4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold

4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold

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

In a recent article, we’ve discussed underrated no-limit hold’em hands you should play more often. 

This time we’ll go the other way, and take a look at some overrated starting hands you should consider ditching more often.

Of course, as the saying goes, in poker, there are no good or bad hands. There are only good or bad situations.

With that in mind, take this list with a grain of salt, and always consider the context.

These 4 poker hands can often be more trouble than they’re worth.

Also, make sure to check out the list of my 5 most underrated poker hands as well.

Overrated Poker Hand #1: Jack-Nine Suited

Jack-Nine suited has a similar problem to most hands on this list, and that is the fact that it will often be dominated by stronger hands. 

This leaves you vulnerable to having only the second strongest hand, which can often prove costly. 

When you play J9, your hand can often be dominated by stronger Jx hands like AJ, KJ, QJ and JT.

4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold

A dominated hand is the one that’s unlikely to win against another hand. 

For example, if you hold J9s and your opponent holds AJs, you only have about 30% hand equity.

The most common hand combination you’ll make post flop will be a one pair hand. 

So if you connect with the flop with J9 and hit a top pair hand, for example, your hand will often be in trouble due to a mediocre kicker.

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

J9s does have some playability post flop, and it can even make strong combinations like straights and flushes. 

But the problem is that even those strong combinations can be beaten if your opponent happens to have an even stronger straight or a flush.

For example, if you hit a flush with J9, any suited Ace, King or Queen potentially has you beat.

Granted, your opponent may not play any random suited junk in that theoretical range, but it’s still enough to consider the reverse implied odds.

Reverse implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially lose if you complete your draw, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand. This is the opposite of the implied odds, which refer to the amount of money you can potentially win if your draw completes on future streets.

You’ll encounter a similar problem with straights and straight draws as well. With a hand like J9 suited, you often won’t be drawing to the nuts, i.e. strongest possible hand combination. 

This means that even if you complete your draw, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the pot.

Overrated Hand Example #1

You are dealt J9 and the flop is: 


You have an inside straight draw, and you need a Ten to complete your straight. 

Aside from the fact that inside straight draws are weak draws that usually don’t complete, you’re not drawing to the strongest possible straight. 

If your opponent holds AJ, you’ll only have the second best hand if your draw completes.

Speaking of drawing, gapper hands like J9 perform worse than the connectors like JT or T9 in terms of completing straight draws.

The bigger the gap between the hole cards, the less likely they are to complete a straight.

That’s because there’s simply less ways for them to make a straight than their connector counterparts.

For example, JT can make a straight 4 different ways, while J9 can make a straight 3 different ways.

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

Jack-Nine suited is not necessarily a bad hand per se, much like the other hands on this entry. 

You shouldn’t necessarily avoid playing it altogether, but you should be aware of the limitations and potential downsides it might face.

It’s still a decent speculative hand with a lot of playability post flop. But you should be careful when playing it in a big pot, because it can often be dominated.

This is especially the case in 3-bet pots, where a speculative hand like J9s just won’t perform very well. 

Speculative hands prefer deep stack sizes, so they have more manoeuvrability post flop.

A 3-bet preflop is a re-raise against another player’s open-raise.

In other words, you want to see the flop cheaply, and have a big potential upside if you manage to hit a strong combination like two pairs, a straight or a flush. 

And even then you have to be careful, since you often won’t have the stone-cold nuts.

The nuts means having the strongest possible combination on a certain board.

For more info on how to play tricky hands like J9 suited, check out Crushing the Microstakes.

Check out Nathan's recent video on hands you probably shouldn't be playing.

Overrated Poker Hand #2: Ace-Ten Offsuit

Like other hands on this list, Ace-Ten offsuit is not necessarily a bad hand per se. The problem with this hand is that players tend to overvalue it in certain situations. 

Ace-Ten has a similar problem like the other hands on this list, and that’s the fact that it can often be dominated by stronger Ax hands.

A lot of players tend to play just about any broadway hand, regardless of the position and other considerations, which is obviously a huge mistake.

Broadway hands are the ones that can make the strongest possible straight (e.g. AKo or QJs). 

