Poker: Speculative Hands

What amateur players often do with hands like 10-8 suited is make one of two mistakes. First, they’ll choose to check/call, call, or fold. They play the hand passively, hitting a draw and calling bets on the flop and turn only to fold on the river. If they do improve their hand, their opponent knows they were drawing and doesn’t pay off the player and thus they don’t receive any value for their hand other than the money already in the pot. Passive play does not reward speculative players one bit and they’d be better off just folding before the flop.

On the other hand, many players also overvalue their speculative hand on its own. You shouldn’t play a hand like 9-8 suited and hope that you flop a pair of 8s. You should instead be playing for trips, straights and flushes. A weak top pair is only asking to be crushed. Pay attention to the board and how other players are betting and get out while the getting is good.

It is important that you know what kind of flops you are looking for when you are holding a speculative hand. As an example, you’re in position and limp in while holding As3s. What kind of flop are you going to be looking for? A flush draw? Trips? Two pair? An amazing straight? That’s kind of it, isn’t it? That’s not very much to pick from, even with the Ace on your side.

The flop comes 9-4-3 with two of your suit. You have a pair and a flush draw. This is the kind of flop you play this hand for. If you are going to play A-3 suited, this is exactly the type of flop you want. So, what happens when people bet to you? You need to think about what hands can put you in a bad shape. Pocket 9s and pocket 4s both stand a chance of doing that, but if they’d had 99, they would have raised before the flop. This leaves you with one hand that has you in terrible shape. It’s important not to think that your opponent always has the nuts in every hand — hands change as more cards hit the board. Even if he does have a set of 4s, you’re still only at 2.3:1 against.

It’s likely that they’re holding something along the lines of a small pair or a hand like A-9. All of these hands, though, you’ll be racing against. However, if you move all in you might win it right there. Your opponent will most often fold a hand like A-9 or pocket 7s. The only hand that will definitely call you is the aforementioned set or a big over pair and you’re a favorite against most over pairs except for aces.

Consider the flops that you want to play when you’ve got a speculative hand and play them hard when they hit. By presenting from a position of strength, you can even benefit after the flop!