Poker Strategy: What to Do With Premium Hands

Premium poker hands are incredibly rare. A strong starting hand is great, but most players tend to overrate hand strength’s importance. A bad hand isn’t an automatic loss; well-executed bluffs can win you the game without making it to the showdown. In the same way, a good hand isn’t infallible.

Few things feel worse than losing with a strong starting hand, and the frustration can leave you unable to analyze your game and see what exactly went wrong. In this poker guide, we’ll explain how to use your premium hands to their fullest potential and examine common mistakes that lead to you losing, even with a solid starting hand.

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What are the premium hands?

Premium hands in poker refer to the best of the best starting hands. These hands should almost always be played since they’re much stronger than the rest. The exact definition of a premium hand varies based on what kind of poker you’re playing.

For example, Omaha poker gives you four hole cards but only allows you to use two to make a hand. Here, hands like AAAA would actually be quite bad since the best you get is a starting pair that can’t become a three-of-a-kind or higher. The strongest Omaha hands are a mix of pocket pairs (a pair in your starting hand) and suited connectors (consecutive cards of the same suit), like AAJT, or hands with two pocket pairs like AAKK.

For Texas Holdem, premium hands are more straightforward since each player only gets two hole cards. Pocket pairs reign supreme since they bring guaranteed value regardless of the flop, with suited connectors coming second due to their strong draw potential. The top five Holdem hands are generally considered AK, JJ, QQ, KK, and AA in ascending order of strength.

Value betting

In poker, there are generally two kinds of bet. The first is a bluff, which most players know before picking up the game. It’s iconic, betting even without a strong hand to make your opponents fold. Bluffing is an essential part of the game, but there’s another form of betting that many poker players surprisingly overlook.

The second kind of bet is essentially the opposite of a bluff: The value bet. Whereas a bluff tries to get your opponents to fold because you’re holding a weak hand, a value bet tries to get your opponents to call. It’s done with a strong hand to build the pot and increase your potential reward if you win.

Value betting is an essential part of playing premium hands. They’re very rare, so you want to make the most of them whenever you get them. Without value betting, it’s unlikely you’ll see a large pot. While you’ll probably still win the pot thanks to your hand, it won’t be enough to offset the many times you get a weak hand.

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Slow playing: Why it’s bad

A common practice among beginners that get a strong hand is slow playing. This is when you intentionally pretend your hand is weak to deceive other players and keep them in the pot. The idea is, with more players in the pot, it’ll naturally grow bigger and allow you to surprise everyone at the showdown.

While it may sound good on paper, it does not work in practice for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that it reduces your chances of winning the pot. Adding more players gives the pot more potential to grow, making it far more volatile. Each player increases the chances of someone having a stronger hand than you.

Slow playing also allows your opponents to see the flop, turn, and river very easily. Even the very best pre-flop hands like AA have a chance of getting outdrawn, and allowing your opponents to see the next rounds facilitates that. Instead of betting to stop them from seeing the future rounds, slow play allows them to see if they’ll hit their draw with very little risk.

Finally, slow play is also ineffective because it’s usually against other passive players. You rely on someone else betting to build the pot for you, and this is unlikely. If everyone just checks, you will have completely failed to extract any value from your hand.

Playing too tight: Don’t become predictable

Some players may think, “Why does it always seem like my opponents know when my hand is strong?” Following the most common advice of “play tight and wait for premium hands,” these players may not realize they’re taking it too far and becoming a nit.

A nit, or rock, is slang for an exceedingly tight player. They only play the very best hands in an attempt to minimize their losses. While playing tight is generally a good idea, taking it too far is definitely a losing poker strategy.

Playing too tight has two major flaws. The first is that you leave yourself open to bluffs since you’ll likely fold at the slightest raise. The second, more glaring flaw is how predictable you become.

Your opponents will know exactly when you have a strong hand since you don’t get involved in the pot unless you have one.

This will cause them to fold and deny you any profit from your premium hand. While playing tight does minimize your losses, playing too tight makes you unable to profit. It’s important to strike a balance and not overdo your tight gameplay. How many hands you play depends entirely on you; it’s recommended to play more so you get comfortable with bluffing and playing without a premium hand.

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Improve your game with online poker!

All in all, premium hands aren’t a free win. You must still know how to play them right and avoid common mistakes like nitty gameplay or slow playing. This takes time and practice to learn, so we suggest playing online poker. It’s faster pace allows you to get more hands in and play more premium ones. It will take time, but you’ll undoubtedly improve with enough practice.