4 Underrated Poker Hands Every Good Player Knows to Play

4 Underrated Poker Hands Every Good Player Knows to Play

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

In no-limit hold’em, some starting hands are better than others. Some hands are so strong that they basically play themselves.

But there are other, often overlooked poker hands that can be extremely profitable if you play them the right way.

In this article, we’ll go over 4 underrated poker hands every good poker player loves and knows how to play.

By the end of this article, you’ll love these starting poker hands as well (if you don’t already).

Let’s get right into it.

Underrated Poker Hand #1: Pocket Sevens (7♥️7♦️)

Medium pocket pairs can be tricky hands to play, especially post flop. 

That’s because they won’t flop an overpair as often as premium pocket pairs, for example. 

This means it’s harder to figure out where exactly you stand in the hand (i.e. is your hand ahead or behind your opponent’s range).

An overpair is a pocket pair that’s stronger than the strongest card on the board. 

For example, on a flop like Q52, pocket Aces and pocket Kings are an overpair.

Since medium pocket pairs like pocket Sevens won’t flop an overpair too often, they’re usually better played as set mines.

To set mine means to call preflop with the intention of making a set post flop and taking down a big pot.

Set mining can be very profitable, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s quite unlikely to flop a set with a pocket pair.

The chance of flopping a set with a pocket pair is only 11.8%.

So if you decide to set mine, you should only do so if you can get paid off once you actually do hit your set.

This means it’s better to set mine when the effective stack size is very deep, and the deeper, the better.

Deeper effective stack size means better implied odds, i.e. a better upside potential.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially earn on future streets if you improve your hand.

Also, you are getting better implied odds if your opponent’s range is strong.

If your opponent has a lot of strong hands in their range, it’s more likely they’ll be willing to give you action when you hit your set.

Your implied odds are also improved in multiway pots (pots with more than two players involved).

The more players involved in the pot, the better your implied odds, because there’s a chance that at least one of the players will have a hand that’s strong enough to pay you off.

Check out my full guide to set mining for a much deeper look.

Set mining assumes that another player has raised before you.

If you are the first player to enter the pot, on the other hand, you should do it with an open-raise when you are dealt a medium pocket pair.

If you enter the pot with an open-raise, you don’t need to rely on hitting your set post flop in order to play your hand profitably.

As a preflop aggressor, you have the range advantage, meaning you theoretically have more strong hands in your range than the preflop caller.

So even if you don’t get a particularly favourable flop, you can still keep applying the pressure with a continuation bet.

A continuation bet (or c-bet for short) is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.

The reason you can usually make a c-bet with pocket Sevens regardless of the board runout is the fact that paired hands have more equity than a lot of unpaired hands your opponent may have called you preflop with,

And since there are a lot more combos of unpaired than paired hands in no-limit hold’em, your pocket pair will often be ahead of your opponent’s range on the flop.

In no-limit hold’em, there are 1,326 possible starting hand combinations.

There are 78 combos of pocket pairs, 312 combos of suited hands, and 936 combos of offsuit hands.

Of course, this includes all possible starting hand combinations, and your opponents obviously won’t see the flop with every possible combination.

Still, as you can see, it’s far more likely for your opponent to have an unpaired hand.

Pocket Sevens will also usually have decent showdown value.

A hand has showdown value when it’s not strong enough to value bet with, but can often win at showdown unimproved.

The more showdown value you have, the closer your hand veers to being strong enough to thin value bet with.

You are thin value betting when your hand has slightly more than 50% hand equity. In other words, your hand is ahead of your opponent’s range, but not by a huge margin.

Pocket Sevens can often be decent thin value betting candidates on the flop, but much less so on the river (provided that you didn’t make a set or better, of course).

That’s because you’re not likely to get called by weaker hands on the river, unless you’re up against a major calling station who’ll call you down with Ace-high or a weaker pair.

If you don’t flop a set with pocket Sevens, you can still play them as bluff catchers.

To bluff catch means calling your opponent’s bet when they likely have a lot of bluffs in their range.

Pocket Sevens are great bluff catchers because they usually have decent showdown value, and it’s not easy for your opponent to put you on your exact hand.

