Take the Lead - In the Lead - Lead Out

by Jesse Knight


In the Lead
Lead -
1. To be ahead in the hand.
2. The first bet made on a post-flop betting round.

To be “in the lead” on a hand, means to be ahead on any street prior to the river. If every player were to turn their hand over at any given point, the leading player would be the player with the highest ranked hand, at that point in time. As the hand progresses and new cards are delivered, the lead can, and often does, change hands several times. It also sometimes happens that the same player maintains the lead throughout the course of the hand. From a strategic standpoint, it is important to have a good idea about whether or not you are in the lead, and if you are not, about what your relative position to the leader is. This is called “knowing where you stand” in the hand, which is essential if you are going to bet your hand correctly.

Being in the lead is a huge factor in a game like Texas Hold’em, where made hands are often big favorites over drawing hands. In a Hold’em game, it is relatively rare to have a drawing hand be a favorite over a made hand, especially as the hand nears completion. In this game, if you can identify when your opponent is on a draw, it is generally safe to assume you have the best of it with any reasonable made hand, and you can bet your hand accordingly. In other words, in a Hold’em game you can equate being up against an unmade draw with being in the lead. This is not the case in Omaha or Omaha H/L Split (O8). Omaha and O8 games are often characterized as “drawing games,” because the draws in these games are often big favorites over made hands. Since the draws run so big in Omaha games, it is often unclear about whether a made hand or a draw is the favorite when they are matched up against each other. In these games, it is not at all safe to assume that you are a favorite simply because you have a made hand rather than a draw. Technically, being “in the lead” can describe any situation where you have a higher ranking hand than your opponent, regardless of whether or not you are an actual favorite to win the hand. In practice, the term is generally used when the made hand is a favorite over the draw, and it is generally not used if there is any ambiguity about which hand is the favorite.

It is important to note that a “drawing game,” such as Omaha is not the same thing as a “Draw game,” such as California Lowball. A “drawing game” only refers to the general advantage that drawing hands enjoy, in a game such as Omaha, relative to their generally disadvantageous position in other games, as in Hold’em. A “Draw game,” or “Draw poker,” is an entirely different class of poker games, differentiated from Flop games and Stud games by the rules of the game, which require players to receive their cards by discarding from their hands and “drawing” replacement cards directly from the deck. Omaha is classified as a Flop game, so it is most definitely not a Draw game, but it can be characterized as a “drawing game.”

The term “lead” is also used to describe a specific type of bet. A “lead bet” is the first bet made on any given betting round other than the first one. The first bet on the first betting round is typically called the “opening bet.” When a player makes a lead bet, it is known as “betting out,” “leading out,” or “taking the lead.” If you suspect that you may be in the lead, it is often a good idea to lead out. You will get a lot of information about where you stand, based upon your opponents’ reaction to your lead bet. You will also be giving up a lot of information to other players if you fail to bet out. This is especially true if you fail to make a continuation bet after raising on a previous street. Failing to make a continuation bet is often referred to as “giving up the lead.” If you give up the lead by checking, it leaves the door open for another player to take the lead by betting out.

Usage: Retake The Lead, The Leading Hand, Lost The Lead On The Turn, Lead Into The Field, In the Lead, Lead Out, Taking the Lead

Previous Poker Term: Lay Down
Next Poker Term: Leak


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