How to play the danger hands

In this section you’ll learn:

  • What danger hands to look out for
  • And how to avoid getting into trouble

If something in life looks too good to be true, it normally is. This logic applies to poker hands too and there are a few in particular that you need to be especially wary of.

They suck you into playing even when you know you probably shouldn’t and then make you pay with a tower of chips.

Here are the ones to look out for:

A-A

Pocket aces. The ultimate hole cards, or so you’d think! The value of this hand is huge early on, but it drops soon afterwards because anything can happen on the flop. Someone might land two pairs, three-of-a-kind or even set up a straight or flush draw that they can complete on the river.

In no-limit or pot-limit games players often work with 'implied odds'. They need to call pre-flop and then work on making a better hand or draw before raising.

So if you’re going to play aces, play them strong early doors and you’ll deny your opponents the implied odds. This tactic will also give you a good idea of what any callers have made on the flop.

J-J

The 'hooks' can reel you into losing a fortune. That’s why they’re often considered to be one of the toughest hands to play. If you raise with them and are called, the chances are the flop will contain at least one or more higher cards. And even if it doesn't, there’s always the danger of aces, kings, or queens. If someone re-raises you, it's likely that they hold either a bigger pair or something like A-K or A-Q. So you’re either a small favourite or a big underdog. That uncertainty of position is something you’re constantly trying to avoid in poker.

2-2

Play these early in big-bet tournaments or cash games where the money is deep. But once you get to the flop, here’s some professional advice, 'No set, no bet.'

Click here to find out more about playing pocket pairs.

A-x off-suit

Despite some players and commentators' belief that this is a hand worth getting excited about, in most situations a weak ace is exactly that.

In short, this is one of the main danger hands in Hold’em and unless you're an expert, you’ll be taking it on at your peril. Remember, a hand with a hole in it is frequently worse than no hand at all (with no hand you lose no money).

K-J

This tricky hand needs a lesson all by itself. Click here to find out all about playing king-jack.

Q-J off-suit

Face cards may look pretty and appealing but they can often get you into trouble. Although they are high cards they are always losing to any ace pre-flop, and can frequently be in a tight spot if the ace's kicker 'duplicates' one of them (such as K-Q vs A-Q), especially if played all-in. They are moderate, defensive hands if you need to act in a hurry and they are playable in late position or if suited. However, just don't fall for the impression that a nice paint job means you'll find sound engineering underneath.

9-8 suited

Suited connectors can be useful hands as long as they're played carefully and cheaply. That's because no-one will suspect a straight on a flop of 6-7-10, or a monster flush draw on one of A-6-5. However, they also suffer from the slim possibility of putting you in a complete lock against a higher straight or flush and guaranteeing you lose all your chips.

With straight draws you need to remember what other hands you could be running into. For example, 9-8 looks great with a flop of Q-J-10, until someone turns up A-K.