Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tip of the week Tip of the Week: The death hands: 9-9, 10-10, J-J | Tip archive
Playing the death hands isn't fun. Nines, 10s and jacks have proven to be the most difficult hands to play for the sheer fact that a pair alone usually won't win the hand and they're too weak to play ultra-hard postflop.
I'm going to take a look at four specific preflop situations with these hands: in early position, when there has been a raise ahead of you, when there hasn't been a raise, but limpers ahead of you, and when you're in the blinds.
I'll go into postflop play with these hands another time.
Situation: You've got one of the death hands and you're second to act.
Obviously you need a very solid hand if you're planning on raising from early position. I'm not sure that the death hands are ones that I would include in this category, but for the sake of the tip, let's say they are. Personally, I don't love playing any of these hands under the gun or UTG+1, but if I were to enter the action, there are two possible moves:
(1) Raise: By raising in this position, you're telling everyone else at the table that you've got a strong hand. An opponent at your table would put your range of hands at A-A, K-K, Q-Q or A-K, which means they'd have to have a hand in this range to even think about entering the action. Yes, they could possibly have a small pocket pair or big drawing hand and are looking to utilize their position on a scary flop, but they'd probably be deterred by your image. Most of the time, you'll clear out most of your opponents preflop with a raise.
(2) Limp: For a little risk and big reward, limping in this position is your other alternative. However, you are inviting others into the pot with a limp and the more competition, the less probable your hand will hold up. Additionally, once multiple limpers have entered the pot, there's a very good chance of a raise, which will cause you to fold in most situations. If you limp and hit your set, jackpot. But with multiple opponents, even one overcard can be very scary.
Situation: You've got one of the death hands, in middle or late position, and are facing a raise ahead of you.
Once again, you've got a couple of options to think about.
(1) Call: I usually lean toward this action because this will give me position on the raiser and after he continuation bets which he will you can decide your best course of action. If you hit your set or if you missed, you now have position and can play the hand out with all the control. However
(2) Reraise: If you do decide to just call the raise, you're welcoming other players into the action. Now, you're probably playing out of position as well and your middle pair will face multiple opponents and will probably be outdrawn. Reraising will reduce the chance of additional competition and you'll be able to determine what type of hand the original raiser is holding.
(3) Fold: There's always the chance that you're up against a bigger pair. If you're facing a tight player who raises from early position, you're probably in some trouble with your death hand. At best, you're in a coin-flip situation, but you could also be a 4-1 dog and need some major help on the flop. Unless you've got a great read on this type of opponent, letting the hand go might be your best option.
Situation: You've got one of the death hands, and a couple players have limped ahead of you.
This is probably my favorite situation of the four because I'm holding position over the original limpers and I'm in control if there is more action behind me. Only two options here; folding a death hand here wouldn't make much sense.
(1) Limp with the group: By going along with the trend and limping behind the other players, you're disgusing your hand, and as I mentioned above, you'll have a little risk with a big reward if you hit your set. I have no problem with limping here, because if I miss the flop, I'm outta here.
(2) Raise: Clear out the driftwood and take control of this hand. Make everyone else at the table know that you've got a hand and if they want to play, they're going to have to play out of position. With a reraise here you're probably hoping to just clear out the competition, but even if they do decide to call, you've got position and the image of holding a monster.
Situation: A death hand in the blinds
I hate raising out of this position, but sometimes you just have to. Two cases here to allow you to maximize profit.
(1) Check it up and see the flop: Not one player at that table could put you on a hand near the one you're holding, which conceals your strength heading to the flop. If you hit, you're getting paid off because someone will be sure to bet into a multiway pot to steal it. If you miss, you can't be too sad because you didn't invest more than just the blind. Think of it as if you had 2-8, because there's really no difference.
(2) Raise: If you raise here you're sending a clear message that you've got a big hand. However, you're also confining yourself to bet the flop because you'll be first to act. You'll clear out your opponents with a raise from the blinds, but don't be too surprised if you get a straggler that will use his position to say in the pot.
I wish I could say this is it. As Mark Seif said on the Professional Poker Tour, "There are three ways to play jacks, and they're all wrong." Play your death hands carefully and think about your actions and your opponents in each situation. Remember that the fewer opponents you're up against the better the chance that your pair will hold up, and also remember that if the board seems scary at all, get out. Limit your losses on these hands and hope that you maximize the one out of every eight times you'll hit a set.