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Behind Poker Term

Being Behind in a Hand

by Jesse Knight
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Come From Behind
Behind - Needing to improve to win the hand.


When a poker hand is over, the player with the best hand will be awarded the pot and the runner-ups will not receive anything, regardless of their finishing order. Obviously, this makes the importance of finishing the hand in first place tantamount. In addition to this, whether or not you are in first place throughout the course of the hand also has significance. It is usually an advantage to be in the lead, or “ahead” on a given hand, because it puts you in prime position to win the pot. If instead you are “behind” during the course of the hand, you will have to catch up and overtake the lead, if you want to win the pot. It is possible to be behind and be a favorite, just as it is possible to be in the lead and be an underdog. In most cases however, it is easier to hold on to the lead than it is to chase and catch up when you are behind.

While it is usually advantageous to be in the lead, it is sometimes better to have a strong draw. This is often true in games that are draw oriented, like Omaha and is especially true for Omaha High Low Split. The reason all Omaha games are draw oriented has to do with the number of outs typically available to the player who needs to catch up. In most Omaha games, players are dealt four hole cards, from which they must select two, to play with exactly three of the community cards from the board. So they are dealt a four card hand from which they will play a two card combination. Here is where the power of the draw lies. There are six different ways to make a two card combination from a four card hand, and all of the combinations are valid and will play if they are winners. If you are playing Omaha Hi Lo, you have by default six possible combinations for winning the high side of the pot and up to six combinations for winning the low side, depending on how many qualify. This really gives a quality draw supreme power. A hand like top pair, or even two pair or a set, can be at a huge disadvantage to a strong drawing hand with six or more combinations available. In fact, a set is considered a draw in Omaha games, because you often cannot win if you do not improve the hand to at least a full house. Draws in Omaha are especially powerful on the flop, when you still have two cards to come, as opposed to the turn, when you only have one chance left to complete your draw.

It is also possible to have the advantage with a draw in games like Texas Hold’em, which are not draw oriented. For example, a player holding K♥ Q♥ would have a significant advantage over a player holding 7♣ 2♠, if the flop were J♥ T♥ 2♣. In this situation, the K♥ Q♥ would win 69.9% of the time while the 7♣ 2♠ would win 30.1%. You can see that the draw, while technically behind, is the much stronger hand in this situation However, it is important to remember that this is a near perfect drawing situation for a Hold’em game; most draws are nowhere near this strong. Remember, Hold’em is not a drawing oriented game, and most of the time the player who is behind will be at a distinct disadvantage. If you are behind and need to catch up in a Hold’em game, you will typically have between 1 and 9 outs, which works out to be substantially less than what you need to be a favorite most of the time.

Consider the impact of the game’s format here. In an Omaha game everyone starts with six combinations to draw to. If the game is Omaha Hi Lo, players may use these combinations to draw to both the high, and if they qualify, the low. Hold’em players start with only a two card hand. From this two card hand they can only make one 2 card combination and two 1 card combinations. And the 1 card combinations have much less drawing power than the two card combination. As you can see, in a Hold’em game, drawing power is significantly reduced when compared to Omaha. Consequently, the hand which is in the lead will typically have a strong advantage. This makes playing from behind generally disadvantageous in Hold’em. Luckily, there are methods for determining when you should or shouldn’t take a draw in a Hold’em game (or any other poker game). These risk/reward evaluations are called pot odds analysis and implied odds analysis. Having a basic understanding of these concepts is essential to a winning playing style. If you are unfamiliar with how to calculate pot odds and implied odds, see their respective sections in the glossary.

Usage: Behind In The Hand, Come From Behind

Previous Poker Term: Bankroll
Next Poker Term: Belly Buster

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