Example Hand #1

Cash Games, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB 

You are dealt 77 on the BU (button). A tight and aggressive player open-raises to 3x from the MP (middle position). You call.

Pot: 7.5 BB

Flop: 962

Villain bets 3.5 BB

You: ???

You should call.

This is a great spot to float the flop. To float means to call your opponent’s bet (usually with a wider range) in order to try to take down the pot on future streets.

In this spot, you’ve missed your set, but it doesn’t mean you should give up the hand right away.

In fact, you may actually have the best hand here quite often. Let’s break it down.

Preflop you have a standard call on the button. You are primarily looking to make a set post flop and potentially stack your opponent if they have a strong hand like pocket Aces, pocket Kings etc.

You miss the flop, but your opponent could have missed the flop just as easily. In fact, the board favours your range more than your opponent.

You have a second pair, which is not a monster hand by any means, but your hand may be ahead of a large chunk of your opponent’s range.

You are also playing in position and you have a backdoor straight draw, so you have a significant chunk of equity against your opponent.

If your opponent checks to you on the turn, you can try to take down the pot with a simple half-pot bet.

Or you can continue calling them down if the turn comes with some inconsequential card and try to bluff catch if you suspect your opponent is likely to be bluffing with hands like Ace-King, Ace-Queen and so on.

Check out my video on how I learned to read their hand (every time).

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Underrated Poker Hand #2: Pocket Tens (T♦️T♠️)

There’s some debate about whether the pocket Tens should be considered a premium pocket pair or a medium pocket pair.

Either way, pocket Tens are a great starting hand that’s going to be profitable for you over the long run, even though they may be tricky to play at times.

Let’s talk about the bad news first.

Pocket Tens will flop an overpair on the flop far less frequently than other premium pocket pairs.

Pocket Tens will flop an overpair only 30.5% of the time.

And even then, you’d need to dodge a lot of overcards by the time the board completes to have a top pair.

This means that it can be hard to play pocket Tens for multiple streets of value in most spots.

This begs the question of how to play pocket Tens preflop.

Is it better to play pocket Tens aggressively preflop and hope for the best, or should you take a more conservative approach and play them as a set mine?

As always in poker, the answer is: it depends.

In most cases, pocket Tens are too strong of a hand to play as a set mine, especially when you consider how rarely you are to flop a set in the first place.

So as a general rule, you’re usually better off playing pocket Tens aggressively preflop, unless there’s some crazy action sequence in front of you.

If you are the first player to enter the pot, you should obviously open-raise with pocket Tens.

If another player open-raises before you, you should 3-bet your pocket Tens fairly often.

Pocket Tens are a slight favourite to win against strong broadway hands, and even have a slight edge over Ace-King suited, which is the strongest drawing hand in no-limit hold'em.

Against Ace-King suited, pocket Tens have 54% hand equity.

And against a a hypothetical range of Ace-Jack or better and King-Queen, pocket Tens have roughly 56% hand equity.

So if your opponent is likely to call a 3-bet with an even weaker range, pocket Tens are a clear value betting hand preflop.

The only exception to this is if there's a lot of crazy action in front of you, like in the example hand below.

Example Hand #2

You are dealt TT in the CO (cutoff). 

A loose and aggressive player open-raises to 2.5x from UTG (under the gun). A tight and aggressive player 3-bets to 7.5 BB in the MP (middle position).

You: ??? 

You should flat call.

In this spot, flat calling is likely to be the best option. Folding would be far too nitty, and cold 4-betting would be far too ambitious.

To cold 4-bet means to raise against another player’s 3-bet when you weren’t previously involved in the hand (i.e. you were not the open-raiser in the hand).

If you 4-bet here, you aren’t likely to get called by any weaker hands from any player, so you can’t really bet for value here.

Also, you will force certain hands to fold that you’re actually ahead of, like weaker pocket pairs, broadways like Ace-Jack suited or King-Queen suited etc.

The best you can do is simply flat call and play some poker post flop. You can either make a set and get paid off by some overpair hands, or you can try to take down the pot some other way depending on how the action goes.

For more info on how to assign ranges to your opponents and other advanced poker strategies, check out The Microstakes Playbook.

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Underrated Poker Hand #3: Ace-Six Suited (A♥️6♥️)

Ace-Six suited is another great speculative hand with great post flop playability.

