5th July, 2006
I recently had quite a long run of poor results at the limit holdem tables, and it took me a long time to figure out what the problem was. Because there are extended up and down streaks in poker, it is often easy to just assume that you are in a down swing instead of realizing that you have a leak in your game. Once I determined that there was a problem, it didn't take me long to narrow it down to the misplay of face card hands.
The tendency of many players is to overplay any hand with two face cards, especially after seeing 26 straight hands like 72, 83, 43 and J2. This is the trap I had fallen into. I found myself playing KJs from early position and QJ from middle position, or even occasionally calling a raise with KQ. Though in limit Texas holdem, these plays may not appear bad on the surface, they are incorrect. Let's take a look at a few hands, and the problems with them.
The first hand we will look at is KJs from early position. While being suited is a plus, it doesn't come into play very often, so it is best to ignore this from early position. Your thought process needs to be as follows. If you knew that you would have to call two bets instead of one and play the hand out of position, would you limp into the pot? This is why you can't play KJs from early position. In the great majority of games, the pot will be raised, and if you already have a single bet in, you will call the second bet. In a limit game this in itself is not always deadly, but when compounded with being forced to play the hand out of position, it is completely unplayable.
QJ from middle position is also a long-term drain on your profitability, but for slightly different reasons. The question that needs answered is; what will you do if you hit top pair on the flop and, is your hand going to be good? More often than not, if you get any action on the flop, one of your opponents has top pair with an Ace kicker, or better. This is not a good position to be in, because you will be tempted to check and call through the river, losing at least two more big bets to a better hand.
The moral to this story is not to overvalue hands just because they contain face cards. When you find yourself playing hands like those above, in the wrong positions, make a conscious effort to tighten up your game a bit. Until next week, good luck at the tables.
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