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If You Are Going to Play Junk, You'd Better Play it Properly

by Barry Shulman |  Published: Mar 22, 2005


At this year's Professional Poker Tour (PPT) event at Commerce Casino, I played two hands that preflop appeared to be about equally bad. In the first one, I won a giant pot, putting me in great shape with about half the field left. One hour later, a similar hand came up that, because of my terrible play, cost me almost all of my chips.

It would be easy and correct to say that I should have just been playing solid cards and would have been better off. It would be even more accurate to say that I would have been better off yet by playing these starting hands at times, and playing them right.

The first hand was a 10-7 offsuit. A shortish stack made a small raise, a good-sized stack called, and I called from the button. The flop was Q-10-7 rainbow. The short stack moved in, the next player called, and I reraised all in. The player in the middle called. I was up against A-Q and K-Q, respectively, and won a monster pot.

I can easily justify the play because I had all of the following things going for me:

• Good position

• Good chip count

• Good table control, pace and respect

• The raiser was a fairly short stack who had plenty to win but couldn't destroy me

• Two others were in the pot besides myself

• My cards, if they hit, probably would not be held by the others

Very soon thereafter I was moved to another table and got what appeared to be a similar hand when Q-9 showed up about 30 minutes after my arrival. I got a similar flop, Q-X-X (two clubs), against one player. He checked, I made a standard bet, and he check-raised me. For some reason, I assumed he had just a flush draw and moved all in. He called with the same top pair but a better kicker, and I lost almost my entire stack. It was the worst play I have made this year.

So, why is it even worth writing about? Well, besides the terrible play, this hand was really very different from the 10-7. On analysis, nothing that was going for me with the 10-7 was going for me with the Q-9. Let's see how they were different:

• Position – I was in middle position rather than on the button

• Chip count – I still had decent absolute chip count, but there were many more chips on this table than the other one

• Table control, pace and respect – I was a newcomer and the big stacks had the control

• The other guy – He had a big stack, could destroy me, and was not the type of player I could blow off a hand.

• I was heads up

• Cards – If I hit a piece of the flop (as I did with the queen), top pair would not be good if he had a good hand

Conclusion: There was no reason to play the Q-9, but given that I did play it, flopping top pair was the same as missing the flop once he check-raised, and I should have been done with it.

Playing junk at the right time can be profitable, but just be sure it is the right time. And be even more certain that if you play junk, to play it well. spades