PokerStars homepage
Poor Poker Hand Selection
Poker is all about making good decisions and avoiding big mistakes. But matters at the poker table are rarely black and white: there is never one way to play certain situations all the time, and it is impossible to produce a strict guide for all circumstances.

Nevertheless, there are some situations that continually cause difficulties for players of all levels, and avoiding common mistakes can give you a significant advantage over many opponents.

If you understand why you should avoid these situations, you will also learn how to take advantage of your opponents when they get themselves into trouble.

This chapter is all about common mistakes and how to avoid them. They can be extremely costly in a no limit Texas Hold'em cash game.

POOR HAND SELECTION

We have spoken at length in the Poker Basics course and this course about the importance of correct pre-flop hand selection. Nevertheless, players still often get themselves in trouble by either over-valuing marginal hands, which turn out to be dominated by an opponent, or getting involved in huge pots with weak hands, which they end up losing.

Let's take a closer look.

Over-valuing dominated hands

Hands like  or  may look pretty, but they are not great hands.

Although they may be playable in position and if nobody has raised previously, they are exceptionally vulnerable if an opponent shows strength. As soon as an opponent starts raising, you have to muck them. You don't want to flop the second best hand, which can often happen with these kinds of holdings.


 
    1. You are dealt  on the button and action is folded to you. You decide to raise to $6 (three times the big blind) to pick up the blinds, but the player in the big blind re-raises to $21. You should fold, even though you have position. Your hand may be dominated.
    2. You have  again, this time in the cut off, and action is folded to you. You raise to $6 and this time the player on the button moves all in for $21. This time it is correct to call. You need to pay $15 to win $45 and odds are in your favor. You only need a 33 per cent chance of winning the hand to make this a correct decision.

 

Playing big pots with weak hands

The second example in the previous hand replayer showed you the importance of always being aware of other players' stack sizes. If you are all in pre-flop (or on the flop) a positional disadvantage isn't a problem anymore.

Also high card hands such as an ace with a low kicker, or  become more valuable. These kinds of hands often make weak made hands, such as top pair, and they are fine for playing smaller pots.

However, you should rarely play big pots with one pair hands. Remember: big pots are for big hands only, and you need to be disciplined enough to fold hands that are simply not strong enough to withstand a lot of aggression from opponents.

Play the hands below and see how applying correct strategy can help you to lose the minimum.
 
  1.  
    1. You have  on the button. The player under the gun raises to $7 and the player next to him calls. Action is folded to you and you call, specifically hoping to see diamonds on the flop. The flop comes  and the original raiser bets $18. The other player calls. You should fold. You have a pair of aces but your kicker is too weak to proceed against two other players showing strength.
    2. You are in the big blind with  and a player in mid position raises to $6. Two others call. You now have to pay only $4 to enter a pot that already contains $21. You call and see a flop of . You check your straight draw, out of position, and then call a $20 bet from the original raiser. (There is one other caller.) The  turns and you check again. The original raiser bets $35, a small amount, and the other player calls again. You should call again. The  comes on the river. You now have a pair of eights, but should still check-fold to any action. You missed your straight draw and your hand can't beat anything except a bluff.
    3. The same hand as before all the way to the river. But this time the river falls  and you make your straight. You must call because you have hit the hand you were hoping for.