Stop Calling With These 5 Poker Hands (Big Mistake!)

Never Call With These 5 Poker Hands

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Have you ever had a feeling your poker hands always seem to be only the second best? 

When you finally connect with the flop and actually get a hand worth playing, your opponents always seem to have a stronger kicker, a stronger straight, a stronger flush. 

If that sounds familiar, it might be because you’re calling with mediocre hands. 

As a general rule in poker, calling is a losing play more often than not, and calling with bad to mediocre hands is one of the fastest ways to burn through your money fast.

This article will show you examples of such hands, why they’re trouble, and examine should you even bother with them in the first place or ditch them altogether.

Avoid calling too much with these 5 hands!


1) A2 Offsuit


A2 offsuit (two different suits, for example A2) and similar offsuit small Aces (also called rag Aces) should be avoided, unless you’re itching to give your money away. 

They’re often more trouble than they’re worth, due to the kicker problems. 

A lot of recreational players will play basically any Ace, be it suited/unsuited and regardless of their table position and other considerations. 

Then, when they hit their top pair on the flop, they overvalue it, put in way too much money in the middle because “top pair”, then they bemoan their luck when their opponent shows up with the better kicker and claim the poker site is rigged for action. 

Don’t be that guy. 

Do yourself a favour and ditch weak Aces from your calling range altogether. Even when you hit your Ace on the flop, you run the risk of having your hand dominated by stronger Aces.

For example by a hand like Ace Queen which is much better. Nathan discussed how to play your AQ the right way in a recent video.


Getting back to our "Ace Rag" hands though like A2...  

Since you called a raise preflop, it’s implied your opponent has a stronger hand than you going to the flop. (This is known as the range advantage). 

This means your opponent is likely to have a number of stronger Aces in their range, and the problem with Ace-Deuce in particular is that any other Ace has you beat. 

The prospect of getting a straight with these baby Aces isn’t quite likely either, and it certainly doesn’t justify calling preflop. 

What’s worse, you run the risk of having the so-called ass-end of a straight, meaning your opponent could hold a stronger straight.


For Example:

If you hold A2

And the flop is 345, your opponent could hold 76

Now, this scenario is unlikely, but then again, so is flopping a straight. 

The point is, if you have some sort of a drawing hand, you always want to make sure you’re drawing to the strongest possible combination. 

Otherwise you run the risk of having only a second best hand, which is the worst hand to have in poker.

See my recent ultimate Texas Hold'em cheat sheet for much more on this.


2) 34 Suited


These small suited connectors (for example 34♠) may seem pretty enough, but like the previous entry on the list, they’re often more trouble than they’re worth. 

First of all, flopping a straight or a flush is very rare in no-limit Texas hold’em. 

For example, the chance of flopping a straight when having two connected hole cards is only about 75:1, or 1.33%, and the chance of flopping a flush with a suited hand is only 118:1, or 0.8%. 

Not great. 

Now, chances of flopping some sort of straight or flush draw are significantly higher, but you still need to rely on hitting your outs on later streets (and you’re bound to miss more often than not), and even then you aren’t guaranteed to win the pot, because your opponent can have an even stronger straight or flush.

This is one of the reasons why some people think online poker is rigged.  

But this is basically the biggest problem with these baby suited connectors. You’re putting yourself in the situation where you’re basically begging to get a flush over flush. 

Also, like with the rag Aces, if you get a straight, you will often get the bottom-end of a straight, which can cost you a big pot.

While there certainly are situations in which small suited connectors can be played (like other entries on this list) calling with them is usually a bad idea. 

And the smaller the connectors, the more inclined you should be to ditch them altogether due to the reverse implied odds.

(By the way, reverse implied odds are the opposite of the implied odds. When you calculate the implied odds, you’re trying to figure out how much money you can win if your draw completes. 

With reverse implied odds, you calculate how much you stand to lose if your draw completes, but your opponent ends up holding an even stronger hand).

See my recent ultimate poker odds cheat sheet for much more on this.


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3) QJ Offsuit


A lot of recreational poker players will play virtually all broadway hands (i.e. hands that can make the strongest possible straight), regardless of their table position or the previous action. 

One such hand is QJo (for example QJ♣), and calling with it can be dangerous because like most other entries on this list, you run the risk of your hand being dominated by stronger hands.

(By the way, a dominated hand is the one that is highly unlikely to win against another hand. 

For example, if you have Ace-King and your opponent has Ace-Queen, you dominate your opponent, because they can only win the hand if they hit a Queen AND you don’t hit a King or other stronger combinations).

Playing QJo and similar weak broadways is especially ill-advised in 3-bet pots, where you’re basically guaranteed to have your hand dominated if you call a 3 bet.

This is something that Nathan discusses at length in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

(A 3-bet preflop by the way is simply a situation where somebody raises and then somebody else re-raises).

If you call a 3-bet with QJ, suited or not, you’re going to be in bad shape most of the time. 

A number of hands that can dominate you is through the roof: premium pocket pairs, like Aces, Kings or Queens, other broadway hands like AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ and so on.

