It's a truism in split pot poker games that playing to win the whole pot is a fundamental component of a winning strategy. This is doubly true when you are involved in a hand against multiple opponents. Today I played a hand that illustrates this principle very well, and it's worth examining the play of this hand in detail.
This afternoon I found myself playing in a low-stakes 7-Game mixed game. The rotation had made its way to stud hi/lo, which is undoubtedly one of my best games, and perhaps even more importantly, often the worst game in the rotation for most of my opponents. Needless to say, I was primed and ready to find any profitable situation that I could and start pounding away.
I was dealt the [8s 4s] 6h and was the bring-in.
Villain #1 had the Ah showing and completed.
Villain #2 had the Th showing and called.
I don't love my hand here, since I have a pretty ragged 3-card low to an 8, but given this price I really should see 4th street. If I catch good I can likely proceed further with the hand; otherwise I can get away cheaply. More importantly it's distinctly possible that both my opponents have high-only hands and I'd be drawing very live for the low half with a chance at making a low straight or flush to scoop the entire pot 3-handed, which is a very profitable opportunity. Also, Villain #2 is extremely likely to show up here with split tens. If for some reason he's got rolled up tens, action could be fast and furious on later streets, which again would be to my benefit if I can make a medium straight.
On 4th, I do catch good: [8s 4s] 6h 7h
Villain #1 Ah 4h
Villain #2 Th 9d
Villain #1 bet right out, and Villain #2 called. I have to be wary that Villain #1 is drawing to a better low than I am (since I've got two hearts showing I can discount the possibility that he's also drawing to a flush), but with a gutshot straight draw which would also give me a qualifying low, this is a trivial call closing out the action. The turning point of the hand will be, as it so often is, 5th street when the bets double in size.
On 5th, I catch my gin card: [8s 4s] 6h 7h 5h
Dealt to Villain #2 [Th 9d] [Qs]
Dealt to Villain #1 [Ah 4h] [5d]
Somewhat to my surprise, Villain #2 leads out; I raise and Villain #1 makes it three bets! Villain #2 calls two bets cold and I have an easy cap since I have a made hand in both directions and can represent a flush if I catch another heart on 6th. Note, however, the potential vulnerability of my hand: I can end up with the second-best hand in both directions if Villain #1 makes a better low and Villain #2 can show up with a higher straight or a full house for the high half.
On 6th, the betting is capped again in the exact same pattern as on 5th:
Dealt to Villain #2 [Th 9d Qs] [5c]
Dealt to Hero [8s 4s 6h 7h 5h] [Kc]
Dealt to Villain #1 [Ah 4h 5d] [6d]
At this point I am definitely worried that Villain #1 had a board-lock for the low half, but I am equally determined to carve up Villain #2 for the high since he was clearly playing only for half. Finding small edges is crucial in a situation like this! And a remote possibility remains that I am currently in a position to scoop the entire pot if Villain #1 had started with split aces and a 4, 5 or 6 he'd paired up for aces up.
7th street came and I caught an immaterial card.
Villain #2 bet, Villain #1 called, and I called with the eight-high straight. To my amazement, I ended up scooping the entire pot (this led me to second-guess myself for not raising here)!
Here is what my opponents showed up with:
Seat 1: Villain #1 showed [As Kh Ah 4h 5d 6d 4d] and lost with HI: two pair, Aces and Fours
Seat 5: Villain #2 showed [Jd Ts Th 9d Qs 5c Td] and lost with HI: three of a kind, Tens
Seat 6: Hero showed [8s 6c 6h 7h 5h Kc 4s] and won with HI: a straight, Eight high; LO: 8,7,6,5,4
Let's look at what happened here on the later streets. Villain #1's play on 5th and 6th streets is hilarious in that he made it 3 bets with aces up and a live low draw against all the action in front of him, which means he is taking the worst of it; he presumably has to catch one of eight or ten outs to take down the low half, or one of 3-4 outs for an improbable full house for the high half. Villain #2 shoveled a lot of money into the pot from 5th street onwards in a horrible situation hoping to lock up the high half, as he was being forced to put in a ton of money whilst frozen out of half of the pot. And I was the benefactor as my two opponents didn't manage to improve.
The lesson here? Play for the whole pot.
Another lesson: mixed games are fun and profitable.
NB. If anyone knows of a good stud re-player, let me know!