The opportunity to see free cards in poker can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, depending on which side you are sitting. If you are the one who is in desperate need of a free card and you get it then you are a happy camper. If you are the one who is giving your opponents free cards then that could be trouble. Take a free card when it is given to you and do not ever give them out yourself. That is pretty much the rule for free cards.
There is nothing worse then letting your opponent catch a four outer because you gave them a free card on the turn. It is very important to make sure that never happens. The only way you can make sure it doesn’t happen is by betting and making them pay for their cards. Of course there are a lot of donkeys out there that will just call you anyways; but at least that isn’t your fault. If they catch some crazy hand because they had free cards then it is entirely your own fault.
Being on the other side of things is always a good thing, but how do you know if you should bet or take a free card? This can also be a pretty tough decision to make. You could be drawing for a monster with the opportunity to take the free card, but this is not always the best choice.
The first reason why you may want to bet instead of taking a free card is to give yourself the chance to win right there without having to catch your hand. Why wait to see if you are going to catch a good hand if you can win right then and there before the card ever gets shown. Sure, this might cost you a bigger pot if you would have caught the card, but who is to say you would have caught it?
The other reason you may not want to take the free card is because that might actually stop you from getting paid off if you catch your hand. If your opponents give you the opportunity to see a free card and you take it, then your hand hits they will probably assume someone connected on that card. If you were the one that bet before it came, you probably will be the one they are least likely to put on that specific hand.
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For this example we are going to assume that you have J8 of diamonds.
The board on the flop shows K(d) 9(d) 3(s)
You are on the button so you are last to act, and the other three players in the hand leave the action to you. You really do not have anything right now, but you could do one of two things. You could take the free card that is offered to you and see if the flush comes, or you could bet and see what happens from there.
Why betting is a good option here?
Taking a free card is not the right choice here because you really have nothing to gain. If your flush card comes up you probably won’t get paid because your opponents will be weary of that flush if another diamond comes out. If you check here, and then bet when the flush comes up; that is what they will put you on. If you bet here, then they might all fold and you could take the pot down here. If anyone does call and you hit your flush they will probably only put you on a king at best (because you bet the flop). This ill allow you to get paid if you hit the flush.
There are times when you should take your free card and be happy with it. On the other hand, there is even more times where you should use the option of a free card to turn it around and take control. Remember that if you have the option to see a free card and you take it; you are also giving your opponents a free card.
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