4 Underrated Hands All Decent Poker Players Know to Play

4 Underrated Hands All Decent Poker Players Know to Play

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

In no-limit hold’em, most of the money you’ll win will come from your strong premium hands like pocket Aces, pocket Kings, and so on.

But these days, you can’t just wait around for the nuts all day to be a profitable long term winner in this game.

You also need to find ways to win pots in less than ideal circumstances.

With that in mind, this article will show you 4 underrated, but potentially very profitable hands you should be playing more often.

These hands can be tricky to play, but they can drastically improve your bottom line if you play them the right way.

Let’s get right into it.

Underrated Poker Hand #1: Six-Five Suited (6♥️5♥️)

Six Five suited and other suited connectors are great speculative hands with great post flop playablility.

65s has great nuts potential, with the ability to make both straights and flushes.

However, one thing to keep in mind when playing smaller suited connectors is the fact that you’re not drawing to the nuts, i.e. the strongest possible combination on a certain board.

For example, if you flop a flush draw with 65s, your hand can be dominated by a number of stronger flushes.

The same goes for straight draws. For example, let's say you are dealt 65 and the flop is: 


If you hit a Nine on future streets, your opponent could still beat you with JT.

This means you need to take the reverse implied odds into account when playing small suited connectors.

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

Reverse implied odds refer to the amount of money you stand to lose if you complete your draw, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand.

With that in mind, let’s examine how 65s connects with the flop.

65s obviously won’t flop top pair very often, and even if it does, you still have a bunch of overcards to dodge on future streets.

So the post flop playability of 65s depends mostly on its ability to make monster combinations like straights and flushes.

65s will flop a flush draw 11% of the time, and it will flop an open-ended straight draw and an inside straight draw 9.6% and 16.6% of the time, respectively.

Also, 65s will smash the flop completely 5.6% of the time.

To smash the flop means to connect with it in a very strong way, making a two pair hand or stronger.

This means that 65s has great “survivability” even against very strong hands in terms of equity.

So if you want to crack your opponent’s Aces, you can try to do it with a speculative hand like 65s.

There are a few reasons why 65s has great playability even against premium poker hands.

The first reason is its great nuts potential, as discussed previously.

65s has plenty of equity even against very strong ranges.

For example, let’s say you open-raise with 65 and get 3-bet by a tight player.

You assume their 3-betting range includes pocket Jacks or better, and Ace-Queen or better.

Abbreviated, the range would look like this: JJ+, AQs+, AQo+.

This is a very tight 3-betting range, but we’ll use it for the sake of example.

Against this range, 65s has 33% equity, so your hand is far from hopeless.

This brings us to the second reason why 65s has such great playability even against strong ranges: you have a lot of “alive” outs.

An out is a card you need to improve your hand on future streets.

In other words, your opponent’s 3-betting range doesn’t block the cards you need to make a straight.

Now, contrast this with a hand like Jack-Ten suited.

If you call a 3-bet with Jack-Ten suited, the outs you need to make a straight could be blocked by your opponent’s 3-betting range (i.e. Aces, Kings and Queens).

This is why a hand like Jack-Ten suited actually has less equity against the hypothetical 3-betting range outlined above, even though it’s a stronger hand than 65s in absolute terms.

Underrated Poker Example Hand #1

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt 65 on the BU (button). You open-raise to 2.5 BB. A loose and aggressive (LAG) player 3-bets to 10 BB from the SB (small blind). BB (big blind) calls.

You: ???

You should call.

While calling 3-bets preflop is not something you should do too often, it can be a viable play in the right circumstances.

In this spot, you have a couple of factors that make calling +EV.

First of all, you’re playing in position, which makes it easier for you to realize your equity. 

You can also control the pot size if need be, or inflate the pot with a raise if you happen to smash the flop.

You’re also getting good pot odds on a call.

The price of a call is 7.5 BB, and the pot size is 22.5 BB, so you’re getting 3:1 odds on a call.

This means you only need 25% equity to break even on a call.

Even against a particularly tight 3-betting range from your opponent, your hand likely has the required equity to call.

But if your opponent’s 3-betting range is even wider (which is likely the case based on the player type), your hand equity increases even further.

This is one of my 7 basic tips every beginner should know.

As I discussed in a recent video.

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Underrated Poker Hand #2: Pocket Nines (9♥️9♦️)

Pocket Nines don’t get as much love as stronger, premium pocket pairs.

