Stop Playing These 5 Poker Hands (Costing You Money!)

Avoid Playing These 5 Poker Hands

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

In No Limit Texas Hold’em poker, only about 20% of all starting hands have the potential of becoming long-term winners. But even among that 20%, some hands can cost you a lot of money if you overplay them. 

While they look pretty enough on paper, playing them without considering other important factors (such as the pot odds and the implied odds, your opponents range and so on) can be a huge detriment to your winrate and your bottom line.

This article will take a closer look at five such hands, analyze why they are so troublesome, and help you figure out should you even bother with them in the first place.

Full disclaimer, none of these hands are terrible per se. And therefore, there is a time and a place to play them.

At a first glance, they all look pretty enough, but they can get problematic when you scratch beneath the surface.

Let's jump into it!

1. Ace Ten

Suited or not, Ace-Ten is one of those potentially troublesome hands that are probably costing you money in the long run if you overplay it.

It looks pretty enough, especially if it’s suited. However, it’s not a premium hand by any means, and it can often get you in trouble due to the mediocre kicker. 

If you’re playing against a bunch of loose recreational players who tend to play every junk Ace, then Ace-Ten is fairly ahead of a significant chunk of their range. 

The problem arises when you’re playing against more adept competition, because they usually won’t play any weaker Aces. 

If you hit your Ace on the flop, you will usually only get action from hands that dominate you, like AK, AQ, and AJ.

For Example:

You raise AT

A tight player calls you.

Flop Comes:


You bet.

They raise.

What now??

You already know that a tight player is probably only raising you here with hands like:
  • AK
  • AQ
  • AJ
And so many poker amateurs will get themselves into all sorts of trouble here.

By the way, I have already written the most comprehensive free guide to crushing tight poker players available online today, if you struggle versus them.  

On the other hand, if you hit a Ten on the flop, you’re doing better kicker-wise, but you’re still just holding a pair of Tens. By the river, you’ll often hold something like a second or a third pair. 

This means you won’t be able to extract a lot of value when you connect with the board, and even if you do, you still run the risk of your hand being dominated.

Now, you might argue that Ace-Ten has a great nuts potential, especially if it’s suited. 

Fair enough. But the fact is straights and flushes just don’t come around often enough. Most hands miss most flops, and when they hit, it’s usually just one pair.

Besides, even if you hit your straight or a flush, the board will look super scary to anyone paying even remote attention, so again, you’re not guaranteed to extract a ton of value on those rare occasions you actually smash the board.

With that said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play Ace-Ten altogether. 

You just need to look a few steps ahead if you do decide to play it, and figure out if you’re coming into the hand while being dominated. 

You probably shouldn’t be open-raising it from early positions. 

Conversely, if someone open-raises from early position, you should be very careful if you decide to flat call, especially if you are playing out of position. 

There’s very few hands in the early open-raising range Ace-Ten is ahead of, so tread with caution. There is a much deeper discussion of this in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

Bottom line, always understand how your position at the poker table affects the strength of a hand like Ace Ten.

2. King Nine Suited

King-Nine suited is another speculative hand that has a great potential upside, but can also get you in a lot of trouble if you overplay it. 

Similar to Ace-Ten, you can often run into kicker problems, as people usually don’t play weaker Kings like K8 or K7, for example.

Example Hand:

You raise preflop with K9

A regular player calls you on the button

Flop comes:


You bet, he calls.

Turn comes:


You bet, he raises!

What now??

You know that sick feeling that you are behind in the pit of your stomach. Ya, that's because you probably are behind!

He has you crushed with:
  • AK
  • KQ
  • KJ

Now sure, you might try to convince yourself that maybe your hand is good.

Because after all...

There are a few straight draws and a flush draw on the board. 

But let's get real here shall we?

You know that most regular players in low stakes games in particular, will not raise you on the turn with a hand like this!

This is why Nathan discussed in a recent video that King Nine is one of the top 5 bad hands that amateurs love to play, but all poker pros know to avoid!

Now it's not all bad news if you personally love the old K9.

K9s (i.e. suited) has a great nut potential with the ability to make strong straights and flushes, but again, you run the risk of having a second best hand. 

If you make a flush, your opponent can easily hold a suited Ace which can cost you a big pot. 

K9s is one of those hands you think you need to play, and when you connect, you can’t seem to walk away from it, only to have your opponent show you the stone-cold nuts at the showdown. 

