It takes a long time for some Texas holdem players to understand the link between their profitability, or lack of profitability, and their starting hand. The fact is you can’t be a long term profitable Texas holdem player if you don’t make the correct choices with your starting hands.
One of the things that causes a problem for most players is there are only a small set of good starting hands. You can go 10 hands or more without seeing a decent starting hand. This can get boring quickly, because most people that play the game of poker are action junkies.
If you’ve folded the last several hands you often start looking for a way to get into a hand. Weak starting hands start looking better, and if you’re not careful you’re jumping into hands with small suited connectors and king three suited. This is clearly not the way to be a profitable Texas holdem player.
Other players eventually learn that weak hands are not profitable in the long run and start playing only their better hands.
As you learn to fold your weaker hands, you have to face a new challenge. You have to learn how to properly value the hands that you do play. It’s just as costly to overvalue decent hands as it is to play weak hands.
Here’s a list of five Texas holdem starting hands that you might be overvaluing. These five hands are all good enough to play in most situations, but if you value them too highly, they can cost you money.
1 – Ace King
Ace king is the most dangerous hand in Texas holdem. It looks like a great starting hand, and it’s good enough to play in almost any situation. But at the end of the day it’s still a drawing hand. Rarely will ace king win without improving.
The values in hands like ace ace and king king is not only are they high pairs to start with, but they also often win without improving. Ace king almost always has to improve to win with it at the show down.
You can play ace king two different ways, and the best way to play it depends on the specific situation. You can limp with it, just like you might limp with a medium pocket pair or ace jack suited in some situations, or you can enter with a raise.
When you limp with ace king, if you don’t improve on the flop you need to check and fold to a bet. Never call a bet on the flop with ace king unless you improve your hand. This is a terrible play and will consistently stray you away from your attempt at proper casino bankroll management.
If you raise with ace king it usually thins the field before the flop. The best situation with ace king when you raise is to see the flop with one opponent. With a pre flop raise, when you don’t improve on the flop you can either make a continuation bet or check and hope to see the turn for free.
When you miss the flop and make a continuation bet, if you get called and don’t improve on the turn, your best play is almost always check and fold to a bet.
Most of the time when I have ace king I enter the pot with a raise. This sets up the possibility of winning the hand with a continuation bet on the flop if my hand doesn’t improve.
You should play ace king most of the time; you just need to make sure you’re not overvaluing it. It’s also not strong enough to get all in with before the flop. I know that you often see players get all in with ace king in tournaments, but the only time you should do this is when you’re short stacked. And you should always be the first one to move all in; not making an all in call.
2 – Queen Queen
Queen queen is a powerful starting hand, but the mistake many players make is acting like it’s as good as pocket aces or pocket kings. With pocket aces, you always have top pair. It doesn’t matter what lands on the flop, someone has to draw a hand that beats top pair.
When you have pocket kings, the only card that can land on the flop that scares you is an ace. And often you still win the hand with pocket kings when an ace lands on the flop if you entered with a raise pre flop.
With pocket queens you have to worry about an ace or king landing on the flop. It might not seem like a big difference to move from one scare card to two, but in this case it does make a big difference.
When you raise with pocket queens before the flop, try to imagine the types of hands that might call. If you’re facing pocket aces or pocket kings, you’re most likely going to get in a battle before the flop. But hands like ace king, ace queen, sometimes ace jack, king queen suited, and king jack suited are likely to call. Other possibilities include pocket pairs, hoping to hit a set and stack you.
You need to enter the pot with a raise with pocket queens to thin the field. But don’t overvalue them at any point on the hand. If you face a move all in before the flop with pocket queens, you might already be dominated. You need to use everything you know about your opponent when this happens to try to determine if you need to fold.
When an ace or king hits on the flop, I usually make a continuation bet, but when an opponent stays with me I slow down and try not to get committed to the pot.
3 – Jack Jack
I mentioned in the first section that ace king is the most dangerous hand in Texas holdem. Pocket jacks are the second most dangerous hand. They look like a strong hand, but there are simply too many ways you can lose with them on the flop.
As I was learning how to be a winning Texas holdem player, I lost too much money and definitely gave more to the casino house edge with pocket jacks. Eventually I figured out a way to play them profitably.
I play pocket jacks the same way I play pocket eights or nines. I try to get in the pot as cheap as I can, and play them for set value. When I hit a set I push hard the rest of the hand, and when I don’t hit a set I usually check and fold.
If the flop has all undercards, I take a stab at it on the flop, but I’m very careful if anyone stays to see the turn.
4 – Ace 10 Suited
Ace 10 suited is rarely any better than ace two suited. The real value of the hand is when you complete a flush, and when you do complete a flush it’s hard to extract more value from the hand because your opponent can see the possibility of the flush.
You need to play ace 10 suited as a drawing hand, and you need to be careful when you hit any hand that’s not a flush. It can create a straight, but this doesn’t happen often.
5 – King Queen Suited
When you haven’t played a hand for a half hour or more, a hand like king queen suited looks like a monster. King queen isn’t a terrible starting hand, but it’s not strong enough to even see the flop in some situations. I don’t play it from early position, and rarely play it from middle position.
Every time you consider entering the pot, try to envision what you want to see on the flop. With king queen, what do you hope to see on the flop?
If the flop has a king or a queen, you have a high pair, but there’s no guarantee that you have the best hand. Any flush possibility without the ace on the board is dangerous. If the flop has a king and a queen, you have two pair, but you also might face a straight draw from any opponent who entered with ace jack, ace 10, or jack 10.
King queen suited isn’t a terrible hand, but you should only play it from late position and the blinds, and you can’t afford to play it too aggressively.
To be the best Texas holdem player you can be, you need to not only make smart decisions about your starting hands, but you also need to learn how to properly value the hands you do see the flop with. When you overvalue the strength of your starting hands it ends up costing you money. Make sure you don’t overvalue the strength of the five starting hands on this page.