Pocket Nines can be tricky to play because they are often not strong enough to be played as a premium pocket pair, but are too strong to be played like other medium pocket pairs like pocket Eights, pocket Sevens and so on.

The problem with pocket Nines is that they won’t flop an overpair nearly as often as stronger premium pocket pairs.

On overpair is a pocket pair that’s stronger than the strongest card on the board. For example, on a flop like Q85, pocket Aces and pocket Kings are an overpair. 

Pocket Nines will flop an overpair only 16.6% of the time.

For comparison, pocket Tens will flop an overpair 25.1% of the time.

On the flop, pocket Nines will usually make a second pair or the third pair (43% and 29% of the time, respectively).

This is what makes pocket Nines so tricky to play: they will often make a mediocre hand on the flop, unless you happen to get lucky and flop a set, which is far from likely.

Even if you manage to flop an overpair, your hand strength will be quite vulnerable, as you still have to dodge a lot of overcards on future streets.

Also, you will often have only two outs left to improve your hand (the two remaining Nines in the deck).

With all this in mind, pocket Nines are still a decent hand that can be wildly profitable if you play it the right way.

The best way to play pocket Nines is going to depend on the situation.

Sometimes, it’s best to play pocket Nines aggressively preflop and treat it similarly to other premium pocket pairs.

At other times, it’s better to play them more defensively and use it as a set mining hand.

To set mine means to call a preflop raise with the intention of hitting a set post flop and potentially winning a big pot.

If you do decide to set mine, you should only do so if you’re confident you will be able to extract a lot of value if you actually hit your set.

This is crucial because you will miss your set a vast majority of the time.

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

This means you need to make sure you can get your money’s worth to make up for all the times you inevitably miss the flop.

A good rule of thumb you can use is to figure out if you can earn at least 10 times the amount you need to call preflop.

For example, if the open-raise size you need to call is $10, you need to win at least $100 post flop to make your set mining profitable.

This is just a rough guideline, of course, but it can serve you well in most in-game situations.

Alternatively, you can play your pocket Nines more aggressively preflop and make a 3-bet.

This way, you can either win the pot outright preflop or get to the flop as the preflop aggressor, which is going to make your post flop play a lot easier.

3-betting with your pocket Nines is a good idea when you’re attacking wide and weak open-raising ranges.

For example, when a player open-raises from the late position (the cutoff or the button), consider 3-betting pocket Nines instead of flat calling.

This way, you can either get called by some weaker hands (like pocket Eights, pocket Sevens etc.) or you can fold out a lot of hands that have a lot of equity against you (like Ace-Ten, Queen-Jack and so on).

Another benefit of 3-betting pocket Nines preflop is that you’re creating a smaller stack-to-pot ratio (or SPR for short).

As the name suggests, SPR is the ratio between the effective stack size and the pot size.

SPR tells you how pot committed you are. In other words, it tells you how inclined you should be to ship the rest of your stack in the middle.

The smaller the SPR, the more pot committed you are and vice versa.

If the SPR is very small, (3 or less) you are automatically pot committed with a top pair hand or better).

3-betting preflop will create a much smaller SPR than flat calling, which will make your post flop play a lot easier.

On favourable flops, you can comfortably ship the rest of your stack in the middle if you’re pot committed.

If not, you can slow down and try to realize your equity by getting to a cheap showdown.

This brings us to another advantage of pocket Nines: showdown value.

Hands with showdown value are the ones that aren’t strong enough to value bet, but can often win the pot unimproved at showdown.

Pocket Nines will often have plenty of showdown value, because they will be ahead of all the unpaired hands in your opponent’s range.

So even if you don’t hit a particularly favourable flop, you’ll still be able to win the pot at showdown from time to time.

This means you can use pocket Nines as bluff catchers.

As the name suggests, to bluff catch means to call your opponent down when you suspect they might be bluffing.

The best hands to bluff catch with are hands with plenty of showdown value.

In other words, you want to bluff catch with hands that aren’t strong enough to value bet with, but are too strong to turn them into a bluff yourself.

And pocket Nines will usually fall neatly in this hand category.

In most spots, it doesn’t really make sense to turn your hand into a bluff, because your hand will usually have plenty of showdown value.

As a general rule, it’s better to bluff with hands that have little or no showdown value, where the only way for you to win the pot is by making your opponent fold.

