Stop Playing These 5 Bad Poker Hands (Big Mistake!)

Stop Playing These 5 Bad Poker Hands

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

One of the most common mistakes most amateur poker players make is playing way too many hands, which causes them to bleed money over the long run.

Another common mistake is overvaluing certain hands, i.e. believing they’re stronger than they actually are.

We’re going to take a closer look at 5 textbook starting hands you may be overvaluing, why they’re often trouble, and should you even bother with playing them in the first place.

A quick disclaimer: 

All of these hands can be played in certain situations. None of these are bad in and of themselves, but overplaying them could lead you to a lot of sticky situations you’re better off avoiding altogether.

With that in mind, let’s get right into the list. 

Bad Poker Hand #1: King-Three Suited

Also: other suited Kings with a bad kicker (like K4 or K5)

A lot of beginner poker players tend to overvalue suited hands for the prospect of catching a flush postflop. 

It’s true that suited hands are stronger than their offsuit counterparts. But the fact is that you won’t hit your flush nearly as often enough to justify playing any random suited hand.

In fact, the chance of flopping a flush with a suited hand is only 0.8%, or 1 in 118. 

The chance of flopping a flush draw is way better, (about 11%), but it’s still very unlikely. 

And even if you flop a flush draw, you still need to hit your outs on future streets, which also won’t happen most of the time.

In other words, if you played every suited hand hoping to hit a flush, you’d be incurring losses over the long run. The rare occasions that you do hit a flush wouldn’t make up for the losses you’ve incurred along the way.

Check out my recent article for more info on how to play flush draws profitably.

Another problem with a hand like K3s is that even if you manage to hit a flush draw, you’re not drawing to the nuts (i.e. the strongest possible combination). You’re running the risk of having only the second best hand. 

As the adage goes: the worst hand in poker is the second best hand.

During your poker career, you probably won’t lose a ton of money with a trash hand like J3s. You’ll just fold it preflop and be done with it. 

You’ll lose far more money with mediocre hands that manage to connect with the board and are seemingly too strong to let go, but end up being only the second best and costing you a huge pot. 

This is precisely the problem with a hand like K3s. You’re drawing to the second best flush, and your opponents could easily have a suited Ace in their hand. 

Suited Aces are a strong, versatile hand that can connect with the flop in a variety of ways. 

Small suited Aces (A2 through A5) can also make straights in addition to flushes, and are drawing to the nut flush, so they don’t need to worry about being only the second best hand.

Suited Kings, on the other hand, need to consider the reverse implied odds.

Reverse implied odds are the amount of money you stand to lose on future streets if your drawing hand completes, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand.

Reverse implied odds are the opposite of the implied odds, i.e. the amount of money you can potentially win on future streets.

Now, you might argue that both hitting a flush AND your opponent having an even stronger flush is highly unlikely, and fair enough. 

It won’t happen too often, but it’s still worth considering. 

But there’s another problem with this hand that you’ll face far more often, and that is the inferior kicker.

A kicker is the second hole card that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can determine a winner if both players have the same hand.

For example, if you have K3 and your opponent has KQ and the board is:


You both have a top pair, but your opponent will win because they have a stronger kicker.

In no-limit hold’em, the most common hand combination you’ll get is a single pair. You will flop a pair about 30% of the time on average. 

This means that if you play hands with mediocre kickers, you’ll often run into kicker problems, which will cause you to bleed money over the long run.

By the way, check out Nathan's recent video to NEVER go broke in your poker career.

Bad Poker Hand #2: Jack-Eight Suited

Also: other suited two-gappers like T7, 96 

A hand like J8 suited may look pretty enough, but it will often be more trouble than it’s worth, much like other hands on this list. 

Some players like playing these types of hands because they have decent board coverage (i.e. they can connect with a lot of different boards in a variety of ways). 

But the problem is that it will often connect with the board to give you a mediocre hand, such as top pair, mediocre kicker, second pair, weak draw and so on. 

It will very rarely smash the flop (i.e. flop a two pair hand combination or better).

A hand like J8s or a similar two-gapper is significantly weaker than a suited connector like JTs or 98 suited. 

The bigger the gap between the cards, the weaker they are, because they are far less likely to make a straight. 

A connector like JT can make a straight in four different ways, whereas a two-gapper like J8 can only make two straights, either on a board like:




Flopping a straight with a connector is unlikely, and flopping it with a two-gapper is extremely rare.

Check out my recent article on how to play straight draws for more info.

As mentioned, our prospects of flopping a flush or a flush draw with a suited hand aren’t too great, either. 

And even if you manage to hit a flush, you still need to take the reverse implied odds into account, as your opponent can have a stronger flush than you with any suited Ace, King or Queen.

So you won’t make strong combinations like straights and flushes too often, and even if you do, it could actually cost you money if you end up having only a second best hand.

What will happen far more often, though, is making a one-pair hand like a pair of Jacks. Even if you have a top pair on the flop, you can still easily get outdrawn by the river, as any Ace, King or Queen threatens to make your hand relatively weaker. 

