Online Poker Tips: Overcoming a “Bad” Poker Hand

Chances are you’ve heard about how important it is to “play the player” when you’re at the poker table, as opposed to the cards you’ve been dealt. Phil Hellmuth is one of the most famous players to recommend this approach, but he’s definitely not the only one. By paying close attention to your opponents and figuring out their patterns, you can take advantage of them, even when the hole cards you’ve been dealt are less than premium.

In our latest Top Five online poker tips, we’re going to look at the best ways to handle those raw deals, especially when it seems like forever since you’ve seen anything besides napkins when you peek at your hole cards. 

Dealt a Bad Poker Hand? Here Are Our Top Five Tips

1. Accept Your Fate

No matter how good a poker player you might be, you’re going to get dealt lousy cards a lot. Knowing which cards are bad is half the battle. By having a sound pre-flop strategy, you’ll know which starting hands are worth playing from which positions, and which ones need to go in the muck. You’ll also be mentally prepared to receive those inevitable bad deals.

For a simple example, let’s say you’re playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em at a 6-max table. If you’re under the gun, you might be opening just 15% of hands, with King-Jack offsuit being a borderline hand. Everything else is garbage from that position, so of course you’ll be folding a lot. Even if you’re on the button in an unraised pot, you’ll only open maybe half the time, with hands like Eight-Seven offsuit on the cusp.

In short, most of the hands you’ll be dealt in poker won’t be worth investing in. You’re going to see a lot of trash like Ten-Three offsuit, and there will be times when that’s all you’re getting. Just remember, each deal is random, and you have the same chance of getting dealt pocket Aces next hand as you always do: 220-to-1. Be patient.

2. Bluff

Just because you know you have a bad hand, that doesn’t mean your opponents do. Bluffing is a very important part of winning poker; this is a game of incomplete information, and deception is key. Tournament players in particular will find themselves in situations where any two (or four) cards can be played pre-flop. Maybe you’re in the small blind, and either you or your opponent in the big blind is short-stacked. A bluff-shove here will often make sense when it folds around to you, even with the dreaded Seven-Deuce offsuit.

This is where “playing the player” becomes even more important. If you have a read on your opponent and you know they’re likely to fold too much, you can bluff more often. If they’re a calling station, you need to bluff less. Whatever the case, make sure you bluff with confidence when you do decide to mix it up. Deception in poker means looking strong when you are weak, and weak when you are strong.

3. Know When to Walk Away

In poker, limiting your losses is at least twice as important as improving your gains. If you open-raise with bad cards and get called, and if the flop doesn’t help you out, you might still want to fire out a continuation bet and hope your opponent folds – or maybe you should just get out of Dodge.

The key thing to remember with “flop” games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha is that every street is unique. Whatever decisions you make pre-flop, as soon as that betting round is over and the flop is dealt, you’re in a completely new scenario with new decisions to make. As they say, never get married to a hand; be prepared to abort mission on any street, and if you’re starting to go on tilt because you haven’t been dealt anything good in a while, step away from the table. There will always be a game for you to play later on.

4. Avoid Dramatic Strategy Changes

Because each deal is random, with exactly the same chance of getting dealt any particular hole cards, it makes little sense to start splashing around just because you “haven’t played a hand” in recent memory. Folding is part of playing a hand. When you fold, you’re using your poker knowledge and wisdom to make an executive decision. It could be the right decision once, twice, or 1,000 times in a row. Enjoy folding.

Having said that, if you do find yourself on a dry run of cards, that might have some effect on your table image. Your opponents may think you’re a tighter player than you are; you can use this to your advantage by sneaking in a timely bluff and playing it like it’s a monster hand. Don’t just do this with any two cards though – expand your opening range from the margins, with stuff like King-Ten offsuit from under the gun in a 6-max Hold’em game, and Seven-Six offsuit from the button. This will help keep your opponents from getting wise to you. Anything more dramatic, and you’ll just end up putting them on high alert.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, get used to bad cards by putting in the practice. The more you play poker, the more familiar you’ll become with the inherent patterns in the game, as well as the chaos. In turn, you’ll become less emotional and less frustrated when you’re getting dealt nothing but bananas, and you’ll naturally make fewer mistakes at the table.

As part of your poker practice, you should definitely check out all of the other poker strategy articles we have for you at Bovada. There’s something for players of every level, from absolute beginners to seasoned veterans, so browse our archive, follow our tips and strategies, and we’ll see you on the felt.