Don’t Get Married to a Hand

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by Vic Porcelli, this article belongs to the Poker Strategy series.

How many times have you folded pocket Aces after the flop?   Sounds absurd I know, but what if the flop is K K J?  Or if the flop came 10 J Q?  Depending on the post flop betting you may be a big underdog.  So can you lay them down?

Dennis Phillips finished third in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event.  Dennis is from my hometown of St. Louis.  He won a $200 double shootout satellite at Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis and parlayed that into a $4.3 Million payoff for his third place finish.  During that main event, Dennis folded pockets Aces, twice!
Pockets Aces are at worst a 4-1 favorite pre-flop, however I’ve mentioned in previous columns that hand strengths can change with every street.  If you are holding pocket Aces and the flop is K K J.  You make a bet on the flop and your opponent comes over the top of your bet, you can be assured he is holding a K and a strong one at that.  Guess what?  You have to throw away your Aces.

I can speak from personal experience on this one.  I was in the big blind, with A A.  By the time the action comes to me, there are four limpers including the small blind.  The blinds were still low relative to stacksize, just 25/50.  There was $250 in the pot including my big blind. I raised it up to $300.  Everyone folded but the cutoff seat called.  I put him a range of A K to A J.  I did not put him on KK because he would have surely re-raised me with K K.  The flop came J 6 3. (suits didn’t factor into this hand)   I bet the pot.  The cutoff called.  Now I knew he had A J.  The turn was another Jack.  He pushed all in.  I did not want to let go of those Aces.  But facts were facts.  I was beat.  I laid down the Aces and showed the hand before I threw them into the muck.  He showed me A J and took down the pot.
By the way, I cashed in that tournament, finishing 4th.  If I got married to that hand and called his all in bet, I would have busted out and gone home very mad that I couldn’t lay down Aces.   Instead I threw the Aces away, played my normal game, made a few well timed bluffs and ended going deep in the tournament and walking away with some decent money.

Getting married to a hand is one of the biggest mistake poker players make.  It can be a fatal mistake.  If you are ever fortunate enough to play in a World Series of Poker tournament you will have to play 12 to 16 hours a day for at least 3 days, maybe even a week.  You can play flawless poker but that one time you have been dealt a monster and you get married to it, you may be on the rail.

Flopping a nut straight is a moment of glory.  As Vince Van Patten overstates on the World Poker Tour telecasts; “…show tunes are going off your head.”  But wait!  There are two suited cards on the flop.  You raise your opponent’s bet and he calls.  You have a gut feeling that he is on a flush draw.  The turn brings a third card of the same of the same suit.  Your opponent doesn’t call your raise this time.  This time he re-raises all in.  Now what?
Your nut straight is a losing hand.
There is of course a chance he is bluffing.  But there also a chance he has you beat and your tournament may be over, if you make the call.

Poker is a game of variables, wildly aggressive opponents and decision making.  If you make that one mistake, you’re on the rail and threw your buy-in away.  If you were bluffed then so be it.  Making a bad fold can’t knock you out of a tournament.  A bad call can send you to the rail, which is the topic of my next column; “A Bad Call is Not a Bad Mistake.”

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11 Comments to Don’t Get Married to a Hand

April 23, 2009

What can I say? Another great article?

Mark’s last blog post..New York Giants Game Challenge

Mark aka Poker Farce
April 24, 2009

If you are a noob, being married to a hand isnt terrible because people are playing pretty aggressively these days. If you don’t know when to lay a hand down and when to fold it… you’ll probably do ok if you just call all the time when you have AA. You won’t beat ME, but a player can do ok these days just holding on. I usually just go for mid-pair and then hold on for dear life and I make some dough at the tables.

Mark aka Poker Farce’s last blog post..Money for Nothing, Chips for Free

April 25, 2009

I completely disagree. Being married to a hand is one of the biggest mistakes you can do at the tables.
You should always evaluate your opponent’s betting patterns and try to put him on a range of hands. If his range has your AA beat….you have to fold.

Mark’s last blog post..Don’t Get Married to a Hand

Mark aka Poker Farce
April 25, 2009

Nooobs dont know how to put people on a range of hands and they dont look for betting patterns. Laying down good hands would be a huge fault for a new player regardless of what they think people might have. If they know what people have with any certainty… then they aren’t nooobs and they have nothing to do with my comment.

Mark aka Poker Farce’s last blog post..Money for Nothing, Chips for Free

April 25, 2009

I have to agree with Poker Farce. Until you can pick up on betting patterns and are able to put your opponents on certain hand ranges, you will probably lose more than you will win if you lay down your big hands when an opponent plays strong into you. Especially with so many people who think their 2nd pair is AWESOME or they are just trying to get that rush of pulling off a big bluff. The thing to do is if you call down with your big hand and lose, make a note on how your opponent played against you and with what so the next time you will have more info to go on.

McTap03’s last blog post..New Trend?

April 26, 2009

Even noobs should be able to identify obvious situations when they are beat and should lay down their top pair.

I agree that getting married to a hand is bad. Noobs should focus on learning to handread properly so they can avoid general concepts that really don’t help.

Cool post!

Kene A
April 28, 2009

Hi, I’m pretty new to playing poker but the biggest problem I have is I think everybody is always bluffing 100% of the time. This coupled with the fact that I find it hard to lay down after I’ve committed a certain amount of chips makes me loose pretty damn fast :( I am reading all your tips and they are helping me to change my mental look in hands. Thanks and keep the good work going :)

Kene A’s last blog post..Nokia N97 on eBay!

April 28, 2009

Hi Kene

Where do you play and at which limits?

What other articles have you been reading on our blog?

Best Regards


Mark’s last blog post..AA, where are you?

Mark aka Poker Farce
April 29, 2009

They ARE bluffing all of the time Kene. Dont bother trying to figure out what they have, just pay them off and you’ll do fine until you learn better. Biggest thing people do is pounce on weakness, so if you are gonna show weakness, be ready to hold on and call people down. If you are showing strength and someone else is fighting you with strength, its much more likely they have it.

Also, don’t tell these guys where you play or what limits, they’ll probably come hunting you down.

Mark aka Poker Farce’s last blog post..Victory Is Mine

April 29, 2009

Mark, you are a very suspicious person:-)

I wanted to know which limits Kene played and on which site in order to get a feel for the opposition he is facing.

It is actually possible to share this information with people and simply avoid telling them your username.

Mark’s last blog post..AA, where are you?

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