You also have a weak kicker to worry about. The fact is, most players won’t play a weaker Jack, like J7 or J6, for example. So if both you and your opponent get a pair of Jacks, your hand is more than likely to be dominated.

A dominated hand is the one that’s unlikely to win against another hand due to a weaker kicker. 

For example, if you hold J8s and your opponent has JTs, your hand equity is only 31%, meaning you’ll lose more than 2 out of 3 times on average.

For these reasons, it’s often best to just ditch this hand altogether.

When to Play Jack-Eight Suited

As with other entries on the list, there are times where you can play a hand like this profitably. It still has some sort of playability postflop, as well as decent implied odds if it manages to smash the flop. 

Since it’s a speculative hand (i.e. it needs to improve postflop) it’s best to play it when the effective stack size is deep, and the deeper, the better.

The deeper the stack size, the more manoeuvrability you have postflop to realize your hand equity.

A hand like J8s can be a viable blind stealing candidate.

To steal the blinds means to open-raise from the cutoff, button, or small blind with the intention of taking down the pot preflop.

When you’re playing on the button, you can get away with playing a very wide range, especially if the opponents on your left fall on the more nitty side of the spectrum.

For more info on how to steal the blinds like a pro, check out Modern Small Stakes.

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Bad Poker Hand #3: Ace-Six offsuit

Also: other weak Aces like A4 or A7 

One of the most common mistakes most amateur poker players make is playing way too many hands. This is evident in their tendency to play just about any Ace, suited or unsuited, with virtually any kicker. 

It’s obvious that if you play an Ace, you will always have a top pair hand if another Ace comes on the board, but this doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the best hand. In fact, you’ll often have only the second best hand due to an inferior kicker. 

Aces with a kicker lower than a Ten are considered “rag Aces”, especially offsuit Aces.

Suited Aces have more playability because they have the nut potential, i.e. you can make the strongest possible flush with them. Weak offsuit Aces have far less playability postflop, because they can connect with the flop in limited ways.

And even if you connect with the flop, you still run the risk of your top pair being dominated due to kicker problems.

Some players have a hard time letting go of their top pair hand because they overvalue it. It’s important to remember that a top pair hand is still only a single pair, and it can be beaten by a bunch of other hands. 

Rag Aces are usually in terrible shape in 3-bet pots, because they often get dominated by stronger Aces that make up a huge chunk of your opponent’s potential 3-betting range.

Example Bad Poker Hand

You are dealt A6 on the BU (button).

You open-raise to 2.5 BB.

Small blind folds. Big blind 3-bets to 10 BB.

You: ???

You should fold.

Playing “weak” hands on the button is sort of an exception to the rule that you should only play strong starting hands. 

You can often play an insanely wide range on the button, especially if the players on your left are weak and/or passive.  

However, when faced with a 3-bet, it’s best to just let go of the hand instead of getting involved in marginal situations postflop.

In this spot, your hand will often be dominated by stronger Ax hands, so putting additional money into the pot is not worth it.

However, if you know your opponent to be a very aggressive 3-bettor (i.e. they have a lot of bluffs in their 3-betting range), you can occasionally play back at them with a light 4-bet.

A light 4-bet is a re-raise against another player’s 3-bet made with the intention of getting your opponent to fold.

It would obviously be better if your Ace was suited, but you rarely get a perfect setup in poker, so you need to learn to make the best of what you have.

Light 4-betting is an advanced play, and it’s certainly not something you should try too often and against any random opponent.

But making a big move like this here and there can mean the difference between being a breakeven player and a solid winner, especially in difficult games.

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Bad Poker Hand #4: Queen-Ten Suited 

He called a raise with a Queen-Ten, honey. - Phil Hellmuth

A lot of players make the mistake of overplaying some broadway hands, especially suited ones. 

Broadway hands are the ones that can make the strongest possible straight in no-limit hold’em, like AK or JT.

The problem with hands like Queen-Ten suited should be all too familiar by now: it will often be dominated by a number of other broadway hands, like AQ, KQ, QJ, AT, and KT.

This is a problem because you won’t get strong combinations like straights and flushes most of the time. The most common hand combination you’ll get in Texas hold’em is a single pair, so it’s important to be aware of the risk of your pair being dominated.

When you flop a top pair with a hand like QT, you can rarely get multiple streets of value with it because 

a) one pair hands usually aren’t strong enough to play a huge pot with, especially with a mediocre kicker


b) you run the risk of your hand getting outdrawn, because one pair hands are vulnerable that way.

On the rare occasions you actually do manage to hit a strong combination like a straight or a flush, you still have to take reverse implied odds into account.

For example, If you get a flush with Queen-Ten, any suited Ace or King can have you beat.

Now, all of this is not to say that this hand is unplayable, far from it.

It becomes trouble when you play it in spots where you could get easily dominated by other hands.

Example Bad Poker Hand

You are dealt QT in the CO (cutoff).

You open-raise to 3x. A tight and aggressive (TAG) regular 3-bets to 9x.

You: ???

You should fold.

Playing a hand like QT in position as the preflop aggressor is more than likely to be +EV over the long run.

Calling a 3-bet out of position is an entirely different story.

Calling here is more than likely to put you in a lot of awkward spots postflop. You are playing out of position without a range advantage.

