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OPEN FACE ODDS

HEADS UP STRATEGY

Categories: Beginner Strategy, First Five


SIRENS OF THE STRAIGHT FLUSH


HU 1st to act


September 29, 2013 -- This hand presents an interesting dilemma. Set it this way?


← Full house possibility (+6)




Or, this way?


← Straight flush possibility (+15)


The siren song of the straight flush is alluring, for sure. After all, you are already 3-up-and-down to it. So what if you shipwreck while chasing it? It's so pretty! Well sailor, let's get our heads out of the sky and take a look at the odds compass. Maybe there's something there that will help illuminate the rocky seas around us and help us decide on the smartest course of action.

[If you want to gamble, read no further. Play it your way and enjoy the ride. Just don't come crying to us when your ship is flotsam and jetsam.]



Let's take a look at some numbers:

59%: Odds to catch one of 4 outs and complete the full house.

55%: Odds to catch two clubs to complete any flush.

~13%: Odds to catch combo clubs (6,7,J,Q) to make the straight flush.



Still dead set on straight-flushing it? All right, some words to go with those numbers....

PROBLEM #1: HIGH RISK FOR LOW REWARD

If you set for the straight flush, basically what you are doing is trading back-row strength and a ~60% chance to boat for taking a high-risk line for the hand as a whole. In a 4-handed game hitting your straight flush scores you 3x royalty points, so at least you are getting 45 points out of it if you make it there. [scoring chart here]

I could see some merit in this set 4-handed, if you are also willing to expand your draw to include a compound straight/flush draw. HU, however, the payoff is only 15 points. And to get there, you are very likely setting a vertically weak hand (see Problem #2 below) that probably doesn't scoop. In the unlikely event you make a straight flush, you might be good for a win of around 10 points after paying opponent royalties. And that is not a good return on a high-risk investment.

Considering a scenario where you could easily boat the back row and maybe catch 77+ in front, you would most likely scoop (+6) and get the front row royalty (+2 or better). In other words, you achieve the same basic score with much less risk. That's not even counting the potential Fantasyland EV scenario of an immediate high-middle two pair set in back.

Finally, if you hold on to your draw, miss and end up fouling, you are paying out a minimum of 6 points to your opponent, and most likely 8-12 points. So you've now completed a ~20pt negative swing, which you can't afford when playing HU. See OFO's article Continuum of Scoring Potential for more thoughts on profitable HU play.



PROBLEM #2: DRAW RANGES THAT CANNIBALIZE EACH OTHER

The cards you need in the back are the same cards you need in the middle. Once you break up the pairs, you are drawing pretty thin in the middle. It certainly will be tough to make a hand there and subsequently in the front. Any broadway cards or unders that improve your middle are reduced by the clubs you need for the straight flush (6, 7, Q and J), and any non-flush overs like Q K or A present a dilemma: 1) set in front for potential FL/royalties? If so, what's your plan for the middle? 2) set in middle? If so, what's your plan for the front? What if you catch the Ad but then the Ac shows up? Were the straight flush cards KQJ it could be a more interesting proposition. But with 1098ccc plus the cross-draw 109ss, it's a much weaker play, both because of the diminished royalty value and the weakening of the middle and front rows.



SOLUTION: HEAD FOR THE HILLS!

Even though that analogy makes no sense since we're on a boat (draw, get it?), that is our advice. Resist the temptation to go for the straight flush in this situation, no matter how sexy it looks at first glance. HU play is much more about the scoop than about trying to hit big sub-hand royalties. If your PPH edge is 3.6 points, to your opponents' 3.1, you're going to be profitable. While it certainly is fun to go for the straight flush, I'd rather start this hand from a position of strength with the two pair in back.



*note - This article was inspired by a Two Plus Two Forum discussion, which you can read here



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