Common Misunderstood Hands

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When playing Texas Hold’em, correctly evaluating the strength of the pocket cards is crucial. What may appear to be a strong hand pre-flop can suddenly turn into a certain loser if the wrong three cards turn up. In fact, there are certain combinations of cards that players frequently overplay. Knowing what these common misunderstood hands are and what risks they involve can save a player many stacks of chips over the long term.

Aces, Faces, and Spaces

There can be no doubt that a pocket Ace is a powerful card. The problem is that it can’t stand alone. Depending on what other card accompanies it, a pocket Ace may be the nuts or just another hand to muck.

Take the Ace-Queen, for example. Few would deny that this looks like a strong way to start, especially if suited, but experts warn that it is also the #1 most troublesome hand to play. Sitting in an early position at a full table, most pros will fold it, suited or unsuited. The reason: when it wins, the pots tend to be small; when it loses, the cost is usually big.

In fact, the same can be said of the Ace-Jack, King-Jack, and King-Ten. If a high pair is flopped, it can be beat by the same high pair with a higher kicker. If two pairs are flopped, the hand is still vulnerable to a set, straight, or flush. Any player who stays in against these hands probably has a good reason to ride along. And if more than one player calls, the odds of success post-flop drop dramatically.

Many top players would rather see “no gaps” among big cards. Catching the King-Queen, Queen-Jack, or even a Jack-Ten may be preferable to the hands noted above, especially if suited. Pocket cards made up of Aces or Faces with spaces in between should be played with great caution, if at all.

Marginal Pairs

Beginners tend to look at all pocket pairs as good omens. No matter what pair they hold, they will call to see the flop, hoping for a set. But more experienced players know that any pocket pair short of face cards is a potential loser in the making. That’s because anything less than a pair of Jacks can be so easily beat by those who go into the flop with a picture or an Ace.

In fact, pocket Jacks rank #2 among the most common misunderstood hands in Poker. Although it looks powerful and only three other pairs can top it pre-flop, Jacks are overplayed more often than any hand other than the Ace-Queen.

Many players will wager heavily on their Jacks, looking to scare away competition and steal the blinds. When they are unsuccessful, they are immediately vulnerable to bigger pairs. It stands to reason that any player who has called the Jacks’ raises must have something worthwhile in the hole. Aggressively backing Jacks is just looking for trouble.

Does this mean the common misunderstood hands should be folded rather than played? Absolutely not. They are all strong hands and can provide a player with many ways to win. The key is not to become overly enthusiastic or to treat them like such truly premium hands as A-A, K-K, Q-Q, or A-K suited. As powerful as they may appear to be at the onset, they have weaknesses and should be played accordingly.

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