Winning strategies: Speculative starting hands

By | April 5, 2014


In the last post we looked at premium starting hands. This time we turn out attention to speculative starting hands. In the right circumstances these can make a lot of money and should form part of any winning strategy. On other occasions you may want to discard speculative hands pre flop. Let’s look at the factors which will impact on your decision making.

The marginal pair of aces: A-A-x-x: Examples include A-A-6-8; A-A-6-9; A-A-7-9; A-A-7-T. The problem with these hands is that they are very unlikely to make the best low. On the high end, aces are easily outdrawn, especially multi-way. Generally marginal aces are therefore best played in late position, ideally heads up. Baldwin and Gregorich, in Super System 2, give an example I love with A-A-6-8. They suggest that if you are first to act with this hand, you should usually fold. However, if you are following a raise from someone else, you may consider re-raising to thin the field and try to get the pot heads up!

The strong high only hand (four broadway cards): Examples include K-Q-J-T, A-K-Q-T, K-K-Q-J, and A-K-J-J. These hands are best played in late position for one or exceptionally two bets against a big field. If you make the nut high, with no low on board, you could stand to win a big pot. Note also that a large field may indicate that lots of low cards are already dealt, so the flop is more likely to be high.

The reason the high only hand is best played at a cheap price in late position is that if the flop comes down with two or more low cards (which it is likely to do, with 8 out of 13 cards making a low) you may need to discard the hand pretty quickly. You therefore don’t want to get caught pre flop in a big pot unnecessarily.

The marginal low hand: Examples include A-4-5-x; A-4-6-x; A-3-x-x:  These hands may be playable for a single bet and / or in late position, but be careful. You could easily be drawing to the second or third best low, which will cost you money. You should tend to fold A-4-x-x to an early or mid position raise and you should tend to fold A-3-x-x to a raise and re-raise. You should be much more inclined to play any of these hands if the ace is suited.

The babies (at least three wheel cards): Examples include 2-3-4-x; 2-3-5-6; and 3-4-5-6. We are seeing a consistent pattern with speculative hands. These gain enormously in strength in late position, for a single bet and if they have suited potential. Hands with a 2-3 combo in them are looking for an ace to flop. Few callers in front of you may indicate that aces are still left in the deck. Note that a hand with 2-3 in it is significantly better than 2-4. The latter is looking for both an ace and a trey to fall, which will happen only one time in every twenty five. A hand such as 3-4-5-6 is at the margins but may be playable in late position provided you exert discipline post flop. Linda Johnson states that 3-4-5-6 is ‘the worst starting hand that many players consider is good.”

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This page is an extract from Omaha 8 or Better: Winning at Hi Low Poker by Andy Mack

Category: Excerpts Hand Analysis Tags: , , , , , ,
Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

About Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

Andy's first love was chess. Three times a competitor in the British Championships, he has played regularly at international level, achieving the rank of FIDE Master. On a fateful day in 2007 Andy visited Las Vegas for the first time. Since that point, his attention has switched from chess to poker. Initially focusing on Hold'em, Andy has branched out, and has been working hard over the past couple of years to perfect his Omaha 8 game. He also plays all the other variants of the 8 Game. Away from poker, Andy's hero is rock star Iggy Pop. Andy claims to love Iggy's wild man image, although even his best friends would find it hard to compare Andy's solid poker style with that of the Godfather of Punk.

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