Even if you are a neophyte to the game of poker, there are some basic tenets that you have before you even pick up a stack of chips to bet. One, when you get pocket Aces, you pound your opposition with a pre-flop raise otherwise everyone and their brother gets to play the hand and potentially crack your bullets. Two, you don’t need to play “special” hands like a 7-2, universally recognized as the worst hand in poker. Finally, there isn’t a such thing as “funsies,” 99% of the time you’re playing poker for a reason – normally to make some money.
Beyond that, the education of a poker player gets a bit grey. Here’s a basic thought on some hands that new players will play simply because “someone told them it was worthwhile” or “but (insert professional player here) always plays this hand” or even “I had a feeling.” If you can put these into your repertoire of hands you need to fold pre-flop, you’ll potentially find that your sessions are more profitable.
Jack-10 (Suited or unsuited)
At first glance, J-10 is a pretty sweet looking hand. It holds the potential to make four nut straights, the only two card combination to be able to do that, and it can let you float a bet on the flop if they are suited and two of that suit hit the felt. The problem with J-10 is that it doesn’t play well after the flop.
If you get a flop that contains a Jack, then you have issues with the kicker that, in most cases, is going to be dominated by an opponent playing Q-J, K-J, or A-J. If you pair the ten, then the same situation is in play with a similar number of options that beat you – A-10, K-10 and Q-10. If they are suited and the two matching suit cards that come on the flop are under the ten, then there is a chance (a slim one, about 1-in-592) that an A-K, A-Q, or K-Q is out there to clip you. And let’s not even get into the potential for straights (K-Q, Q-9, 9-8) should you flop two pair.
There are two options here: hit perfectly and hope someone ignores the straight potential of the board, calling your bets all the way, or missing and having to let the hand go. If you get a flop like K-Q-x, about the only people who might come with you are pocket pairs (King, Queen or “x”) or those that have you beaten (A-K, A-Q, K-Q, any King or Queen combination and the pairer for the “x”). If the flop comes empty – say A-7-4, for example – then you’re left with air to bluff with; most wouldn’t consider chasing it any further with this dismal holding.
Everyone loves to potentially crack a big pair by playing a small one – between deuces and fives – and set mining their way into the lead. But what happens when you’ve completely missed with your little ones? It gets pretty ugly in this case.
In pre-flop action, the baby pairs don’t hold up well if there is a great deal of action in front of you. Say you’re sitting on deuces on the button when someone fires a bet out of middle position, the hijack calls and the cutoff three-bets the situation. Your pocket deuces don’t look so good now, do they? There’s nothing wrong with sending the hand to the muck here and, in fact, it is the proper play with the flurry of activity ahead of you.
The baby pairs don’t hold up well if the cards on the flop are all higher cards, at best giving you the fourth-best hand after the flop. They also don’t work well as a straight filler. For example, if you have pocket treys and fill out a 2-4-5 flop to make it an open ended straight draw, there are other potential players that crush your baby pair or could best you in a straight situation.
Extremely Gapped Suited Cards
If you were to get dealt two extremely gapped cards – say a K-2 or a Q-3, for example – there would, for most players, be little hesitation in putting those in the muck. Why then, if there is the same symbol in the corner for each card, does it make a difference? While their suited nature does open the potential for a flush, it isn’t going to do much in any other circumstance.
If that flush draw comes, then you’re committing with weak holdings – sneaky for the flush potential, yes, but weak otherwise. If you flop a King, then you have kicker issues that come up and the same works if you hit the kicker – your top card might not be enough to win at showdown unless you make trips with the kicker.
We sometimes have to play hands we’d rather not play on certain occasions. But if you can control when you voluntarily put chips in play to hands, making sure they have strong potential (not always, mind you, but more often than not) instead of weaker holdings, you should find more success on the tables. And isn’t winning hands – and the chips that go along with those hands – why we sit down at the table?