keep in mind that every turn isn’t a king.
That means that the ability to represent a scare card is tied to your opponent’s ability to take profitable actions up until the point that the cards comes off the top of the deck and is placed into the community cards that can make up all players’ hands. If a player can’t profitably get to a particular turn or river and have a particular hand, then it’s hell on him to try to defend against an aggressive player’s betting strategy. However, players can plan ahead to try to mitigate the effects of scare cards.
If you learn how to recognize players that over-do bluffing on scare cards, then you can counter-exploit the fear that they try to leverage. In other words, a good player is going to make your life tough when the board gets bad for your hand and there is really not much that you can do to prevent losing money in the long run; however, an overly aggressive player gets greedy, and we can make him pay.
Recall the 9-3-2-K board. What if we, as the out of position preflop calling player, decide to check/call our king-high flush draws on the flop, as well as all our combinations of pocket deuces. Now, all of a sudden, on the turn king we aren’t so worried about folding a marginal hand. Of course, it’s very easy for our opponent to go wild bluffing and have us very worried about the value of our middling hands, like those red sevens. On the other hand, he’s occasionally going to run into our king or our set of deuces.
By planning ahead and knowing that a lot of the turn cards in the deck are actually pretty terrible for us the times that we have pocket sevens, we can start to understand exactly what other types of hands should be in our flop check/calling distribution. That is, if we take an action with a certain type of hand that ends extremely poorly on several common board run outs, then it gets to be clear that we should probably mix up our flop play a little more and add in some hands that are deceptive on a number of turn cards, and then on a number of river cards.
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Steve Carr

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