There’s also the possibility of making a straight, but this won’t happen nearly as often as you might hope for. 

Suited connectors (i.e. cards directly adjacent to one another) have a much better chance of making a straight than one-gappers, two-gappers and so on.

By the way, I have already written the most comprehensive free guide to suited connector strategy available today, if you missed that one. 

This makes K9 a marginal holding that’s often more trouble than it’s worth. 

In Texas hold’em poker, making strong combinations like straights and flushes is more of an exception than the rule.

Check out my extremely popular Texas Hold'em Cheat Sheet by the way for much more on this.  

If your hand connects to the board, it will usually be just a one-pair hand, and K9s makes a mediocre pair at best, due to the aforementioned kicker. 

Your opponents usually won’t show up with a weaker kicker. Instead, they’ll play the hands that have you dominated, like AK, KQ, KJ, or KT.

This is why even the great Phil Ivey says that he avoids a hand like King Nine in his Masterclass poker training series.

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3. Six Five Suited (And All Other Small Suited Connectors)

Suited connectors are great speculative hands with the potential of earning you a huge pot when they hit. However, small suited connectors like 65s can spell trouble for you.

This goes for other small suited connectors as well such as:


Even though these hands can potentially make strong combinations like straights or flushes, they often don’t make the best possible combinations, so again, you run the risk of having the second best hand. 

The problem with 65s in particular, is that players usually don’t play weaker hands, like 54s or 43s. So even if you hit your flush, for example, you run the risk of someone having a stronger flush than you. 

Chasing bad draws is one of the biggest mistakes beginner poker players make, and these small pretty suited connectors are usually the type of hands they tend to overplay.

This is something that Nathan specifically mentioned in a recent video.

Do you chase too many draws like he talks about? If so, it could be costing you more money than you think!  

Another thing to consider is that completed flushes are fairly obvious to spot.

So it’s less likely for you to extract a lot of value even on those rare occasions you do hit, provided of course someone doesn’t have an even stronger flush.

And that of course is yet another drawback of small suited connectors like this. You are literally begging to get flush over flushed!

This is one fo the worst situations to be in in poker, because it is almost certain that you are going to lose all your money, drawing completely dead (no outs left in the deck).

There are countless examples in Modern Small Stakes of which draws to chase and which ones to avoid, if you struggle with this sort of thing.  

Completed straights fare a little better in the sense they’re more difficult to spot, but with the hand like 65s, you can often have the so-called ass-end of a straight, meaning there are theoretically stronger straights your opponents can hold. 

For example, on a board like 9A♠7♣82 someone can easily hold JT.

Even if you’re lucky enough to hit something like two pair on the flop, you can still get easily outdrawn by the river by an even stronger two pair, or your hand can even be counterfeited.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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4. Pocket Twos (And All Other Small Pocket Pairs)

Like with other hands on this list, there are times to play these hands, and some of them can be profitable long-term winners. 

The problem is when you play them in marginal situations where the potential payoff isn’t nearly big enough to justify getting involved in a hand. 

And pocket deuces are one of those hands you’ll usually just need to fold on the flop due to the fact you’re only holding a fourth pair with very little chance of improvement.

For example:

A tight and aggressive player raises preflop and you call with 2♣2

Flop comes:


He bets.

There isn't much you can do here except fold in most cases. 

The same can be said for other small pocket pairs as well, like pocket Threes, Fours, or Fives. 

But with pocket Deuces in particular, if you’re not fortunate enough to hit your set, you’re ALWAYS going to end up with a fourth pair on the flop. 

This means these small pocket pairs have very little showdown value, and the chances of your hand getting outdrawn by the river are through the roof.

This is why these small pocket pairs are best played when you have big implied odds if you hit your set, but this is exactly why a lot of players misplay their hand. 

They are often trying to set mine (i.e. getting involved in the hand with a small pocket pair with the sole purpose of hitting their set and taking down a huge flop) with incorrect odds, or even worse, without even taking the odds into consideration. 

The fact is, you aren’t going to hit your set most of the time (88% of the time, to be precise). By the way, check out my complete guide to set mining odds for a deeper mathematical analysis.

This means that you’re basically throwing money away almost 9 out of 10 times. So in order for your call to be profitable, you need to be able to win at least 10 times as much money as the price of your preflop call. 

You also need your opponents to pay you off once you actually do hit your set, and this is another way a lot of players misplay their small pocket pairs. 

