Poker School

Entering The Pot

In the previous lessons we have seen about assessing the value of your starting hand, once the strength of your starting hand is figured out, you have to figure out a method to play those cards out.

In poker, general rules can be twisted depending on particular circumstances. However, your options pre-flop are same all the time: either you play the cards (call or raise) or you fold them.

The decision you make pre-flop determines a lot on hoe the rest of your hand plays, and mostly it depends upon three critical factors:

  • The strength of your hand
  • The position you are at the table
  • The action of your opponent in front of you

CATEGORIZING STARTING HANDS

As mentioned earlier, it is clear that several factors combine in order to make a starting hand stronger than another starting hand. Basically the starting hands are classified based on the fact that if the hand is paired, if it is suited or if the cards are close in rank. The outcome was the classification of each poker hands into different groups.

The strongest group of hands will be known by the name "monster hands" and the weakest hands as "trash hands", and some group of hands with medium strength in between.

MONSTER HANDS

As Ah, Kc Kd, Qs Qd and As Ks

The top pairs are considered to be the best starting hands in Texas Hold'em, as mentioned several times earlier, a pair of Aces is considered to be the best starting hand of all. Monster hands can be played all the time. Irrespective of your position at the table, weather you are in an early position or you are in a late position or even against the raise made by your opponent. The maximum profit can be made out of monster hands by playing them aggressively. Hence, if you see a monster hand you have to raise it. Checking while holding a monster is out of question.

Many experienced poker players and experts in poker consider a suited ace king to be a monster hand. Because of the fact that the both cards are of the same suit as well as connected in rank, a suited ace king is considered to be the most powerful starting hand without a pair. In almost every situation Ace-king can be considered to be a monster hand and played accordingly. Even though, we cannot ignore the fact that you are only holding an Ace-high if it doesn't connect with the flop. For some professionals, ace-king belongs with another group of very strong hands which are not monsters.

VERY STRONG HANDS

Jd Jh, 10c 10s, Ah Ks and Ad Qd

These cards are considered to be really strong hands, but less powerful than the Monsters. This group consists of paired cards slightly lower than the monster pairs mentioned above and powerful suited connectors which are not the strongest yet strong enough to be a good starting hand. For example, an unsuited Ace-king is slightly weaker than a suited Ace-king. But, it doesn't mean that unsuited Ace-king is a trash hand.

In most cases, it is advised to play and raise using these hands. In some cases there will be raises and re-raises to that in front of you. In such cases you should be very careful as your opponent might be having a better hand like any of those monsters. Making a fold is the best move to make in a situation like that.

SPECULATIVE HANDS

Pocket pairs from 9s 9h to 2c 2d, any ace with a lower kicker from Jack to nine. Any suited ace, suited cards ranked from 10 or above (e.g. Qh 10h, Kc Qc, Kd Jd), same suited cards with a maximum gap of two ranks (9s 8s and 9s 7s).

One of the most important factors to be considered while assessing your starting hand are whether your hole cards are paired, connected or ranked high. These "speculative" hands are missing one or more of the following things: they are pair, but not a top pair; they are suited but not close in rank, etc.

Basically every "speculative" hand is capable of making something much stronger, but they are not really strong on their own. You are supposed to fold these cards if you are playing in an early position, as there are good chances of someone raising from the late position and put you under pressure.

Generally, if you are playing in late position you can consider doing a raise, especially when all the opponents in front of you chose to fold. If someone calls on your raise you are aware about the potential of your hand to make something powerful. The most important thing to be noted while playing speculative hands is that it has to be folded if someone shows much greater strength or if you cannot determine the hand strength of your opponent.

WEAK/TRASH STARTING HANDS

All other starting hands which doesn't come under Monster hands, very strong hands and speculative hands are considered to be weak or trash starting hands. They are not highly ranked or they are not connected in any profitable way. Even a starting hand like 4s 5s is considered to be a weak hand. It may seem like it has the potential to make a flush or a straight, but the chances of you loosing is high and the chances of you winning is low.

It is always advisable to consistently fold trash hands unless you have a good reason to play them.

POSITION CONSIDERATION

As always in poker, the position you are in at a table is a crucial factor to be considered. This is mostly applicable in your pre-flop decision making. If a huge number of players are left to act after you, you have to be really careful while selecting the starting hand. Playing out of position should be avoided, especially when you are holding weak or speculative starting hands.

TRACKING THE ACTION

Another important factor to be considered pre-flop is the action happening in front of you. In case if an opponent has already entered the pot you can understand that he wants to play his hand. But, if he did a raise, it implies that he has a really good hand and he is looking forward to make the maximum profit out of it.

You need adjust your starting hand selection in such situations. You are advised to tighten up and only play the hands that are strong enough to compete against your opponent's hand. You can never predict the exact hand which your opponent is holding but you can narrow down the range of possibilities and get a better and clear image.

CONCLUSION

The first and the most important decision you should make while receiving your hole cards is whether if those cards are strong enough for entering the pot. Great starting hands often created great showdowns, the decision you make will definitely affects everything that comes after that.

As a beginner player, it is always advisable for you to play only the hands which are considered to be strong and fold all the other hands. Being patient for a good hand and folding consistently doesn’t mean that you are losing the game.

But once you have entered the pot with a powerful starting hand, you should play aggressively and consistently as discussed in the previous lessons. You must also take your table position into consideration while calculating the strength of your hand. Very importantly you should pay a lot of attention to your opponent players. Other players at the table give out information about their holdings while making their play which can be a check, call or a bet. Make sure you don’t miss out any of such important information.

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