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Avoid the Seduction of Trash Hands

We’ve all experienced it. You’re holding utter trash (say, 7-2 off-suit) and then that voice inside of you that says, “What the hell… play this hand!” And then, incredibly! The flop comes with two deuces! You are a genius!

In some cases, you will clean up in this situation, encouraging you to take greater and greater risks with trash hands. And in other cases, you will proudly flip up your 7-2 off-suit only to discover that your opponent holds an A-2. Ouch!

One of the reasons for the great popularity of Texas Hold ‘Em is that any two cards can win.

While we all know that playing hands like 7-2 off-suit is a quick way to lose your shirt, the joy of actually having hit with your trash that one time is a powerful persuasive memory urging you to turn this terribly flawed whim into a losing habit. Given most players confidence in their post-flop playing ability, we also tend to convince ourselves that we will simply out-play our opponents after the flop anyways. After all, that’s what the pros do on TV.

Although it’s a fairly obvious lesson, it’s well worth taking the time in this article to remember perhaps one of the most important lessons of poker: how to recognize trash hands and get rid of them.

The "Dominated" hand

A "dominated" hand is one that will nearly always lose to another better hand. Even in the statistically small cases where that better hand does not win, the dominated hand will consistently come in behind.

For example, let’s say you are holding Q-4 off-suit. If the flop comes with a queen in it, you are holding top pair. However, especially if you have more than one opponent in the pot with you, you stand a decent chance of getting out-kicked when someone ends up showing you a queen with a better kicker. The only real hope for your hand is a miracle flop like 4-4-x or Q-4-x. Even if the flop comes Q-Q-x, when you will likely be holding the best hand, good luck getting somebody to call you on that flop. They won’t,  unless they can beat you, and if you put yourself into situations like this, you'll get shown Q-T, K-Q, or Q-9.

Furthermore, if even you think you might be holding the best hand, you still won’t be able to win many chips with it. Let’s go back to the case where you have Q-4 and the flop comes queen high, giving you top pair. If you truly have the best hand and bet, most likely everyone will fold, leaving you with a small pot. If you are called, you are probably beaten and won’t dare to bet again. If you are not beaten, your opponent probably won't call again. The best you can do with a dominated hand is win a tiny pot.

Two- and Three-Gap Hands

Suited connectors are a popular hand to play and with good reason. But when you start allowing yourself to treat two-gap and even three-gap hands as if they are suited connectors, you open yourself up to getting into trouble.

For instance, with 9-5 off-suit you can only make one straight (5-6-7-8-9), and it's not the nuts. If the flop comes nine high, you've got no kicker, and you're vulnerable to over-cards.

Small Pairs

Hey – wait a minute. Small pairs are trash? The truth is that with a pair of 3's, you're actually a tiny statistical favorite over A-K suited. But these hands can also have you shaking you head wishing you’d had greater self-discipline. Unless you flop trips, you don't know which over-card beats you.

Stinky Trash

It always drives you crazy to see some crazy player take down a big pot with hands like 8-3 suited, T-4 off-suit, or K-3 off-suite. But the fact of the matter is, if you play trash hands like this regularly, you will lose your money. Just toss ‘em out on the curb.




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