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Stop Playing Junk

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jun 16, 2021

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Jonathan LittleI was recently told about a poker hand that illustrates a few detrimental errors some poker players make on a regular basis, and it all stems from poor decision making preflop. In a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em cash game, our Hero decided to raise to $10 out of his $350 stack with 10Spade Suit 4Spade Suit from the hijack seat.

It may not seem like it, but our Hero has made a costly mistake right off the bat. 10-4 suited is much too weak to raise, even when everyone folds to you on the button. From the hijack, it is far too weak. The only time Hero can justify playing such a weak hand is when he is incredibly deep stacked and everyone else at the table folds far too often to aggression.

The player in the cutoff then three-bet to $35. The button cold called, and everyone else folded around to Hero, who also decided to call.

Again, 10Spade Suit 4Spade Suit is much too weak to call, even when closing the action and getting reasonable pot odds. When playing somewhat shallow stacked, you simply must be patient and play hands that stand to be stronger than your opponents’ range, or hands that can easily outdraw your opponents’ premium hands. 10-4 suited does not fit into either of these categories.

The flop came QSpade Suit 7Club Suit Spade Suit, giving Hero a flush draw. First to act, he led for $50 into the $113 pot.

While leading with your premium made hands and draws is a reasonable strategy that may make you difficult to play against, given the stack sizes in relation to the pot, and the generally uncoordinated texture of the flop, Hero should be checking, looking to check-raise all-in.

By betting $50 out of his $315 stack, Hero set himself up to be in a dicey spot on the turn, having roughly 1.25 pot-sized bets remaining in his stack if the opponent calls. If he instead check-raised all-in, he would be able to make the bettor fold many non-premium hands, and when he happens to get called, his flush draw will usually be live.
Both opponents called and the turn was the 6Heart Suit. Hero pushed all-in for $265 into the $263 pot.

Once both opponents call, our Hero now has a pot-sized bet remaining, which is usually a nice amount to push all-in. However, when both opponents call on this uncoordinated board, you can be certain that at least one of them has a decent made hand that will not fold to an all-in.

Hero may also be against a premium draw that will call off their stack. That said, pushing all-in with Hero’s junky flush draw may still be the best play, especially if he would also play his sets and two-pair hands this way.

It is important to note, however, that while Hero’s turn semi-bluff may be fine, getting to this point in this manner was certainly an error.

The cutoff made the call with A-Q (top pair) and the button folded. The river was the 2Heart Suit, awarding a nice pot to the cutoff.

Use this hand history as a cautionary tale. The simple solution to sidestep these trouble spots is to not play junky hands before the flop. Folding is rarely the exciting play, but in this case it would have saved our Hero his entire stack. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.