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Playing troubled hands

Article By: RuffPoker.com

In many cases just like the mid pocket pair, there are combinations of pocket cards that are trouble. They look good, so you play them aggressively, but they are weak to over card pairs, same pair better kicker scenarios. What makes things worse is that playing troubled hands is expensive, because of your naive philosophy that the cards you are holding are good. Take for example the common troubled hand K/J. First impressions are of ‘two pictures’ nice! But if there are several people in the pot, especially if there are a few raises pre flop, then you are probably up against A/K, A/Q, K/Q, all of which dominate your hand 3 to 1.

Against any other combination, troubled hands like A/J, K/J or K/10 are a 3 to 2 favorite, so many players fall into the trap of thinking they are unbeatable, but you do have to consider what others are doing around you. Furthermore, if you consider that troubled hands are easily dominated on the flop your chances of winning diminish with every community card and as only the loosest of players come in with lower hands your chances of winning decent pots are considerably less. So be cautious when playing troubled hands against a small amount of players as the pot won’t get very big even if it hits. Most importantly be ready to fold if there are lots of players in the hand because chances are your hand will hit trouble against somebody when the community cards are dealt.

I know this all sounds like ultra cautious, almost negative play. You may be thinking, ‘if I don’t play K/J what else do I play’. But the simple fact is, unless you flop two pair, or straight/flush draws, chances are your K pair will get beaten by a better kicker, or your J pair will get beaten by a higher pair. You are also open to getting beaten by two lower pairs. What makes troubled hands worse still is the fact that even when you do flop a monster it is very difficult for your opponents to make hands so the pot never gets big and you can’t slow play unless you are playing the most novice of players. Also with such hands the pot never looks tasty enough for it to be worth an opponent putting more chips in.

This being said, the most obvious reason why power picture cards combined make a troubled hand is because of Aces. Looking at the odds, even against A/2 off suit the K/J combo is a 3 to 2 underdog. So you stand to lose more than you win, simply because the A starts ahead and beats you if another is revealed. Because of this Ace factor troubled hands also tend to be played passively, with a limp in call. This is a big error because it gives anybody with lower hands a chance to see the flop and hit something, and if you go in with a raise holding K/J you are not in a strong position against any hands holding an A or suited connectors.

Of course in some games, K/J is a decent starting hand, particularly if you are on the button, even more so if you are up against only one or two opponents. As such simple logic is this, with a full ring of opponents, K/J is bad news. It is beaten by many cards, the A or two under pair being the most common. However, the less opponents you have the more potential these troubled hands have. This said, play troubled hands only in late position, especially if the table is common for lots of callers, and if the flop doesn’t hit look at the betting patterns. If there are bets in front of you with an A or pair on the flop, you can safely say somebody has you beat, so fold. If on the other hand you are sitting on top pair K or J then it may be worth making a bet of pot size to see if you can flush out the limpers and make it expensive for those holding A or draws to see the turn/river card in the hope of something hitting.

In all, troubled hands are as they say ‘trouble’. Play them with caution, don’t just assume they are power cards, remember they are exposed to many other outs. Only make aggressive plays with them when you are heads up or trying a semi-steal, and be prepared to lay down your hand at the sight of overcards on the board.