Don’t Marry Your Hand

How many times have you sat down at a low limit table at Party Poker or Bodog only to be dealt crap for hours at a time? And when I say crap I mean utter garbage hands that are unplayable by any stretch of the imagination. I got to experience this exact scenario the other night when I was playing $2/4 at a wild table at Party Poker. There were two maniacs at the table that were just jamming the pot every hand. And not surprisingly there were always two or three calling stations that would go along for the ride all the way to the river. The guy sitting across the table from me was the only real card player in the game and he was doing very well.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t catch a decent hand if my life had depended on it. After literally an hour of watching pot after juicy pot be swept up by the lucky guy across the table, I was finally dealt AQ from early position. Finally! I might actually have a winner I thought to myself. Without hesitation, I raised to limit the field. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to play my nice looking hand I forgot what type of table I was sitting at. Not only did I utterly fail to protect my hand with that raise, five players called.

The flop was a miserable 9 8 6. I might be good with ace high heads-up, but against five opponents with flush and straight draws on the board, I needed to hit the flop in order to continue. But my AQ looked so nice after all the 53’s and J8’s I’d been dealt! I stubbornly raised again thinking that this time I might knock some people out. Not only was it asinine to even continue with this board, if I’d really wanted to protect my hand which was not worth protecting in the first place, I should have checked and then waited for the probable late position raise and then re-raised. I would have had a better chance to limit the field by forcing my opponents to cold-call two bets. This type of play is of course even more effective on the turn when the bets are larger.

After my foolish raise I was again re-raised at which point I should have just folded. I instead proceeded to check and call all the way to the river at which point my unimproved ace high lost to a flush which beat out two straights and one opponent’s two pair.

So what did I learn from this hand besides the fact that beer and poker don’t mix well? Don’t marry your hand. Just because you finally receive a decent hand after being dealt crap for hours doesn’t mean that you’re due a win. Sometimes you just have to write off a session as a loser and go do something else. You can’t force a win. Trying to force a win can lead to the sort of desperation that destroys bankrolls. We all know someone (ourselves perhaps?) that has lost their entire bankroll due to one stupid act. For instance; calling an all-in when they knew they were beat and then moving up in limits in order to “make back their money.” An acquaintance of mine lost his $5000 bankroll in a matter of hours thanks to one poor decision similar to my example above which sent him tilting into a hideous downward spiral towards the poker abyss.

When playing AQ in a loose-aggressive game you should just call and hope to hit the flop. If you miss, throw the hand away. Against a small number of players an ace high or top pair might win the pot. Against many opponents it’s very doubtful, especially if the board is at all coordinated. If maniacs are at the table, even with the correct pot odds to call for one bet on the flop, it’s sometimes better to just fold if it’s likely that you’ll be raised or even re-raised. It’s not worth drawing to top pair with many loose players in the hand.

So the moral of the story is… don’t become married to your hand! This applies to every premium hand including AA and KK. Look up your Poker Tracker hand history and check how often you fold AA and KK. If it’s never, then you’ve found a leak in your game that needs to be fixed. One of the biggest leaks many new poker players have is the inability to lay down a premium hand. Don’t marry your hand.