Date: 5/10/2015 11:34:00 AM
I know, you’re reading this headline and scratching your head. A flush beats a straight, you say to yourself. How is a straight better than a flush? Well, what if I also told you that pocket fives are better than pocket aces?
All joking aside, what I mean by this is that hands like straights and pocket fives can reap you more money in the long run because they can make strong hands that are well hidden. It’s not enough to make a strong hand in hold’em; you also need to get paid off on that hand to make it worthwhile.
Players are always very wary when three of a suit lands on the board in hold’em and the presence of the third card often slows down the betting. Potential straight cards, on the other hand, don’t always have the same effect. Consider a flop of 9-J-2, with you holding 10-Q. If an 8 comes on the river, you are likely to get paid off, whereas if you were drawing to a flush maybe you don’t reap as much. Why are players more wary of flushes? That is a hard one to explain. Perhaps it’s easier to keep up with the symbols on the cards than worrying about counting five cards in a row. After all, in school we learn how to match symbols together, but they don’t teach us that “jack” comes after “ten.”
The reason I say that pocket fives are better than pocket aces is the greater potential to win a player’s stack. You will usually only get enough betting action to win a player’s stack with pocket aces if your opponent has pocket kings. If you flop a set of aces against opponents, you likely have the deck locked up and are therefore unlikely to get much action unless one opponent has the case ace in his hand.
With small pocket pairs like 5-5, however, when you flop a set you stand to win a nice pot because your hand is hidden. Players are conditioned to look out for high cards on the flop. If you are up against a player who has raised pre-flop with Q-Q, he is going to be wary of a king or ace hitting the flop. If that flop comes J-6-5, and he bets, you can raise and he may push all in to “protect” his hand. There lies the value of the small pocket pair.
Hoyt Corkins told me his favorite pocket pair is 6-6, and there is a good reason for it. If the board comes with a 2-3-4-5 then anyone with an ace may pay him off, hoping he doesn’t really have a six in his hand to make the higher straight.
Remember that in any poker game it’s not how great a hand you can make, but how great a hand that you can get paid off that matters the most.
Reach Johnny Kampis at firstname.lastname@example.org.