But not all broadway hands are equally strong, and some of them may cost you money over the long run if you overplay them.

Ace-Ten offsuit can be particularly tricky when you play it from the early position at the table.

The earlier your table position, the stronger your hand needs to be, since there’s more opponents that could theoretically have a stronger hand than you.

If you open-raise ATo from UTG (under the gun, aka the position where you’re the first to act in the hand), you can find yourself in an awkward spot if another player 3-bets you.

4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold

If you face a 3-bet, your hand will often be dominated. 

There’s a bunch of hands that beat you: stronger Ax hands (AJ through AK), as well as premium pocket pairs (pocket Jacks through pocket Aces).

To be fair, you do block some of these holdings with AT, but you’re still quite behind your opponent’s value heavy 3-betting range.

Against the range outlined above (AJ+, JJ+) your Ace-Ten offsuit has only 26% equity.

Ace-Ten suited doesn’t fare a lot better, either, as it has only 30% hand equity.

Of course, your opponent could have a quite wider 3-betting range, in which case your hand equity goes up.

But even then, there’s another problem: you’ll often play the rest of the hand out of position (unless you face a 3-bet from the blinds).

This means you will play the rest of the hand with an easily dominated hand, out of position, without a range advantage.

This is the exact opposite of what you should be aiming at.

The most money you’ll win in poker will come from spots where you are the preflop aggressor and you are playing in position.

If you are using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check this for yourself by using the appropriate filters to see your results.

You’ll be surprised how much more money you earn when being the preflop aggressor in position as opposed to other spots where that’s not the case.

So calling a 3-bet with Ace-Ten offsuit is usually a bad idea, especially if you’re playing out of position. This leaves you with the option of 4-betting (i.e. raising against another player’s 3-bet).

In this case, you’re 4-betting as bluff, since you can’t get weaker hands to call.

4-bet bluffing may work, since your hand has blocker power and some playability post flop.

But the problem is that more often than not, you’re just going to get folds from hands that you were actually ahead of (like weaker Aces or other broadway hands), and you’ll only get action from hands that have you beat (like premium pocket pairs or Ace-King).

Overrated Hand Example #2

6-max online cash game 

You are dealt AT UTG (under the gun)

You open-raise to 3x.

A tight and aggressive (TAG) player 3-bets to 12x.

You: ???

You should fold.

Calling a 3-bet in this spot is usually a bad idea. Let’s break it down to see why. 

First of all, open-raising ATo under the gun is probably too loose, especially if you’re playing on aggressive tables where you’re likely to face a lot of 3-bets. 

It can be profitable if the table is not overly aggressive, and there are recreational players in the blinds, for example.

Why you should play a tight range from under the gun becomes apparent when you face a 3-bet with a mediocre hand.

In this example, if you call, you will play the rest of the hand

a) out of position

b) without the initiative

c) with an easily dominated hand.

This is the exact opposite of a profitable money making situation in poker.

What’s more, there’s also your opponent’s range to consider. A tight player that’s 3-betting against and UTG open-raise is quite likely to have a strong range that completely dominates your hand.

We’re talking something like pocket Jacks or better, Ace-King, and Ace-Queen. Against that kind of range, your hand has only 26% equity. 

Even worse, even that 26% is not what you would consider “real equity.” 

In other words, you often won’t be able to realize your hand equity because you would probably need to fold the hand before getting to showdown.

Suppose you do call a 3-bet and flop a pair of Aces, for example. Would you really be comfortable calling 3 streets out of position with only a top pair, mediocre kicker? 

Probably not. That’s why your prospects of winning the hand are even slimmer than your hand equity would have you believe.

Of course, there’s the option of 4-betting to consider. But in that case, you’re not getting any stronger hands to fold, so you can’t 4-bet as a bluff. 

You can only get folds from hands that you’re actually ahead of, i.e. certain 3-bet bluffing hands in your opponent’s range.

For more info on advanced poker strategies like light 4-betting, check out Modern Small Stakes.

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Overrated Poker Hand #3: King-Jack offsuit 

The pattern on the list should be familiar by now. KJ offsuit is another broadway hand that can often be more trouble than it’s worth. 

