• July 31, 2021

Online Poker Dictionary: Free Card

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A free card refers to seeing the turn or river card without having to make/call a bet.
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After the turn card was dealt, the betting checked around to the dealer, who said, “Let’s have a free card,” and checked, too. So we all saw the river card for free!
Most poker games have a forced bet or an established wager on the opening betting round. This ensures that a pot is built and that the hand is not checked down to the river. For example, in a stud game, the opener has a forced wager and must bring it in. In a flop or draw game, the large blind typically establishes the minimum wager needed to continue. This forces players to make a conscious decision to invest in their hand, and prevents players from checking on the opening betting round. However, on every betting round after the initial betting round, betting is typically optional. So long as they are not facing any wager, each player may choose to check rather than bet.
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Free cards are especially dangerous in games with unstructured betting, where the bets get very large, as well as in tournaments, where one mistake can cost you your whole stack. In these situations, you need to be very careful about handing out free cards. That does not mean that you should always bet when facing the decision about whether or not to give a free card. If you bet too frequently, you opponents will not hesitate to check-raise you. Plus, there are plenty of times when you benefit from taking a free card when it is offered. You can avoid a check-raise when your opponent is strong, and sometimes you can suck out on a really thin draw. The decision over whether or not to give a free card, like most poker decisions, can be approached from a risk management standpoint. You can compare the risk of betting with the risk of giving a free card. In some cases, betting is clearly too dangerous, or your hand is simply too weak to bet. In this situation a free card should be issued. At other times, you may be unsure about your hand, but giving everyone a free card is more dangerous than betting. Here, it makes more sense to bet and to take your chances.
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Steve Carr

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