This articles is a continuation of School of Poker: Preflop play at small stakes Part 1. Today, we’ll look at considerations for hands that fall below Group 3, but are still playable in certain circumstances.
Other Playable Hands
Last week we talked about how to play hands in the first 3 of Sklansky’s 8 groups. For players who suck at poker, like you, you won’t want to play all of the other hands in Sklansky’s groups. So instead I’m going talk about the other types of playable hands individually.
Position refers to where you’re sitting at the table in relation the the dealer button. To the left of the button is the small blind, and to the left of that is the big blind. The blinds are the worst spots to be in. Not only are you forced to put money in the pot before you know your hand, but you’re also the first to act post-flop, and thus have the least amount of information. The spot to the left of the big blind is called under the gun, or UTG for short. The seats to the left of that are referred to as UTG+1, UTG+2, etc. These seats are known as early position. Other than the blinds, you have the least information and the most players left who could raise or call you if you bet. Two seats to the right of the button is the hijack. This, and the seat to the right of it (UTG +3 in a full ring game) are called middle position. After the hijack is the cutoff, and finally, the button. These are called late position and are the best spot to be in. What hands you will and will not play should be based on your current position. You’ll play more hands in late position and fewer in early position.
These are going to be where most of your money comes from. Ideally you will flop a set (also known as 3 of a kind) and get paid off big by players with top pair or some kind of draw. While you may only have a 12% chance to flop a set, they are better hands for beginners than almost anything else simply because of how easy they are to play. Either you flop a set or an overpair, or you fold. In fact, some players make their money simply by doing the poker equivalent of a noob tube: they play pocket pairs, and maybe AKs and fold everything else.
Even you should be able to figure out how to play pocket pairs preflop. If you’re the first in, open raise from any position. If you’re facing someone else’s open raise, or someone reraises you, use the 5/10 rule. If you’re not comfortable playing really small pairs postflop, then limping is also acceptable (pussy), but you’ll make a lot less when you do hit.
Weak Broadway Hands
These are most of the hands with only broadway cards that I didn’t mention earlier such as AJo, KQo, etc. These are very deceptive hands. They look like decent hands, and in some ways they are, but you need to be very careful with them. If you flop top pair with QTo, keep in mind that AQ and KQ are both very popular hands to play, and there’s likely someone with a higher kicker. There also aren’t many hands that will call a bet that you can beat with a pair of queens and a weak kicker. That doesn’t mean these hands are unplayable. At smaller stakes, there’s still a lot of idiots who play a lot of idiot hands that you can make money off of with these. However, you should fold these in early position, and fold to almost any raise from any player preflop (unless you think they’re trying to steal).
Suited Aces (Axs)
It’s happened to everyone.
Stealing is a term you’ll hear a lot. I’ve mentioned it multiple times in this article. More specifically it’s called stealing the blinds, and doing it well is essential to turn a profit. At the end of the day, regardless of the size of the pot, you’re playing for the blinds. It’s the only money that’s in the pot until someone voluntarily puts in some money. When everybody folds to you and you’re sitting in the small blind, button, or cutoff, you have the option to raise a hand you wouldn’t otherwise raise with the intention of winning the blinds without seeing the flop.
At some point we’ve all looked down at A6s and thought “Hey, I could flop the nut flush, I’ve got a good hand.”, or you’ve figured that if an ace comes out you’ll have top pair. It’s a scrub mistake. You’ve made it, I’ve made it, and it’s going to cost you money. You’ll almost never flop a flush. You may flop a flush draw which can turn into a winning hand, but is difficult to play and will likely cost you money if you’re new. You could also flop top pair, but keep in mind that most hand ranges have an ace more than any other card. At low stakes some idiots will even play any hand with an ace in it. Guess what, now your top pair is playing against a top pair with a better kicker. You’re drawing dead. However, I still play these in certain spots. They’re great hands to steal with from late position, and I’ll sometimes limp with them in the right spot. 90% of the time, however, for a new player this hand is garbage and you’ll want to fold it like it’s origami.
Suited Connectors (98s, 87s, etc.)
The value from these hands comes from the fact that you can flop both a straight and a flush (Which means best hand evar if you’re an idiot). Played properly these are even more profitable than pocket pairs. However, they aren’t as easy to play. A lot of boards that will make your straight or flush are the same kind of boards that don’t hit anyone else (meaning they’ll fold when you try and bet). In addition, you’re more likely to flop a draw or a small pair than a solid hand. You may start playing these more as you get better, but for now, keep these to steals and the occasional limp.
I wouldn’t advise playing any hands that I haven’t mentioned here unless you like being in marginal positions post flop. There are some hands that others might talk about, such as Kxs, Axo, offsuited connectors, and suited one-gappers (97s). Some people should play some of these some of the time, but not you. You suck. Stick to hands that don’t.