Falling in Love With Great Starting Hands

When you’re a disciplined poker player, it’s sometimes a little frustrating to keep folding hand after hand waiting for a premium starting holding. Because of this, when we look down and see a wired big pair or Ace-King suited, we jump right in with an air of excitement. Finally we get to play!

While it’s of course always to play these hands aggressively pre flop, we must keep things in perspective as the hand progresses; otherwise all this enthusiasm might come back to hurt us. Falling in love with great starting hands is something you definitely want to avoid.

I’ve seen countless situations where players get involved in a big pot and face a large bet or raise on the river after their great looking starting hand has failed to improve and the board has gotten scary. They often reluctantly make the call, saying something like “well I can’t throw away my Kings.” Similarly, these players sometimes get over-aggressive with an unimproved Ace-King and try to come over the top to win the pot.

It’s just something about those pretty starting hands that make us start thinking completely irrationally. Our opponent suddenly seems so much more likely to be bluffing. He must have something like Ace-Queen or Ace-Jack and is trying to push us out. We may have no real reason to put him on this hand, but instead of assigning a range and comparing it to our hand, we get blinded by the allure of our Aces, Kings or Big Slick.

In the case of Ace King, remember that even a pocket pair of deuces is favored statistically in heads-up action; that is, you will most likely need to improve to win. If you are facing a bet after the flop and have not improved, the chances of your opponent running a complete bluff with a weaker ace is pretty slim unless you have a specific read. Don’t feel bad folding in this situation, as you should save your chips for a better situation.

Similarly, if you have a big pair and face a big show of strength while facing a flush or highly coordinated board, you might want to consider folding a big pair. I’m not saying assume the worst in every situation, but always think about the hand rationally and evaluate what you think the odds are that your Queens, Kings or Aces are still the best hand. Don’t let the fact that this might be your only big pair in your session cloud your judgment.

Remember, there are no bonus points for pretty starting hands, and the bets that you save when you know you’re beaten are just as valuable as the ones you win from your opponents.

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