There are some pretty simple axioms that can be followed when you’re playing poker. When you get pocket Aces, you’ve GOT to play them strongly (OK, at least 99% of the time), otherwise you allow opponents into the hand that might sneak up and crack your bullets. Likewise, there are hands – like the infamous “Hammer,” the 7-2 – and others that shouldn’t be touched but in the most extreme circumstances. There are some hands, however, that many people play that they really shouldn’t. Here’s three of those choices and a good reasoning as to why you shouldn’t fall into the trap of playing them during a game.
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Jack-10 (Suited or unsuited)
The Jack-10 is a very versatile hand at first look. It is the only two card combination that can solidly make four nut straights (Broadway, King-high, Queen-high or Jack-high straight, all are the “nuts” when it comes to potential straight combinations) and, when suited, it does allow for someone to “float” a flop bet if there are two other matching suits on the flop (especially if they are an Ace-King or Ace-Queen on the flop). Where the problems come in is when you have to play post-flop.
If you get a flop that contains a Jack, you’ve got a pair but a weak kicker to someone who might be playing an Ace-Jack or even a King-Jack (hands that may get played especially in late positions after a raise). Matching your ten doesn’t do any good, either, as the Jack kicker is difficult to see as being the best against an Ace-10 or King-10 (see above). If the flush draw comes up with cards beneath the Jack-10, you have three potential hands that can clip you – Ace-King, Ace-Queen and King-Queen – plus you’ve got to dodge someone who rides their off suit Ace for a potential four flush.
In essence, you’ve got to hit perfectly and hope that someone comes along with you, ignoring the potential straight potential of your hand and chasing something that might beat you. If you don’t connect at all, there’s no way that you can continue and, although you might be able to bluff at an Ace-high flop that hits the felt, you’re going to be pitching chips in the pot with hope and prayer rather than solid reasoning. It would be best to minimize the risk and perhaps use those chips when you are either in a better position or with better cards.
Everybody loves to go set mining with a baby pair – and we’re looking at deuces through fives in this case – and when they hit, they can be extremely profitable. The problems come in when you don’t hit that set to make your future course a smooth one.
If your baby pair is under all three cards on the board, you’ve got to go forward with what potentially is the fourth best pair on the table (if someone paired the flop). If your baby pair is a part of a potential straight draw – say you are holding pocket fours on a 3-5-6 flop – now you’re facing the potential that, if you hit your set on the turn or the river, that the board gives someone a straight. Even if you hit your straight draw – remember that 3-5-6 board? Put a seven on the turn… – then you can fall victim to someone with a larger straight (9-8, 8-4) who stuck around for fun and games.
They also don’t do well if there’s a great deal of action either before or after you bet. Let’s look at an opening bet and a three-bet in front of you. You look down and see pocket treys in your fingers…while you might like to take a look at a flop with them, do you call off three bets (or even put in the fourth) on such slim holdings? Likewise, if you open up the action and you have a three-bet, then a fourth follow up behind you, that baby pair shrinks up pretty quickly. I’ve folded a pocket pair up to eights in such situations – and more often than not, I’ve been correct in the fold (not perfect, mind you).
Note we didn’t even get into someone else who might be set mining along with you with a bigger baby pair. Can the baby pair be successful? Sure…but, like the Jack-10, it has to be under the perfect situation.
Extremely Gapped Suited Cards
If you were to get two extremely gapped cards – let’s say something along the lines of a King-deuce, Queen-trey, etc. – and they were unsuited, you wouldn’t have a moment’s hesitation in shooting them towards the muck. So why, if they have the same symbol in the corner, all of a sudden they become a playable hand?
There are some players who get entranced with any two suited cards and will play them like pocket Aces from the start of the hand. The issue is that, if you completely fan on the suit, then you’re left holding rags and have to go to battle. If you hit your top card, your kicker is horrendous and, in most cases, if you hit the bottom card it isn’t going to be enough to take the hand unless you get trips or pair it with the top card for two pair.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that there are some situations where it might make sense to play some of the hands above. You could be in a limped pot when you’re in the big blind, if you’re in late position with no action in front…those are the times that it might make sense (and even then you wouldn’t want to make a habit of doing it). In those cases, make sure you are the one that is dictating the terms (raising) rather than responding to someone else’s actions (calling). In that way, you might be able to make a winning hand out of these hands that you really shouldn’t be playing.