Friday, September 30, 2005

Hand Strength

What’s the first thing that goes through your head when you look down to find pocket aces?

“I should win this hand.”
“I’m going to win this hand.”
“How big a pot will I win?”

(“Great, I’ll get sucked out on again.” – if you’re running bad)

Yours truly used to be guilty as charged.  As Captian Obvious would say, pocket Aces are the strongest starting hand in hold ‘em and should win most of the time.  It’s that thought that leads to feelings of entitlement.  In G-Rob TV-voice: “I’m entitled to win that pot, I’ve just been dealt pocket aces.”

But they don’t always win, do they?

What determines hand strength?  Not STARTING hand strength, but hand strength overall.  Sure, your two hole cards represent part of it, but not all of it.  Those pesky community cards sure account for quite a bit of your FINAL hand strength don’t they?

(Aside:  I seem to be asking a bunch of questions here….)

Whether you’re playing limit or no-limit hold ‘em, the cost of seeing additional cards as the hand progresses gets bigger and bigger.  If your final hand strength is going to rely on those final two cards, the turn and river, then you’re going to have to pay to see them.  And in limit hold ‘em, often times people do.

Those pocket aces you had many times remain just that over the course of the entire hand – a pair of aces.  When the major component of your FINAL hand strength lies in your starting cards, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the board plays an even larger role in everyone else’s final hand strength.

Part of the reason I favor no-limit over limit poker is that you have more control over which components of hand strength people get to use.  After all, your first two cards represent only 29% of the cards potentially available for you to use.


I’ve thought more about playing high pocket pairs recently and determined that I’ve overvalued them.  Especially non-ace pocket pairs, since they are so vulnerable to an overcard on the board.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to lay down pocket aces after the flop on two occasions.  I don’t think I could have done that a year ago.  It’s interesting still to see players who can’t lay them down.  And after they see you busted them with 67s, their shattered thoughts of entitlement lead them down a path I’ve worn thin.  Sometimes it’s good to be on the road less traveled.

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