Underrated Poker Example Hand #2

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB 

You are dealt 99 on the BU (button). CO (cutoff) open-raises to 2.5 BB.

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 8 BB.

In this spot, calling is certainly not a terrible play, but 3-betting has a lot of advantages.

If you flat call, you leave yourself vulnerable to getting squeezed by the players in the blinds, which can put you in an awkward position.

By 3-betting instead, you’ll put a lot of pressure on the open-raiser, and if they call your 3-bet, you’ll get to the flop as the preflop aggressor, which is going to make it easier to win the pot post flop.

Since you’re playing on the button, you can expand your 3-betting range considerably, since you will ALWAYS have positional advantage post flop.

This is especially the case if you’re attacking the cutoff’s open-raising range, which is likely to be quite wide to begin with.

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Underrated Poker Hand #3: Ace-Three Suited (A♠️3♠️)

Ace-Three suited and other small suited Aces are great speculative hands with insane nuts potential.

Suited Aces have the ability to make the nuts flush, i.e. the strongest possible flush.

Small suited Aces can also potentially make a straight, which further increases their nuts potential.

When you’re drawing to the nuts flush, you don’t have to worry about the reverse implied odds.

The only time you have to worry about the reverse implied odds when drawing to the nuts flush is if the board pairs, thus allowing your opponent the possibility to make a full house.

But these situations are extremely rare.

In no-limit hold’em, it’s very rare for one player to make a monster hand, let alone two.

So if you do lose with a nut flush, you can just ascribe it to negative variance and move on.

In these cooler type situations, it’s important to recognize that there are spots where you’re just supposed to go broke, regardless of the outcome.

Anyway, back to the topic of playing Ace-Three suited.

In the vast majority of the cases, you actually won’t flop a flush draw with A3s.

Ace-Three suited will only flop a flush draw about 11% of the time.

It will also flop a straight draw slightly more often (11.2% of the time).

However, one advantage of playing Ace-Three suited is that it gives you more than one way to win the hand.

It has the potential of making strong combinations, but it also serves as a great bluffing hand as well.

When you play Ace-Three suited preflop, you can use it as a 3-bet bluffing hand.

To 3-bet bluff preflop means to re-raise against another player’s open-raise with the intention of getting the open-raiser to fold and take down the pot preflop.

3-bet bluffing is a great way to improve your “red line”, aka your non-showdown winnings, and make yourself more difficult to play against.

Check out my other article on how to improve your red line for much deeper dive on this.

What makes Ace-Three suited a great 3-bet bluffing hand is its blocker power.

A blocker is a card that removes a number of potential combinations from your opponent’s range.

For example, if you hold an Ace in your hand, it’s less likely for your opponent to have strong combinations like pocket Aces, Ace-King, Ace-Queen and so on.

An Ace in your hand reduces the number of AA combos from 6 to only 3, and a number of AK combos from 16 to 12.

This makes it more likely that your opponent will fold to your 3-bet bluffs.

Even if your bluff gets called, your hand has plenty of playability post flop, so you can potentially win an even bigger pot post flop if you hit one of your strong combinations.

Underrated Poker Example Hand #3

You are dealt A3 in the SB (small blind). Villain open-raises to 2.5 BB from the CO (cutoff). BU (button) calls.

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 11 BB.

This is a great spot for a squeeze play. 

A squeeze is a 3-bet preflop where there has been at least one caller.

If there were no preflop callers involved in the pot, your 3-bet would not be considered a squeeze.

In this spot, you are attacking very wide ranges from both the open-raiser and the caller.

And most hands in these ranges aren’t going to be able to stand the pressure of a 3-bet, and will be forced to fold.

You can certainly call in this spot as well, but the downside to this approach is that you leave yourself vulnerable to getting squeezed yourself by the player in the big blind.

Even if the big blind doesn’t squeeze, they are still going to be heavily incentivized to call because they’re getting great pot odds on a call.

This means you’ll be playing in a multiway pot, out of position, with an easily dominated hand.

So a light 3-bet (i.e. a 3-bet bluff) is likely to be a better alternative, and will often result in you winning the pot outright preflop.

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

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Underrated Poker Hand #4: Queen-Jack Suited (Q♦️J♦️)

The last hand on the list is the broadway hand that doesn’t get as much love as some stronger broadways, but can still be profitable if you play it the right way.

