Don't Limit Yourself Part 2: Single-Street Plays

Alan Smurfit

The goal of every poker player is to choose the correct play, or series of correct actions, in every hand they play.

A single erroneous action can be enough to lose the entire hand. To be successful, first you have to understand what goal you're trying to accomplish, and what play will allow you to achieve it.

Depending on the situation at hand, your goal will vary from building a big pot to pulling off a big bluff.

One of the defining differences in an advanced player's method of play, versus that of a beginner, is the ability to group all betting rounds as a single item, rather than attempting to strategize each street separately as it comes.

As the previous article started to explain, each individual action you make will impact the meaning and result of the future actions to be made. This manipulation of actions allows players to build elaborate plays tailored to suit the needs of the moment.

A play in poker can be simply described as being either "single street" or "multiple street." A single-street play consists of multiple planned actions to be made on one single betting round, while a multiple-street play will include actions across multiple rounds of betting.

This article goes over the various single-street plays; we'll describe multiple-street plays in part three. Many of the most elaborate and affective multiple-street plays will be composed of a mix of single actions and single-street plays.

Single-Street Plays

Dario Minieri

Before we get into possible single-street plays, note that a play is only a play if it was made with lucid intent. This means that committing a series of actions that you strategized individually is not a play, even though the end result might follow the same pattern.

That said, it is possible to formulate plays by using the information gained from the results of making single actions. For example, making a probe bet on the flop is not part of any play, as you can't formulate a play until you have the results of your probe.

Once you get the results, you hopefully hold enough information about the hand to construct a play.

It's not possible to make plays until you have enough information to understand what your goal in the hand is. Once you have this goal, and an idea of your opponent's objective as well, you're capable of building a play that will take down the pot or keep your losses to a minimum.

The Check-Raise

Recipe: Check ahead of an opponent, opponent makes a bet, raise on your next action.

The first single-street play any player learns is the check-raise. This play exhibits extreme strength and rampant aggression. It's most commonly used with the intent of ending the hand, winning the pot on the single street.

Players will hold a contingency plan based on his or her opponent refusing to fold.

Although a check-raise is described as a play, it can also be used for a probe, much like that of a single action. The stronger the action you take, the more information you will collect from your opponent, making a check-raise one of the most potent ways of extracting information from him.

Dario Minieri, Isabelle Mercier

The risk of using a CR for information is forcing yourself to play in a very large pot, out of position, for the remainder of the hand. This is typically a dangerous, expensive situation to be in and should be mostly avoided.

The Limp Reraise/Call-Reraise

Recipe: A player in early position bets, you call, player behind you raises, you reraise on your next action.

The call reraise (or limp reraise in a pre-flop scenario) is an interesting play that will catch your opponents off guard.

The play itself is the strongest display of strength a player can make in a hand. Not only are you building the largest pot possible, but you're also taking a risk of letting your opponents possibly see another card for cheap.

These two things together suggest you have an absolute monster in the hole.

To make this play, you need to have a read on one or two of your opponents. If your opponents fail to raise behind you, the plan is stopped dead, forcing you to formulate a new plan on subsequent streets.

The level of aggression behind a limp reraise is so strong that the most common reaction to the move is mucking; more often than not this play will win the pot outright.

The second most common reaction to this play is getting raised all-in. If a player has a hand strong enough to want to play with you after your display of aggression, they will feel that you have a hand strong enough to warrant making an all-in call.

It's rare to have a player just call after making this move. When this does happen, it almost always translates into the player knowing they're behind, and hoping to draw out on you for a large pot.

If you do get called, and are faced with a sudden shift of aggression from you to your opponent, you have to be very concerned about having been outdrawn. It takes some serious coconuts (or outright recklessness) for a player to play back against a limp reraiser without anything less than premium hands.

The Bet-Call

Cookie monster
Sesame Street.

Recipe: Bet, opponent raises, call on your next action.

The bet-call is one of the most difficult plays to plan or execute. Almost every instance where a player makes the call after being raised is a simple reaction to their opponent raising them.

It's rare for a player to have a strong enough read on an opponent to bet into them assuming they will raise, planning to flat-call.

In fact, this play is the most advanced single-street play by far, typically only ever used in the setup of an elaborate multistreet bluff, or a deceptive trap.

If you know your opponent will raise his bet, it makes no sense to make an opening bet unless you want to build a very large pot. If you're planning to build a very large pot, it makes no sense to just call your opponent once he raises.

This completes our list of single-street plays. As mentioned, part three, the next article in this series, will detail all of the basic multistreet plays.

After learning the possible multiple-street plays, part four, the final article, will explore how to build a play, and the effects of causality on your game.

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