STRATEGY

Baluga Theorem – Protecting Your Low Scoring Hands

When it comes to playing poker, there are many different ways to analyze and understand the game. It has been around for so long that there are many different methods and strategies regarding the best way to play the game. One of the more recent, however, is the Baluga Theorem. This guiding principle didn’t exist until the mid-2000’s, and it was brought up in an online poker discussion forum. Since then, it has become an operating part of most poker games, and many professionals either know it or use it to their advantage.

Baluga Theorem Basics

Even with its fancy name, the fact is that the Baluga Theorem is not as complicated as it sounds. Essentially, what it boils down to is that if you have a single pair in your hand, you should seriously reconsider the strength of your hand when another player raises on the turn.

Baluga Theorem

So what exactly does that mean? It means that even if you have a top pair throughout the flop, you should probably fold if another player raises you on the turn. The reason for this is simple. Considering that you only have a pair, would the other player raise if they didn’t have something better than that?

To truly understand how this works during the game, we need to look at an example.

Example

To keep things simple, we’ll just have two players. During the first round, each player gets his cards.

Player One: K♠, 7♦

Player Two: Q♣, 10♣

Let’s assume that they both call pre-flop. Once the flop comes out, the board looks like this.

K♣, J♦, 4♥

As of now, Player One has the best hand with a top pair of kings. However, Player Two has an open ended straight. For that reason, Player One will raise, and Player Two will call. He will not reraise at this time because he doesn’t have a made hand.

Then the turn comes out, making the board look like this.

K♣, J♦, 4♥, 8♠

At this point, Player Two has a straight, and Player One has the top pair. Assuming that Player One opens the betting, he will raise. Then, because Player Two has a better hand, he will reraise.

At this point, Player One should consider the Baluga Theorem. Even though to him the board is disjointed, the fact that Player Two is reraising should indicate a stronger hand. After all, Player One has the top pair, so if Player Two is increasing the bet, it’s a good sign that he has at least two pairs or better.

Thus, as a result, Player One will fold, thanks to the Theorem.

Why is it Effective?

Overall, this theorem is somewhat limited in its scope, but it can be handy as a way to prevent yourself from getting sucked into a losing pot. What you don’t want to do is be pot committed because you think that a high pair will save you. For that reason, the Baluga Theorem is helpful in these sorts of situations.

Baluga Raise

What you have to remember, though, is that there is always the possibility of a bluff. This Theorem is relatively well known; it could be that your opponent is trying to trick you into folding. For that reason, you should always analyze the other players at the table to determine if they play tight or if they are just having fun.  For more help on how to do that in a live setting, read our poker tells guide.

One important point to remember about the Baluga Theorem is that if your opponent check-raises (checks first and then raises), that is an even stronger indicator of a better hand. Also, if the raise is substantially larger, that almost certainly means that he or she has a made hand.

When You Shouldn’t Use Baluga

Although this Theorem is helpful during the turn, it is not an absolute rule. As with all poker strategies, this is more of a guideline than anything, which means that there are some situations where it doesn’t apply. We already mentioned the fact that your opponent can use your knowledge of Baluga against you by raising as a bluff. Another time where you should question its validity is if you’re playing against a maniac. A maniac player is someone who bets irrationally and doesn’t follow standard poker guidelines. If that is the case, you have to make a decision based on your experience and gut feelings.

Finally, if you are playing against a new player who is unfamiliar with the game, then the Baluga Theorem is less valid. This is because a newbie may be betting or raising a hand that they think is big, but objectively isn’t. For example, with our cards shown up above, if Player Two was a newbie and decided that a pair of Jacks was strong enough to win, he may raise as a result. Again, it will be up to your experience and skills to determine if your opponent knows the score.

Andrew Balugawhale Seidman

So how did this Theorem come into the mainstream? It all started with a college freshman named Andrew Seidman. He was attending Dartmouth University and started playing poker online. After a while, he realized that he was really good at it, and considered even dropping out to play full-time. It was after winning $7000 playing online while waiting for a pizza boy job that he realized the potential of being a professional rather than a hobbyist.

The Theorem came about because Andrew joined the site 2+2.com back in 2005. 2+2.com is a poker forum where players could learn new strategies and develop their skills while talking with other enthusiasts about the game. Before Andrew joined 2+2, he admits that he wasn’t very good at the game. That quickly changed. It should be noted that when Andrew joined the website, his online handle was BalugaWhale. It’s not clear if he intentionally misspelled the animal’s name, but nonetheless, he made a name for himself among other members.

The Original Idea

Baluga Table

In 2006, Andrew postulated this idea about analyzing a single pair when an opponent raised at the turn. He pointed it out and made the statement: “Basically, the whole point of the “Baluga theorem,” as I see it, is to strongly reevaluate one-pair hands facing a turn raise.

He admits that he didn’t come up with the name. Someone else did because of his online handle, and apparently, it stuck.

Since then, Andrew started winning big in both online and live poker games, until he hit some hard times in 2009. He wound up getting too cocky and got on a terrible losing streak that lasted almost the whole year. The worst was the Black Friday shutdown of 2011 when the government cracked down on online poker rooms, which netted Seidman a total loss of $65,000. Since then, he’s recovered and continues to play professionally. Andrew set up his advice website, and it still runs today.

Keep in Mind

Even though this Theorem is relatively narrow regarding when you have to use it, there are still plenty of times where it can come up during the game. When it does, you need to keep some things in mind so you can maximize its usefulness and make it work for you.

  • Pay attention to the board. If a player does raise you at the turn, you want to make sure that you know what hands are possible.
  • Just because the Theorem says to reevaluate your hand during a raise doesn’t mean that you should automatically fold.
  • Keep track of how your opponents are betting. If they play tight, the Theorem will usually hold up. If they are prone to bluffing or buying their way out of a hand, you need to keep that in mind should the circumstances arise
  • Remember that this Theorem only applies to single pairs, not two pairs or anything higher
  • Watch out for maniacs who play fast and loose. They will render this Theorem useless

Overall, the main thing to remember is that this is a guideline, not a rule set in stone. The more that you can pay attention to the table and what is happening, the better off you will be regardless of if you have to use the Baluga Theorem.

Baluga System Conclusion

So what have we learned then? Ultimately, it’s that you shouldn’t rely on the strength of a top pair, especially when challenged after the flop. Too often it’s easy for players to assume that they have the best hand, but what this Theorem does is remind us to be critical of our options and to keep a sharp eye on what is happening during the game. Complacency is your worst enemy, as illustrated by the Baluga Theorem’s creator, Andrew Seidman. We hope you enjoyed reading about the Baluga Theorem, and look forward to hearing your comments below!


I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.


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