So unless you have a very specific read your opponent makes crazy, ill-conceived 3-bets with some random hands, and you have other advantages like position or some skill edge postflop, your hand is virtually always going to be an underdog.

Same thing goes with calling with QJ from the blinds. Due to the structure of no-limit Texas hold’em, you’re guaranteed to lose money over the long run playing from the blinds. 

It’s just how the game is set up, and it’s true for beginners and world class professionals alike. The best you can hope for is losing no less than necessary when you’re playing from the blinds. 

And to do so you should be careful with the hands you choose to play from the blinds, and if possible, avoid marginal situations that could cost you a lot of money. 

And calling with a hand like QJo fits the description. 

Over the long run, it’s virtually impossible to play profitably out of position without a range advantage, and if you call from the blinds, this is exactly what you’re doing. 

You’re basically putting your opponent in the best money-making situation in poker: playing in position as a preflop aggressor. 

Now, that’s not to say you should just fold all the hands dealt to you in the blinds, as this is hardly an optimal long-term solution, and can leave you vulnerable to getting exploited. 

You should definitely defend your blinds from time to time, and in some cases, you can do so even with a hand like QJo. 

But the blind defence is an advanced concept that goes way beyond the scope of this article. The Upswing Poker Lab has some great videos about advanced blind defence strategy.

Suffice it to say that calling with easily dominated hands out of position is generally a losing play. But as with any other general rule in poker, there are times to break it if the situation requires it. 


4) K9 Suited


Like other hands on the list, there are spots where you can play K9s (for example K9♣) profitably, but calling with it can spell trouble. 

Similar to QJ, you run the risk of your hand being dominated by other Kx hands like KT, KJ, KQ. 

It’s unlikely your opponents will open-raise with weaker Kings, so if you happen to hit the King on the flop, you can find yourself in an awkward position on later streets. 

For example, you call with K9s preflop and by the river you have a top pair, mediocre kicker. Your opponent has bet the flop, bet the turn, and fires a third shell on the river. 

Now what? 

There really aren’t any hands villain could be betting for value that you’re ahead of. Your hand then becomes a pitiful bluff catcher at best. 

Unfortunately, in the above hypothetical scenario, there’s nothing to indicate that your opponent is bluffing. 

Triple-barrel bluffing isn’t something a lot of players are comfortable with doing in general, so when someone fires a third shell on the river, more often than not, they’re going to have something to show for it.

K9 does have an advantage in the sense it can make a strong flush, but this is also a double-edged sword, because it can make only the second best hand. 

If you hit your flush with K9s, your opponent could hold any suited Ace, which will end up causing you a huge pot.

If you want to get really good at poker fast, you need to avoid playing hands like this too much.  


5) 96 Suited


Aside from the fairly obvious reason to play this hand which I’m not getting into right now, a hand like 96s (for example 96) is best avoided. 

Even though there are spots where you can play suited one-gappers and even two-gappers, you should exercise caution when you do so. 

The bigger the gap between the cards, the less likely it is to hit a straight. Therefore, suited connectors are a far better option than their unconnected counterparts, like J8s, 75s and so on. 

Even connectors don’t hit their straights nearly as often as you might hope for, and these gappers do so even less frequently. 

Also, like other hands on this list you often end up having a second best hand, because you’re not drawing to the strongest possible straight/flush.


For example:

If you hold 96 and the board is

8♣75♣JQ♣

Your opponent can have T9 or any number of combinations that make a flush.

If we flip the script and suppose you hit your flush with 96s, you still aren’t in the clear, as your opponent can also have an even stronger flush. 

In a lot of scenarios with these mediocre hands, you’ll either end up winning a small pot, or losing a big one. 

In other words, the upside is very limited, and it doesn’t really justify the risk.

If you want to go from $0 to $1000 in poker fast, you would be well advised to avoid playing hands like this too often!


Final Thoughts


In poker, there are no hard and fast rules to abide by at all costs, and choosing which hands to play in x spot and avoid in y spot isn’t something that can be done mechanically. 

That’s why memorizing starting poker hands graphs by heart is largely a futile endeavour. 

And this is why there is no advanced poker strategy that can tell you which hands are always right to play in all situations, against all player types.

Poker is way too dynamic of a game for that to be useful on the felt. The most successful poker players aren’t the ones who follow the rules the best, it’s the ones that can think for themselves. 

The point of this article isn't, therefore, to tell you that certain hands should be avoided like the plague, and playing them is always a losing bet. 

It was rather to always consider the context of the hand, and consider are you putting yourself in a profitable situation, or are you setting yourself up to lose money. 

As a general rule, calling is usually a losing play, because you agree to play on someone else’s terms. As the old adage goes, if it’s good enough for a call, it’s good enough for a raise. 

So the next time you’re pondering a call, always ask yourself:

What happens if I bet/raise here instead? 

Poker becomes a lot more enjoyable, and more profitable, when you’re the one dictating the tempo.

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

Never Call With These 5 Poker Hands!