Speculative hands are hands that need to improve post flop in order to be played profitably. 

For this reason, speculative hands play better with deep effective stack sizes, because it gives them better implied odds.

Ace-Six suited and similar suited Aces have an insane nuts potential, with the ability to make nuts flushes.

This means you don’t have to worry about the reverse implied odds when playing suited Aces, because you’re always drawing to the strongest possible straight.

It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t overplay suited Aces, because you aren’t likely to make a flush post flop.

If you have a suited hand, the chance of flopping a flush is only 0.8%.

You have a far greater chance of flopping a flush draw, but this is still far from likely.

The chance of flopping a flush draw with a suited hand is about 11%.

And even then, you’ll need to hit one of your outs on future streets to complete your flush.

So you shouldn’t play suited Aces just for the prospect of hitting a flush.

If you do manage to hit a flush draw on the flop, however, you should consider playing it very fast (i.e. betting and raising a lot).

This way, you’re giving yourself more than one way to win the pot: you can either win the pot outright by making your opponents fold, or you can potentially improve to a flush on future streets and take down an even bigger pot.

When you bet or raise on the flop with a flush draw, you are making a semibluff.

You are semibluffing when you don’t have a made hand yet, but can potentially improve on future streets if you hit one of your outs.

Semibluffing is usually preferable to stone-cold bluffing, where you can only win the pot by making your opponent fold.

When semibluffing, you have some hand equity to fall back on in case your bluff gets called.

As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the more aggressively you should play it.

The strength of your draw is determined by two factors: the number of outs you have, and how strong your hand will be once it improves.

With suited Aces, you are always drawing to the strongest possible combination, unless the board is paired and your opponent can potentially have a full house.

But this is quite a rare occurrence, since it’s quite unlikely for one player to have a monster hand, let alone two.

Coolers like these can happen from time to time, but they’re quite infrequent when you look at the big picture.

The second factor that determines the strength of your draw is the number of outs you have.

When you flop a flush draw, you have 9 clean outs, so the chance of improvement from flop to river is 35%.

By the way, you can quickly calculate the percentage chance of your draw completing by using the so-called rule of fours.

Rule of fours: simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4 to get a rough percentage chance of your draw competing from flop to river.

The rule of fours gets slightly less accurate the more outs you have, but it works well in most in-game situations.

If you want to know the chance of your draw completing on the next street (flop to turn or turn to river), you simply multiply the number of outs by 2 instead of 4.

As you can see, by using the rule of fours (9 outs times 4), you would get quite close to your actual chance of improvement of 35%.

Example Hand #3

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt A6 in the BB (big blind). A tight and aggressive (TAG) opponent open-raises to 2.5 BB from the CO (cutoff). You call.

Pot: 5.5 BB ♥♦♠♣

Flop: K92

You: ???

You should check-raise.

This is a great spot to play your draw very aggressively.

You are playing the hand out of position, so you have the opportunity to make a check-raise, which is a very strong play.

Check-raising allows you to offset your positional disadvantage and take away the initiative from your opponent.

Since it's such a strong play, your opponnent will need to have quite a strong hand to continue, which won't be the case most of the time.

This means that you can make your opponent fold and give up their equity quite often.

Your opponent will have a hard time calling you down with a lot of hands they're actually ahead with, like medium pocket pairs, 9x hands, and even some Kx hands.

If you do get called, you still have 9 clean outs to the nuts flush, meaning you can potentially take down an even bigger flop on future streets.

The advantage of playing your flush draw fast in this spot is the fact that your opponent will have a harder time of putting you on your exact hand if you play it aggressively even before you actually complete your draw.

If you start firing huge bets once the third heart comes on the board, your opponent will easily pick up on this, and will be far less likely to give you action.

In today’s games, it takes more than waiting around for a premium hand to be a profitable long term winner.

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Underrated Poker Hand #4 Five-Four suited (5♣️4♣️)

Small suited connectors like Five-Four suited hav great playability post flop, with the ability to make strong combinations like straights and flushes.

However, you should be careful when playing them because you often won’t be drawing to the nuts.

This is especially the case if you make a flush, for example.

There are a number of stronger flushes that can potentially beat you, so you’ll need to take reverse implied odds into account.

