You would you be surprised if your pocket aces lost when 9 other people were against you? Would you prefer another hand, like a suited connector, in that situation? Why is it that K7s is not a very good hand but something like 87s is?
If you have already played holdem for sometime then these answers may pop right out; it isn’t obvious though to a beginner and it is funny that many people who have been playing for decades still can’t seem to get it straight. Certain hands perform better in certain situations then they would in others.
The reason a hand like K7s sucks is because it has very little chance to win (obviously! you are probably thinking, but the question is why). The ways it can win are either very unlikely to happen, or you won’t be able to play with much strength when they do. What exactly are you trying to catch when you play a hand like K7s? If you catch your King, then most likely your 7 kicker will be beaten. If you catch your 7 as top pair, you will most likely lose to overcards hitting on the turn or river. Remember the odds of catching a flush draw on the flop aren’t high either (check the probabilities table here). This hand also can’t make a straight unless it is only one card. To catch two pair with it or to make trips in a weird way is also very unlikely. So the bottom line is, these hands don’t make money unless you get lucky and luck doesn’t pan out often (or it wouldn’t be called luck). So with these kinds of crappy cards you really want to watch out. Either avoid them completely or only play them out of your blinds when it is very cheap.
Any Ace unsuited hand below AT is in my book a trouble hand. Some people might even consider AT and AJ trouble hands too but for the games you are going to be playing in they are adequate starting hands. The reason A8, A7, A5 all suck is because you really can’t hit much to win. Take A8 for example. Your kicker isn’t that great, the 8, and you have no chance of hitting any straights or flushes. The only way you can win really is to hope that they have a weaker Ace then you do and you catch one. Like I mentioned in another article on here, playing poker well is like investing. You want to put your money in good opportunities that have a chance for a nice return and A8 off isn’t that. Now to answer the question of ATs and above and A5s and below versus A9s A8s A7s A6s, I like the first ones because you can also make a straight with them. I would take A5s over A8s because the A and the 5 can work together to make a straight, unlike the A8s. When you play weak Aces though like A5s, you have to be extra cautious if you catch an Ace on the flop. You won’t be sure if your kicker is good or not so you’ll have to use some more thinking. Playing these only in later positions can help you make better decisions because people will check most likely if they don’t have the A or that hand beat.
Remember the scenario above when you were in the big blind, everyone is in the hand so far, and you look down and see two beautiful black Aces looking up at you? My heart usually starts going a mile a minute and then I look up to see that everyone has already called and my chances to win are slim. Big hands like this rarely win when there are that many people calling preflop. The reason is that it is very hard for AA to improve to anything more then just one pair. And in those big multi-way pots usually two pair or greater drags the chips. In that situation I may actually try to check raise on the flop instead of betting right now. The idea would be to try to cut off some people in the middle and make them fold. Limiting the field increases my chances to win with that hand.
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