Queen-Jack suited is another versatile hand that can connect with the board in a variety of different ways.

Aside from the potential to make strong straights and flushes, it also has the potential to make good pairs with decent kicker.

You will still need to consider the reverse implied odds if you make a flush, for example, but less so than you would with smaller suited connectors.

If you make a flush with QJs, you can still lose to a suited Ace or a suited King, but these hands will usually make only a small portion of your opponent’s overall range.

This is especially the case in lower stakes games, where a lot of recreational poker players are likely to play just about any suited hand.

And against these wider ranges, Queen-Jack suited is going to be comfortably ahead most of the time, and you’ll be able to get action by a lot of weaker hands.

When playing poker, you should always consider your opponent’s whole range when making decisions, not just the hands that beat you.

This will prevent the “fearing the monsters under the bed” syndrome that’s keeping a lot of aspiring poker players from achieving great results in this game.

With that in mind, you should still be careful when playing QJs, because your hand can potentially be dominated by stronger broadway hands like AQ, KQ, AJ, and AQ.

This is especially the case in 3-bet pots. If your opponent 3-bets you, a large portion of their range will consist of hands that easily dominate you, like stronger broadways and premium pocket pairs.

Another problem with calling 3-bets with QJs is that the outs you need to improve to a straight could be blocked by your opponent (namely Aces and Kings).

With that in mind, there’s nothing wrong with 3-betting QJs yourself!

QJs is a decent light 3-betting hand for a few reasons.

First of all, it has decent equity when called. So if you don’t get your opponents to fold right away, you can still win the pot a bunch of different ways post flop.

QJs will flop a flush draw 11% of the time, and it will flop an open-ended straight draw and an inside straight draw 6.3% and 14.6% of the time, respectively.

It will also flop a top pair 19.3% of the time.

Another factor that makes QJs a good light 3-betting hand is its blocker power.

QJs blocks a lot of hands that your opponent will continue with, like pocket Queens, pocket Jacks, as well as other Qx or Jx hands.

For example, a Queen blocker in your hand reduces the number of pocket Queens in your opponent’s range from 6 combos to only 3 combos. The same goes for pocket Jacks.

Underrated Poker Example Hand #4

You are dealt QJ on the BU (button). Villain open-raises to 2.5 BB from the CO (cutoff).

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 8 BB.

This is a good spot to turn up your preflop aggression with a 3-bet.

Flat calling is also an option, but if you call here, you leave yourself vulnerable to getting squeezed from the players in the blinds.

By 3-betting instead, you’ll be able to pick up an easy pot preflop quite often.

Even if you get called, you’ll be playing the hand in position with a hand that has great playability post flop.

This means that you can either make a decent combination on the flop and continue betting for value, or you can push your opponent out of the pot with a well-timed bluff if they show weakness.

To learn more about optimal light 3-betting strategy, see my latest book, The Microstakes Playbook.

4 Underrated Hands All Decent Poker Players Know to Play - Summary

All the hands on this list may be tricky to play at times, but knowing how to play them optimally is a crucial part of any advanced poker strategy.

To sum up, here are 4 starting hold’em hands that don’t get much love, but can still be wildly profitable if you play them the right way.

1. Six-Five suited

65s is a decent speculative hand with great post flop playability.

It also has a ton of equity even against very strong ranges, due to its great nuts potential.

2. Pocket Nines

Pocket Nines won’t flop an overpair as often as premium pocket pairs, but it should still be a profitable hand over the long run.

Depending on the situation, you can play your pocket Nines very aggressively preflop, and potentially even stack off with them in some circumstances. 

Other times, they will play better as a set mine, like in spots with very deep effective stack sizes.

3. Ace-Three suited

Small suited Aces make up for great 3-bet bluffing hands due to their great nuts potential, as well as their blocker power.

The blocker Ace makes it more likely your opponents will fold to your 3-bets, while the nuts potential gives you a fighting chance post flop in case your 3-bet bluff gets called.

4. Queen-Jack suited

QJs can be tricky to play, since your hand can be dominated by a lot of stronger broadway hands.

Still, it’s a very versatile hand that can connect with the flop in a lot of different ways, with the ability to make strong straights, flushes, as well as strong pairs with decent kicker.

Its blocker power also makes it a decent 3-bet bluffing hand preflop.


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 Hands All Decent Poker Players Know to Play