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ArticlesPreflop StrategyBeginner Strategy: Relative Hand Strength
Beginner Strategy: Relative Hand Strength
Written by: Hoodlincs · Date Added: 6 Nov, 2011 · Number of views: 4527
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We all know the different types of poker hands and which hands are stronger than others in terms of absolute strength (e.g. a flush beats 3 of a kind etc), but what is a good hand? Is a pair a good hand? Is a straight a good hand? In practice the answer is it depends. It depends on the board texture and our opponents actions.


If we are heads up with vs a very very loose player who likes to get all in with any draw or any pair (aggressive fish), then on if we bet and get raised, our 1pair of aces has very good equity against his range of hands.

However, if we are 5 way to the flop and have on the and our bet is raised by a very very tight and passive player (nit) who only raises the nuts, then we will have to throw our hand away.


In one case, our aces are relatively very strong given what we know about our opponent. However, in the second case, our bottom set is relatively very weak. Ignoring relative hand strength will end up costing you a lot of money, as it will mean you miss opportunities to value bet weak top or middle pair hands vs very loose calling stations and win some extra money. You can more accurately gauge your relative hand strength by recognising the importance of position and by taking notes on your opponents.

Practical application 1:

We raise the button with and the big blind calls. He is a fairly tight aggressive player. The flop is and he check-calls. We know that he would check-raise a set because of how drawy the board is – he wouldn't want to give us a free card. We know he would re-raise JJ-AA preflop too. So we can logically deduce that we always have the best hand when he check-calls. The most likely hands he would check-call with are flush draws and 1 pair hands that arent JJ or higher. So 99/88/78/67/A7s etc. The turn is the He checks, we bet and he check-raises. We know that he wouldn't check-raise with 1pair hand, he would either check-call or check-fold. Therefore the only hand that makes sense is a flopped flush draw which has now made a flush. We can safely fold.

Our turn bet was definitely correct against his range because we are ahead of it, and he can call with many worse hands such as 8x8c or 9c9x, as well as 67/56.

Practical Application 2:

We raise the button with Q:club and a very loose player calls from the big blind, who loves to bluff-catch with any pair. The flop comes , he checks we bet and he calls. The turn is a he checks, we bet and he calls. The river is a he checks. We should definitely bet here. There is a small chance he has KJ or AJ, but the vast vast majority of his range is made up of hands like JT/J9/78/66/99 etc. Additionally we know he likes to bluff catch and every single draw missed. He will know that we have 89/T9/A6o or any flush draw – we have so many hands which missed and we need to give him the chance to call down with his bluff catchers.

Final thoughts:

Getting away from hands when you're beat, and value betting thinly are the two most practical ways to increase your winrate significantly at the micro stakes. You will frequently find very passive players who only raise you when they have the nuts, or very close to it, and you will also find many players who like to call down and see your hand whenever any draws miss. The way you beat these players is by value betting until you are told that you are beat, and then letting your hand go. It's as simple as that.
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