Poker Bankroll Poker Hand Variations

Poker Hand Variations

What Are The Different Poker Hand Variations?

Texas holdem poker hands can be broken down into different hand groupings or variations. Below are some of them, including some tips for each.

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Big Pairs: AA, KK, QQ, JJ

These are the strongest hands in holdem. These are rarely folded preflop. Most of the time, you'll raise preflop with them to limit the field to one or two players. Then you'll bet the rest of the way on the flop, turn and river. Having a big hand like AA or KK is hard to fold postflop, but there are plenty of times to do so. Good players are capable of letting these hands go if the community cards and the opponent's betting suggests they are beat.

A big tip for playing a hand like JJ in a no limit tourney is to see the flop before you commit all the chips. Say the opponent has AK and you have JJ. Pushing all the money in at one time results in you having roughly a coin toss situation, a 50/50 chance of winning. Another way to play the hand is to call the preflop raise and push the money in postflop if there isn't an Ace or King on the flop.

Middle Pairs: TT, 99, 88

Middle pairs do well in either pots with few players, one preferably, or against a large number of opponents in Poker Hand Variations. A hand like TT does well against just one opponent or against four plus opponents. With the TT heads up, you're looking to bet it down and win with the pair of tens. The fewer players against you, the fewer overcards there are that can flop and beat your tens. With four plus players, you're looking to flop a set. You'll do that about one in eight times. The strength of these hands increases when there are fewer players at a table. A hand like TT is much stronger at a fiver person table than at a ten person. Middle pairs are notoriously difficult to play because you often get a flop with an overcard. The best advice I can give you for that is to find out where you are at early in the hand. Don't just call. Bet and get information back and use it to determine whether you think the overcard helped your opponent's hand.

Small Pairs: 77, 66, 55, 44, 33, 22

Small pairs, like middle pairs, prefer to either play against one player or against many players. You want volume pots to try and hit a set or you want to be heads up. One tip I would suggest for these is that you need to know what flop you want to see. Say your opponent raises preflop and you call. Hitting the set is a great flop. After that a flop that pairs the board is also good, such as TT4 when you have 66. Likewise, a ragged flow with all low cards is also good, such as 8-5-2 when you have 33. That's a good flop, all though difficult. If the opponent doesn't have a pair, you're good. That's essentially a blank flop for a preflop raiser.

Big Cards: AK, AQ, AJ, KQ

Big cards play like big pairs do. AJ and KQ are grouped here but they aren't nearly as strong as the other two: AK and AQ. You usually raise preflop with these and hope to hit top pair on the flop. Regardless of whether you connect with the flop or not, you usually bet out representing the best hand (since you raised preflop).

Middle Cards: AT, KJ, QJ, KT, QT, JT

These are decent hands with some reservations. These are good hands in late position when no one has raised, in games with few players and to attack and defend the blinds. These fall into the category of trouble hands though, because against someone who has a big starting hand, you often are dominated. Usually a preflop raiser with a strong hand will be competing for the same cards these hands hold, which severely handicaps them. As a general rule for full table games, you'll want to avoid other player's raises with these and play them when you can put in the opening raiser yourself in good position (middle to late). Note the difference of being a bettor and a caller. To call might be wrong, but to bet might be correct.

Suited Connectors: T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, etc.

Suited connectors are generally good hands in volume pots, pots with lots of players. The reason for this is they rarely get you in trouble with kickers since you're trying to make a flush or straight with them. Likewise, they don't compete for the same set of cards the big hands do. Statistically speaking, 76s is the strongest hand to beat AA. That doesn't mean it's good at beating it, just that it is the best one of all. A better way of putting it would be to say the hand loses the least against AA is 76s.

One note here: Any hand can be played with position and betting to win. You can raise with 22, get heads up, represent a big hand by betting and win. A big starting hand tip that will take your game to the next level is to occasionally raise with these hands, as you would with AK and AA. Open raise occasionally with these. There are a couple reasons for this. One, if you get to show it down, the opponent's at the table will give you more action on your big hands because they think you'll raise with more than just AK and big pairs. Next, even if you don't get to show them down, they add to the overall amount of hands your raising with. It kind of buffers your good hands more too. You don't want to opponents to see you don't raise often and when you do you have AA. Lastly, think about what happens when you get heads up with someone. If the flop comes back with an Ace, King or any other card that doesn't improve the opponent's hand, he gives you respect for having a big hand. Also, if the flop comes back low, such as 7-6-2 when you have 76, you'll crush them. I've seen this many times before. You'll have a good player open raise with a wacky hand, get called by another player with a big hand like AA thinking he's playing smart by slow playing. Then the 76 flops the nuts and destroys the big pair.

Suited Gapers: Q9s, J9s, 86s, 75s, etc.

Suited gapers are just like suited connectors. They are a little worse value-wise than the suited connectors are, but not by much. You can play these like you can the suited connectors.

Ace Rag, Ax, Ace-little: A9, A8, A7, A6, A5, A4, A3, A2

These hands do poorly against preflop raises at full tables. They do well attacking blinds, defending blinds against steal raises and in games with few players. If the Ace is suited, it becomes playable in volume pots at full tables. Some huge pots are ones where you are drawing to the nut flush, like with A5s, against someone with a smaller flush, like KQs. In tourney play, these can be correctly played to attack players with few chips left and to push all-in when your low on chips.

One tip I'll give for these is this: If you play a hand like Ax, you always run the risk of getting into the big pot small pot problem where if you flop an Ace you don't get any action unless your beat (big pot if you lose, small pot if you win). You can reduce some of that by slow playing the flop. This won't help you if you are beat by a bigger Ace, but it will help you to win money against a worse hand. Say the flop is A-Q-3 and you have A7 in the BB. Instead of defining your hand on the flop by betting, I'd check and let the opponent believe I don't have an Ace. You want to allow him to make a second best hand that he can pay you off with. Say he has KJ. He might pick up a Jack or Queen on the turn and have enough of a hand to call some bets with. If you bet into him too early with the weak Ace, you'll only get called when you lose.

The Rest: Junk Hands, Trash Hands, etc: K9-K2, Q8-Q2, J8-J2, etc.

These hands aren't great based on their card strength alone. Most of the time you'll be folding these preflop. One thing I want to say though is the flop changes everything. Q2 is better than AK when it flops a Queen. It's important to learn how to play these cards. Often times you'll get to see a flop out of the blinds with a weak hand. If you only know how to play AA and AK, it's going to be hard to do well. You need to know how to play rags. Q8 can make you money just like the AK, the only difference is you have to be better postflop and you have to play it only at the right time.

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