Free card

The free card is a community card you do not have to pay (call a bet) to see. The free card is a double edged sword: on one hand, you’d like to be given as many free cards as possible on your drawing hands, on the other you do not want to give your opponents any of these free cards.

The free card is the beginner poker player’s biggest enemy. One of the most frequent mistakes beginners make is that they play too many starting hands and that they take their drawing hands way too far.

Now then, while doing this, they offer their opponents countless free cards, while their more experienced foes never give them a break, especially if they realize they’re faced with a clueless rookie. What this results in is that the rookie will throw away a bunch of money chasing his draws, and he won’t be able to cash in on the good hands that he makes.

Let’s take a look at a classic example of how rookies basically fleece themselves when they make a good hand.

Our rookie picks up a pair of 5s and decides to call the preflop raise of one of his opponents. The other guys fold and they head to the flop heads-up. Now then, our rookie doesn’t take his small pocket pair to the flop on account of the great implied odds it carries, he just likes the hand and he is hoping for another 5 to show up somewhere on the board. His opponent is holding 4s, 6s and he knows that there’s good implied odds value there. The preflop raise is meant to increase his odds. Sure enough, the flop falls 5s, Kh, 8h. Our rookie gets nervous with excitement as he knows he has the best hand and he’s hoping to take down a large pot on it. The best way to build that large pot is to show weakness he reckons, so he checks the flop. His opponent sees that he failed to make a flush or a flush draw and all that the flop gave him is a gutshot straight draw, which is a 4-outer at best. He knows he’d have to fold this hand if his opponent made a significant enough bet to ruin his fragile pot odds. He’s more than happy to take the free card and as the flop lands a 7c he knows what he’s going to do. Our rookie checks the turn to show some more weakness and the guy with the 8-high straight places a probing bet. Happy that his trap is finally closing on his opponent, the rookie calls the bet and the river comes a 2d. This is the time the make the move, the rookie reasons, and he bets into the guy with the straight. He raises him and the rookie goes in over the top. The other player makes the call, and the rookie cries out in anguish when he sees his cards.

Where did our rookie go wrong here? He gave his opponent that free card on the flop. That free card trapped him in the hard-to-escape maze of reverse implied pot odds, and from there on he was lost.

Why did he give him that free card? In order to show weakness? Our rookie is blissfully unaware that his display of weakness wouldn’t have landed him a large pot, even if his opponent had missed his draw. The guy was ready to fold to any bet, but he would’ve been crazy to fold when checked around to. If our rookie had bet into his opponent on the flop, he would’ve taken down a relatively small pot. There’s no way he would’ve gotten a call, had his opponent not made a hand bigger than his.

Most rookies commit this same mistake on top pairs on the flop too and on other hands that stand to win them a small pot if their opponent has nothing, and lose them huge ones when the opponent strings together a hand.

Of course, free card play gets much more complex than this. It s common practice among more experienced players to raise on the flop in order to squeeze a check out of the opponent on the turn and thus to see the river without having to invest any more money.
Regardless of how you play your game, signing up for a rakeback deal makes perfect sense from every angle.


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