With that in mind, small suited connectors are still great speculative hands with a lot of upside potential.

Five-Four suited in particular can connect with the flop in a variety of different ways, and if it does, your opponent will have a hard time putting you on your exact hand.

For example, if you hit a straight with Five-Four suited, your hand strength will usually be well-concealed.

The better concealed your hand strength, the better your implied odds.

As a general rule, completed straights are better concealed than completed flushes, so they usually have better implied odds.

Even a recreational player can spot a completed flush draw, but it’s a bit harder to spot a completed straight.

Since it’s a speculative hand, Five-Four suited doesn’t mind multiway pots as much.

If you manage to hit a very strong combination post flop, you’ll have a much better chance of getting paid off if there’s more opponents involved in the pot.

Ideally, you want to see a cheap flop with small suited connectors to get yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio.

In other words, you don’t want to commit a lot of money outright, since you won’t make strong combinations as often to justify the cause.

You should also avoid playing Five-Four suited from early positions, because there’s a big chance you’ll be playing the hand out of position.

You also run the risk of another player 3-betting you.

Small suited connectors are in pretty rough shape against an average 3-betting range that consists of premium pocket pairs and strong broadways like Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen and so on.

Also, you don’t want to commit a lot of money to the pot by calling a 3-bet with a speculative hand.

As mentioned, you ideally want to see a cheap flop instead. This greatly bolsters your implied odds and limits your losses when you inevitably miss the flop from time to time.

You should still open-raise Five-Four suited from the late positions (i.e. the cutoff and the button), since you’re much more likely to play the hand in position post flop.

Also, you can consider decreasing your open-raise size to 2.5 big blinds, or even 2 big blinds in some cases.

There are a few benefits of decreasing your open-raise size from late positions:

a) you are getting a better price on a stealing attempt

Blind stealing means open-raising from the late position (cutoff, button, or small blind) with the intention of getting the blinds to fold and taking down the pot preflop.

If you decrease your open-raise size, you are getting a better risk-to-reward ratio, meaning your opponents don’t need to fold as often for your steal to be profitable.

b) you are risking less if you face a 3-bet

If you face a 3-bet and you’re forced to fold, you’re going to lose less if you open-raise a smaller amount.

This may seem like a trivial amount to worry about losing, but it’s worth remembering that stealing spots are quite common, so these small adjustments add up tremendously over the long run.

c) you are getting better implied odds

If your opponents simply flat calls against your open-raise, you’ll have a deeper effective stack size left behind if you opt for a smaller open-raise size.

In other words, you are risking less money outright, and have more money to potentially win if you make a strong combination post flop.

For much more on preflop bet sizing, check out my ultimate preflop bet sizing cheat sheet.

4 Underrated Poker Hands Every Good Player Knows to Play - Summary

To be a winning poker player these days, it’s not enough to wait around for the nuts all day. 

You need to know how to extract max value with more than just premium hands.

Knowing how to play these underrated hands is a crucial part of any advanced poker strategy.

To sum up, here are 4 underrated poker hands all good players know to play.

1. Pocket Sevens

Medium pocket pairs like pocket Sevens can be extremely profitable if you set mine with them correctly.

But even if you miss a set, pocket Sevens will usually have decent showdown value, meaning they can serve as great bluff catching hands.

3. Pocket Tens

Pocket Tens won’t flop an overpair as often as other, stronger pocket pairs, but it’s still a great starting hand that’s going to be profitable for you over the long run.

You should usually play pocket Tens aggressively preflop, unless there’s a crazy amount of action in front of you. In that case, you should take a more cautious approach and attempt to set mine, instead.

2. Ace-Six suited

Suited Aces are very versatile hands that can be played differently depending on the situation.

They have great playability post flop and have an insane nuts potential, with the ability to make nuts flushes. Their blocker power also makes them great light 3-betting and light 4-betting hands.

4. Five-Four suited

Small suited connectors like Five-Four suited can be tricky to play, but they’re still a great speculative hand with a lot of upside potential.

Suited connectors can connect with the board in a variety of different ways, meaning they have great nuts potential and implied odds.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan
Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

4 Underrated Poker Hands EVERY Good Player Knows to Play