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Why You Shouldn't Play Marginal Hands


Benjamin "Ghost" is an instructor for

One of the most frequent mistakes that recreational players make in tournament poker is that they play weak hands out of position. Hands like AQ, AJ, KQ, and KJ top the list of the most frequent poorly played hands by new and recreational players. To take your game to the next level you must rethink the way you play these hands.

At a full table when a tight player raises from early position you should be folding these hands outright. A tight player's range will dominate and possibly crush these hands quite often. When you call raises with these hands you will never know when you are ahead when you do hit and you are going to constantly get yourself into trouble. In this situation you will commonly hear: "You will either win a small pot or lose a big one."

In another scenario rather than raising, many players will frequently limp with these hands to avoid playing a large pot. When they hit the flop very strongly with two pair or top pair top kicker they are unable to gauge the strength of their opponent's hand and frequently hit the rail by running into a set.

For certain, though, these hands can be played profitably if played correctly; the key is to know how to play them. These are small and medium pot hands unless you are shortstacked and must go all-in pre-flop. If you find yourself in a hand with a strong player you will have to be able to put them on a range of hands. If that player is tighter than yourself then chances are when they do raise they will have your top pair beat with better kickers or two pair or better.

It is not good enough for a player that is trying to get better at poker to say I have top pair and I can't let this hand go. When you are playing these trouble hands and pots start to get big you really have to be able to put your opponent on a hand. At the same time if you are playing against a bad player top pair is usually good enough to get it in with them so knowing who are the good and bad players on the table is key.

When you find yourself in a hand against a strong player and you know they are calling you down strong, your best course of action is to pause for a second and think. If they are only calling with hands that are better than yours don't give them all of your chips.

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