The preflop aggressor is the one with the range advantage, meaning they theoretically have more strong hands in their range than the preflop caller.

If you miss the flop, you’ll need to fold to a c-bet, and if you hit the flop with a top pair hand, you’ll often run into stronger hands like pair of Queens with a better kicker, Aces, Kings, and the like.

That’s because your opponent is likely to play a tight range based on their player type. This means there’s very few hands that you beat, and way more hands that dominate you. 

By thinking ahead in spots like these, you can save yourself a lot of money over the long run by not getting involved in marginal spots altogether.

When to Play Queen-Ten Suited

While often in a bad shape against 3-bets, a hand like QT can be played profitably, especially from late positions (i.e. the cutoff and the button).

It’s a versatile hand with enough playability postflop, especially when you’re the preflop aggressor. 

You can also defend your blinds with it, especially against avid blind stealers.

For more info on advanced strategies like blind defense, check out my guide to playing the big blind optimally.

Bad Poker Hand #5: Three-Two Suited

Also: other small suited connectors like 43or 54 

Suited connectors are great speculative hands that can connect with the flop a number of different ways and have the potential to make strong hand combinations like straights and flushes. 

This makes suited connectors more playable postflop than gappers and offsuit hands. 

The problem with small suited connectors like 32s, however is the fact that even on those rare occasions they make a strong combination like a straight or a flush, they don’t make the nuts (i.e. the strongest possible combination).

For example, if you hit a flush with 3h2h, basically all the other suited hearts have you beat.

This means that you always need to worry about the reverse implied odds with small suited connectors. 

When you hit a flush with a hand like K3s or K9s, there’s only suited Aces you need to worry about. 

But when you hit a flush with a 32s, there’s a whopping 78 potential hole cards (i.e. hole cards with two hearts) that have you beat. 

Granted, some of those combinations aren’t likely in your opponent’s range, unless your opponent plays ANY suited hand, which is obviously ill-advised.

Still, it’s way more  potential combinations to worry about than when you have a flush with a Kx type of hand, as there’s only 11 combinations of suited Aces that have you beat.

If you hold a K3, for example, your opponent can’t hold AK themselves, because you block that K card in your hand. That’s why there’s 11 suited Aces in their potential range instead of 12.

If you want to know more about combos and blockers, and how to use them to narrow down your opponent’s range and bluff more effectively, check out the Microstakes Playbook.

This brings us to another problem with small suited connectors, and that’s the fact that they don’t block anything from your opponent’s range. 

When you have a hand like suited Ace or a suited King, you’re blocking some of the strong combinations in your opponent’s range, like pocket Aces, pocket Kings, Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen and so on.

This makes suited Aces or suited Kings great potential 3-bet bluffing candidates, as they decrease the likelihood of your opponent having a strong hand that won’t be willing to fold to your 3-bet.

Check out Nathan’s ultimate 3-betting guide on everything you need to know about 3-betting like a pro.

Small suited connectors, therefore, make for poor 3-bet bluffing candidates, as they:

a) don’t have blocker power


b) are often dominated postflop.

Another problem with small suited connectors is the fact that they often make the bottom end of a straight, which can also cause you to lose a huge pot.

For example, if you are dealt 32

And the flop is: 654

You have a straight, but your opponent could easily have a hand like 87 that beats you. Less likely, but also theoretically possible is your opponent having a hand like 73 that also beats you.

This is something that Daniel Negreanu discusses in detail in his advanced poker training program.

So both straights and flushes are troublesome with small suited connectors. What about if you get lucky and smash the flop with a two-pair hand?

Even then you’re not in the clear, as you still only have the bottom two pair. This means that your hand is vulnerable to getting outdrawn by the river.

This problem is similar as the flush problem: basically any other two pair hand has you beat.

Check out Nathan's video on how to play suited connectors like a pro.

Never Play These 5 Bad Poker Hands - Final Thoughts

None of these hands are necessarily bad in and of themselves, and none of them belong in the total trash category. 

You don’t need to study a lot of advanced poker strategy to know you shouldn’t play junk hands like J2s or 94o. 

Those junk hands aren’t the ones that will lose you a lot of money over the long run. You’ll just toss them preflop and be done with it.

It’s the seemingly stronger hands that can spell trouble if you overplay them.

One thing all of the “bad” poker hands on the list have in common is the fact that they can often be dominated by stronger hands, usually due to an inferior kicker.

This means they will often make only the second best hand, which is the worst hand to have in poker.

When you play these mediocre hands, you need to take the reverse implied odds into account, i.e. how much money you stand to lose if you end up with only the second best hand.

Ask yourself which worse hands in your opponent's range would be willing to give you action. If the answer is: very few or none at all, it’s best to ditch the hand altogether.

Also, it’s important to bear in mind that your hole cards are only one of the many factors to consider in any given hand. 

You also need to consider other factors like your table position, your opponents, the previous action, the stack sizes, just to name a few.

As with anything else in poker, context is key.

There are no good or bad hands, only good or bad spots. So pick good spots to play, not just good hole cards.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Stop Playing These 5 Bad Poker Hands