Poker is an incredibly complex game. While many people see it as a pure game of luck, that is far from the truth. Poker requires lots of skill and strategy, and luck has much less impact than you think. Poker strategy comprises math, mind games, adaptation, and much more. Players have to change their game plan in every game by considering factors like their position, stack sizes, the cards, and their opponents. No two poker games are the same, resulting in an enormous strategic depth that greatly rewards those who take the time to learn the game.
While poker’s basic rules are easy to learn, beginners might get caught off guard by its strategic depth and have no idea where to start. You can learn basic poker concepts like pot odds and ranges, but you should never focus too much on one part of poker strategy. You need to have a sound understanding of all those concepts to succeed. This poker guide will cover an important scenario in poker: Having a strong yet vulnerable hand. Many beginners struggle with making the most out of their good hands and get disappointed when they get outdrawn. We will give tips to ensure this rarely happens to you and you get the full value of a strong pre-flop hand.
How can a hand be strong and vulnerable?
Poker has three main types of hands: Made hands, drawing hands, and air. Made hands are any hand that is decently strong (above one pair). Drawing hands have the potential to become strong hands, particularly five-card combos like straights and flushes, but they need one or two more cards to make their hand. Finally, air describes a hand with no good cards and no potential to improve in the future. Strong but vulnerable hands are either hands that make a pair on the flop or pre-flop pocket pairs. These hands are strong, meaning they have a decent chance to win the pot, but they are vulnerable to drawing hands since they have little to no potential to improve. Playing these hands can be tricky for newer players since they understand their strength but fail to see their vulnerability to draws.
Aggression in poker
One of the most common beginner mistakes is even worse with a strong hand: Playing too passively. Being aggressive is generally better than being passive in poker for several reasons. The first is that aggressive play gives you another way to win. Instead of only winning with a good hand at the showdown, you can make your opponents fold and win the pot. That is vital to poker because it is the only way to win without a good hand. Besides this, aggression also gives you more information than passive play. When your opponents decide to call, raise, or fold your bets, each decision tells you something about their hand. If you played passively, you would only get that information if someone else bets.
Why you should be aggressive with strong hands
With strong but vulnerable hands, aggression is essential. You now have a reason to play aggressively and aren’t risking much since you have a good hand. With a classic strong but vulnerable hand like pocket aces pre-flop, there is seldom a time you want to play passively. No matter your opponent’s draws, you will still win the pot more often than not. Being aggressive allows you to build the pot faster, which you need to get the most out of your strong hands. It also directly sabotages your opponents’ game plan. If you’re passive, they can check and see if they hit their draw without commitment. When faced with a large bet, they are now in a tough spot where they have to either willingly call with bad odds or fold and give you the pot. Being aggressive pre-flop also lowers the number of people in the pot, which is excellent since multiway pots (pots with more than two players) are volatile, and each player reduces the relative strength of your hand.
How to be aggressive: The continuation bet
The continuation bet is a timelessly effective aggressive technique in poker. It is when you bet on the flop after making the last aggressive action pre-flop, continuing your aggression from the previous round. It is potent because your opponents will likely fold to the repeated aggression. If they do not connect with the flop, which is expected, you can pick up the pot with little resistance. The only downside to continuation betting is its popularity. It is so well-known most players, even beginners, are aware of it and can exploit you when you do it too often. To stop this, you can simply make a continuation bet less often. You can also balance your range and continuation bet with air, drawing, and making hands to make yourself less predictable.
Where to practice playing these hands
We hope this article taught you about how to play poker with strong yet vulnerable hands. To get better at playing those kinds of hands, you should play on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker will help you tremendously when practicing for several reasons. It is more convenient, meaning you do not need to go out of your way to find a casino and practice poker. It is also faster-paced, especially with multi-tabling, allowing you to play more poker hands in less time, increasing the amount of practice you get with strong ones. Finally, you can use poker tracking software to analyze your gameplay and improve.