In order for the play to be +EV (to have a positive expected value), your opponent needs to have quite a strong range and continue barreling postflop and pay you off. 

If you’re always playing small pocket pairs regardless of the previous action, the pot odds and the implied odds, and without considering your opponent’s range, chances are you’re bleeding money at the table.

For example, if you are dealt pocket Deuces in the blinds, and you call an open-raise from the cutoff or the button, chances are you won’t be able to extract a lot of value even if you do hit your set on the flop. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. 

First of all, your opponent’s range is probably quite wide and weak, which makes it unlikely they’ll keep barreling into you postflop. 

Second, you are playing out of position, so your opponent can exercise pot control without inflating the pot too much. 

Finally, if you are playing a heads-up pot (meaning there’s only two players involved), you don’t have as much implied odds as you would have in a multiway pot (a pot with more than two players involved). 

For these reasons, you should consider throwing an occasional 3-bet instead of flat calling with small pocket pairs, especially when playing out of position.

For much more, I already wrote the most comprehensive free step by step guide to 3-betting available online today.

5. Ace Queen Suited

You might be surprised with this entry on the list. After all, Ace-Queen is at the top-ten list of the best hands in Texas hold’em. 

While a relatively great hand, Ace-Queen is not a premium hand, and is actually a contender for the worst hand in poker. 

As the old adage goes, the worst hand in poker is not the worst hand. The worst hand in poker is the second best hand. 

And that’s the exact problem with Ace-Queen. It looks great on paper, but that’s what makes people overplay it to death.

For example:

You raise preflop with A♠Q, a tight player re-raises you from the big blind, you call.

The flop comes:


He bets.

You call.

The turn comes:


He bets.

You call.

The river comes:


He goes all-in.

You call (with a sick feeling in your stomach).

He turns over AK.

In the long run, you won’t lose a lot of money with Jack-Three offsuit. You’ll just fold it preflop and be done with it.

Check out Nathan's free poker cheat sheet for a complete list of all the hands you should fold preflop by the way (and which ones to play). 

But Ace-Queen is often too strong to let go preflop, which can lead to a lot of sticky situations postflop, especially in 3-bet pots.

By the way, a 3-bet preflop is a raise against other player’s open raise.

In 3-bet pots, you’re often playing with very shallow stacks left behind, so you’re basically automatically committed to the pot with a top-pair hand or better. 

If you hit a Queen on the flop in a 3-bet pot, for example, you should play for the rest of the stack left behind. 

The problem is, you will rarely get action from weaker hands, especially against stronger competition. 

While your average recreational player might not have any problems with shoving their stack with a top-pair, bad kicker, or a second pair, for example, your more observant opposition won’t be inclined to pay you off. 

Against other premium hands, Ace-Queen is in a pretty rough shape. This is why Daniel Negreanu says he dislikes AQ so much in his Masterclass poker training series.

For example, against the range consisting of Ace-King and pocket Queens or better, you are expected to win only about 29% of the time. And against hands like pocket Jacks or pocket Tens, AQs is also a slight underdog. 

So against tight 3-bettors, AQs doesn’t fare really well. 

That’s why it’s important to at least have a vague idea about your opponent’s perceived range. If there are too few hands in the range you’re ahead of, you’d do better not getting involved in the first place. 

Final Thoughts

All the hands mentioned on this list aren’t necessarily bad hands, and there are certainly spots where you could and should play them. 

But like with anything else in poker, context is key. 

The point of the article is not to deter you from playing these 5 hands altogether. 

Therefore, the point of this article is instead about appropriately weighing the risk and reward of these 5 hands, and acting accordingly. 

To summarize, these hands can be played if the pot odds and the implied odds justify the risk involved. You also need to be aware of your opponent’s perceived ranges, so you don’t end up with a dominated hand.

Like other hands in Texas hold’em, these hands will miss the flop more often than not. So once they do hit, you need to make sure you will be able to extract value from your opponents. 

Otherwise, you’re usually better off ditching them altogether, especially if you don’t have a significant skill edge over your competition. 

You may disagree with some entries on the list, which is totally fine. The beauty of poker is there’s rarely only one right answer. That’s what makes the game exciting. 

Having said that, it pays to keep questioning your presuppositions, and not being too quick to assume you have it all figured out, because nobody ever does.

So keep reading articles, and keep questioning what you consume. Be an independent thinker. You are a poker player, after all.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy to make $1000+ per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

5 Worst Poker Hands Costing You Money