Hand Groupings...

As I had mentioned yesterday, my "target audience" is the new to inexperienced poker player who is looking to improve and organize his or her game. That being said, I am going to help that person all week long organize their game through a series of "beginner" posts. Today, we'll go over hand groupings, tommorrow we'll do position, Tuesday and Wednesday betting, and Thursday pot odds.

For starters, for each starting hand, there are characteristics that a hand has. Can... or does this hand win often without improving? Does this hand typically win as top pair? I ask myself what kind of hand I have everytime I look at my cards. Identifying the characteristics your hand has is of paramount importance. David Sklansky broke the starting hands into groups. While I like his hand groupings, it can sometimes be too difficult, especially when you're either new to the game, or new to the "organized game."

Ed Miller, in the book "Small Stakes Hold 'em" (twoplustwo publishing) attempts to simplify this.

Top Pair Hands

Top pair hands consist of two big offsuit cards, such as Ace Jack, ace ten, king jack. These hands play better against fewer opponents, can often win with top pair and sometimes win without improving when heads up. Typically these hands will need to improve to win when facing three or more opponents. Keep in mind, it takes a better hand to "call a raise" with than it does to initiate a raise with these hands.

Speculative Hands

Small to medium coordinated cards, pocket fives, seven six suited are speculative hands. Thse hands MUST IMPROVE in order to win. By their nature they require a cheap flop and several opponents to hold up and be long term profitable. The speculative connectors are not hands that one plays out when only flopping one pair. Let me repeat that. If you're five way going into a flop, holding an eight seven and you flop king eight three, you're wise to fold if bet into. I don't care how many times you see the seven come on the turn or another eight, you're wise to fold - nuff said.

Powerhouse Hands

Large pocket pairs - AA, KK, and large suited cards such as AJs. These hands have several ways to win (flush, straight, set, two pair, etc), and typically play better against few opponents but also stand up well against several.

Its important to know what kind of hand you have, how the hand "works," and what you can or cannot profitablly (long term) do with each type of hand in each type of situation. Tommorrow we'll build upon the hand types with talk on position. Keep in mind, these posts are not meant to replace any book that we discuss, but instead its meant to suppliment these books. I highly suggest running to the store or ordering online "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Ed Miller, et al. from twoplustwo publishing.