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Judging the strength of your hand preflop

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When you assess your hand’s strength preflop, there’s a correlation between the betting action and the number of players in the hand. Average players never seem to understand this principal so they play pocket sixes preflop with four players entering the pot before their action. After all, they have a pocket pair.

Let’s examine the numbers. With pocket aces against all other pairs, the player holding the aces is an 81.3 to 18.7 percent favorite. You’re against only one player.

You hold aces against two players preflop: One player has pocket sixes while the other player has K-Q suited. With aces, you’re a 62 percent favorite, while the sixes are about 17 percent and the connectors are about 22 percent.

You hold the same aces and are against three players preflop: One player holds pocket threes, one player holds pocket sevens and one player holds K-Q suited. With aces, you’re about a 52 percent favorite, the pocket threes are about a 15 percent favorite, the pocket sevens are about 16 percent and the K-Q suited is about 17 percent.

You should immediately notice you’re a coin flip to win the hand. Have you ever heard the expression, “aces suck?” When you enter a pot with pocket aces and have slow-played them allowing several players to see the flop, you place yourself in a vulnerable position.

You should also understand the vulnerability of playing small to medium pocket pairs. Holding any pocket pair, you only have an 11 percent chance of hitting a set. When you have a pocket pair and there’s been a raise preflop, there’s always a correlation to the number of players in the hand.

I would like to see as many flops as possible with pocket pairs; however, I seldom will play small to medium pocket pairs when out of position. I also love suited connectors and will be less reluctant to play them preflop for one important reason. Suited connectors are easy to fold. If you play pocket threes and hit one on the flop, you’ll probably see the river. Good luck to you when you don’t assess your hand preflop.

— Antonio Pinzari has been playing professionally since the ’70s. He’s the creator of 23 Poker and Wild Tallahassee Poker, which you can learn more about at WildTallahasseePoker.com.