It suffers the same problem as other hands on this list, namely the fact that it will often be dominated by stronger broadway hands, like AK, AJ, and KQ.

King jack top pair

King-Jack offsuit also doesn’t have as much nut potential as some stronger broadway hands. 

Since it’s an offsuit hand, it doesn’t have the potential to make the flush. 

Also, it’s a gapper hand, meaning it won’t make as many straights as a connector hand would.

Like other hands on the list, KJ is not a bad hand by any means, and it can definitely be played profitably post flop. 

The problem is that it doesn’t fare too well against other strong hands, so you have to be careful so you don’t end up with having only the second best hand.

This is especially the case in 3-bet pots. 

If you are the one with the opportunity to make a 3-bet, you can do it with a hand like KJ in the right spot. 

As mentioned, KJ has decent playability post flop, as well as some blocker power, so it can be a viable 3-betting candidate.

If you are the one to face a 3-bet, on the other hand, you should exercise more caution, especially against opponents with value-heavy 3-betting ranges.

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Overrated Poker Hand #4: Pocket Twos

Small pocket pairs may look pretty enough, but they’re actually a lot weaker than you might think. 

That’s because small pocket pairs have very poor playability postflop unless they hit a set.

If you hold a pocket pair, the chance of flopping a set or better is only about 12%.

This means that you won’t flop a set 7 out of 8 times with a pocket pair. So if you have a small pocket pair, you’ll be forced to fold on the flop a large majority of times. 

If you miss the flop with a small pocket pair, you will usually have very poor equity and very little chance of improving your hand. 

That’s because you’ll only have two outs to improve to a set, meaning your chance of improvement to a set is only about 8%.

small pocket pairs

An out is a card you need to improve your hand. The more outs you have, the bigger your hand equity and vice versa.

Small pocket pairs can be very profitable if you manage to hit a set, since your opponents will have a hard time of putting you on your exact hand.

But since you won’t hit a set a large majority of the time it’s important to have favourable implied odds if you decide to set mine.

Set mining means calling preflop with a small pocket pair with the intention of hitting a set postflop and taking down a big pot.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially win on future streets, The better the implied odds, the more often you can set mine profitably.

One of the common mistakes players make when set mining is that they don’t consider the implied odds, and tend to call with just about any pocket pair, regardless of the situation.

Then they proceed to fold postflop when they don’t hit their set (which is most of the time).

Playing small pocket pairs like this is likely to be a major leak, since you’re just bleeding money most of the time.

On those rare instances that you actually do hit a set, you probably won’t make up for all the times that you missed the flop completely and you’re forced to fold.

That’s why calling 3-bets with small pocket pairs is usually a losing play. The problem is that you’re risking a lot of money upfront, only to concede it a large majority of time postflop. 

And once you do manage to hit a set, there’s not that much money left to win, anyway. And that’s provided that you manage to get paid off with your set in the first place, which is not a guarantee by any means.

Bottom line: playing small pocket pairs can be profitable if you have favourable implied odds, but you need to be aware that hitting a set post flop is more of an exception than the rule.

Check out Nathan's recent video on how to play pocket pairs like a pro.

4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold - Final Thoughts

None of the hands on the list are bad poker hands per se. However, they can be trouble if you overplay them in certain spots.

This is especially the case in 3-bet pots, where these hands can be dominated by stronger broadway hands, stronger pocket pairs and so on. 

Calling 3-bets with an easily dominated hand, especially if you’re playing out of position, is usually a losing prospect.

You should enter most pots as the preflop aggressor, as this is statistically proven to be more profitable than being the preflop caller.

This is one of the cornerstones of a proven winning poker strategy.

All the hands on this list can, and should be played in certain spots. But if you find yourself suspecting your hand may be behind, it’s usually better to just fold and save yourself the trouble.

Over time, you’ll develop the sense of whether or not your hand is ahead or not. Often enough, if you are in doubt, that’s a good indicator that your hand indeed is behind.

When that’s the case, trust your instincts and find the fold button.

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

4 Overrated Poker Hands You Need to Just Fold