Playing an Average Poker Starting Hand

Feb 09 2014 |

poker Q-7
Most players have at least some idea how to play when they are dealt pocket Aces, Big Slick or one of the other more “interesting hands.” Those are often discussed at length because they are glamorous and always excite the players who receive them (a good poker face, of course, should always be there to hide the excitement). However, less than 1 in 200 hands you play would be pocket aces, and less than 1 in 300 would be Ace-King suited.

So what do you do when you dealt Q-7 off-suit? Well, the answer to that question is pretty straightforward – it depends. This answer of course applies to almost any poker question. However, there is something about a Q-7 in particular that makes it a special hand, just like pocket aces.

As it happens, Q-7 is the exact average hand. It terms of starting strength, it is perfectly in the middle between the best 2 cards you can start with (AA) and the worst (2-7). That is why its nickname is “the computer hand.” Its average character can have some implications for your game.

Of course, you don’t have to remember anything in particular about a Q-7. After all, you have the same probability of being dealt a Q-7 as an Ace-King. However, you can use it as a reference point to judge the value of a whole range of other hands.

Like we said, sometimes you are going to be dealt monster hands where you will raise without thinking much and sometimes you will be dealt complete rags where you will fold with even less thinking. But most of the time, you will be playing with a “so-so” hand. Most players don’t have a clear estimate of the value of hand like Q-8, for instance. Well, now you do – it is slightly better than average.

This has implications for the decisions you take. Let’s say you have a Q-8 on the small blind and the player after you on
playing average poker starting hands
the big one is short stacked. Your slightly-better-than-average hand may be good enough to try and push her around in this situation. Chances are that she has a worse hand. However, if you have a J-6, chances are less than 50-50 that you have the best hand.

Knowing this is especially useful in heads-up play where the decisions are binary. Since you know that Q-7 is the average, the corollary to that is that in heads up play a King high has very good chances to be the best hand.

A lot of players will of course argue that you can’t win much with average. It is probably true to some extent – you can’t win much at once. However, having a constant and correct understanding of where you stand and the value of your hand will greatly help you in the long run. And in the long run, winning a lot with the premium hands is just as important as winning small with the average hands. An AA and Q7 do have something in common – they both have to be played correctly.
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