Poker Tips: Dealing With A “Bad” Hand
Nobody ever became a poker champ through sheer good luck. Every pro player, from Doyle Brunson to Daniel Negreanu, has faced seemingly impossible “bad” hands as often as you have. But they know it all comes down to how you deal with it.
They reached the top because they knew their game, they knew how to think in four dimensions, and they could reverse their fortunes when things looked otherwise dismal: because, for them, poker is a game, not just of luck and skill, but of power.
Bodog Casino has been in the game for long enough to know it, too.
And we still want you to bring your A game to the Bodog table. We want to see you grow more confident and more successful over time, until you pluck up the courage to think your way to a win.
In other words, if you want to build an empire here, we’ll supply the tools and cheer you on.
Don’t Stress It
When that bad hand – or that string of bad hands eventually rolls around – you’ve got two choices.
- Go full-tilt and let your frustration run the game into the ground, or
- Accept your hand and use your smarts to dig your way out.
Can you guess the recommended course of action? Of course. Because dwelling on the bad hand is counterproductive and will impede your judgement.
First, there may be some options on the table. For instance, if you’ve been running bad all night in Texas Hold ‘Em with 2-7 and 7-8 offsuits, some of those bad hands might be worth taking an open-raise from the small blind.
The best thing to do is to pause the moment, travel back through time a day or two, and set a clear pre-flop strategy that dictates which hands to open from which position. The second best is to make a quickfire judgement call for when the 2-7 comes into play, which was bound to happen eventually. Hopefully the right call clears the way to move ahead without letting your frustrations get the better of you. That’s the quickest way to sabotage your game.
When you’ve got both hands firmly around the fundamentals, it’s time to bring in the big guns. Experienced players, if you asked them for a single piece of advice, might share one of their golden rules of poker: play the player, not the cards. When you find yourself holding an unwinnable hand, that’s your cue to read the table and leverage the other players. Since you can’t rely on your cards to get you there, it’s the only tool left in your toolbox. Your task is to convince the table that you’re holding a chainsaw rather than a chisel.
Notice the opponent at the table who shows a pattern of folding under pressure. You can clip that intel onto your utility belt so that, when you bluff on a bad hand, you can be confident that they’ll fold, lowering the inherent risk. In some poker tournaments you’ll notice the stack sizes dwindling as the levels go up. In these cases, opportunities will arise where the best course of action is to go all in with any hand you’re dealt.
Imagine you’re seated in the small blind and you’ve been dealt a seven-deuce offsuit, which you might consider the worst hand to have the misfortune of being dealt. If both you and the player in the big blind have just a few chips left, this would be a sensible time to play the hand and shove it all the way to the bank.
Play Like You Normally Would
When you’re getting bad hands in poker, you might find yourself reacting – or not reacting – to the state of play as you normally would. You might fail to raise or 3-bet when you typically would, or open with a hand that a clearer head would have folded on. These are the sorts of counterproductive adjustments that players find themselves making, mostly subconsciously, in response to consecutive bad hands.
Pressure is disempowering, and you’ll remember that this is a game where power plays pay. Instead, focus on maintaining your standard tactics. Play for the same – or less – approximate duration you usually would, and resist the temptation to turn a small loss into a big win. A good hand will come eventually, but it might not come in that session. Rather than plunge into a grab-and-run mindset, remind yourself that there’s another opportunity to look forward to, when you’ll have a clearer head to make better judgement calls.
Know When to Call it Quits
If you’ve had one particularly bad hand, or especially if you’ve been running bad since play began and you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, as well as your money, then that’s the time to take a step back and reassess. Players who let their frustrations sit in the driving seat are relegating their better poker angels to the back seat without seatbelts.
If you’re not quite as cool as a cucumber when the going gets tough, then you have to be tough with yourself: identify before you sit down to play that you’re vulnerable to side-lining your smarts after a series of bad hands. Remind yourself that your smarts are your greatest asset at the felt, and without them fully intact, you’ll make the kinds of choices that lead to regret.
Take a good, long breather, and come back when you’re behind the wheel; your better angels are in the passenger seat; and any lingering frustrations are gagged and hog-tied in the trunk.
The same would apply if you have a decent hand – not great, but not horrible, either, like an eight-three suited from the small blind in Hold ‘Em. It might not get you far, but you can still open it up. Then, if the second flop doesn’t help you out and you’re getting called on it, you might as well fold.
Avoid Getting Called Out
One of the best poker tips for dealing with a bad hand is setting yourself up with credibility during the rest of the game.
Take bluffing for instance. You already know it’s a good idea to bluff with players who fold under pressure. That said, it is not wise to expand your bluffing range so broadly from the start. In other words, don’t simply bluff on a garbage hand out of nowhere just to stay in the game, as that will send a big red flag to the rest of the table.
Instead, bluff with hands that are still within the margin of winning. Save the ultimate bluff for when the stakes are sky-high, which should make it as rare as unicorns.
If you’re under the gun in a full-ring No-Limits Hold’em game, your usual strategy might be to simply open on an ace-queen offsuit or better. If you end up with something just a little short of this, like an ace-jack offsuit for example, then it might be a good time to bluff, provided you’ve brought your bluffing face to the table. Similarly, you can bluff your way through with an ace-ten, then a king-queen, etc.
Don’t Stop Practising
Above all, don’t forget to practice! Each individual game provides an opportunity to improve your chops, and master the overall process of balancing out your variance. Sometimes you’ll have a good run, sometimes you’ll run bad. C’est la vie. The more you practice for each situation, the more likely you are to make the right decision under pressure.
Bodog Casino has plenty of poker tournaments for players of all levels to hone in your skills with poker betting. We also have a vast array of helpful articles to get you up to speed no matter where you’re starting out. Then don’t hesitate to join the table, and don’t let any bad hands stand in your way!