Top 5 Trouble Hands for Beginners

The final table of the WSOP 2005 $1,500 Limit Hold'em tournament

"Poker's tough." I've heard that line - and said it myself - more times than I can count.

The truth of it is never more obvious than while watching beginners lose pots with the top five trouble hands. Some hands are just simply harder for rookies to play than others.

The following hands are trouble for beginners and pros alike. The big difference is that professionals are able to fold these hands much quicker, without investing much into the pot.

5) Ace-Jack. To everyone who is still in the learning-to-intermediate stages of poker, I have some solid advice for you: Ace-jack is not a premium hand.

In fact, it's not really even a good hand. I know it looks spiffy when you peel back your two off the felt (or see it in a million psychedelic colors), but you're going to have to trust me.

Unless you're heads-up you have to treat A-J the same as A-T rather than playing it as if it's A-K.

4) King-Ten. Above all other potential candidates, king-ten has been awarded the title of "sucker's hand." If you're holding this hand, there are significantly more boards that will give you the second nuts or a bad beat than boards that will win you the pot.

If you don't flop broadway, you're in a rough spot. Flopping top pair of kings will almost certainly pit you against a king with a higher kicker. Flopping a pair of tens is rarely the top pair, and if it's not, you have straights to look out for.

Flopping two pair again puts you at risk against a straight, and you're going to run into more two pair-versus-sets scenarios with this hand, because people are playing all the pocket tens and pocket kings they're dealt.

3) King-Jack. Like king-ten, but a little less dangerous. The reduced risk, comparatively speaking, gives this hand the appearance of being more powerful than it really is.

Again, if you flop two pair, you're going to have to watch out for sets, and you still have to worry about kicker problems on one pair.

Bryan Devonshire
Bryan Devonshire knows K-J is better left in the muck than overplayed.

This hand is better left in the muck than overplayed.

2) Pocket Jacks. The second-most-overplayed hand in poker. Pocket jacks is a top five hand, and is a powerhouse compared to almost any random hand you can be dealt.

But if you raise it pre-flop, the only hands that ever call you are far ahead, or a coin flip (excluding the odd lower pair).

Played properly, this can be a very profitable hand. Overplayed (as amateurs tend to do), it will cost you a large percentage of your roll. No matter how strong your hand is before the flop, after the flop (unless you hit your set) you only have one pair.

1) Ace-Queen. Recently I wrote a three-part article on ace-queen. Ace-queen is the biggest trouble hand for beginners and amateurs alike. I don't have enough fingers to count the amount of times I've given away my money on a big click with big chick.

I won't rehash my advice on how to play A-Q again here. Instead, I recommend you head over to the ace-queen series and give it a read. It just might save you some serious coin.

Tread with Care, and Win

These five hands obviously don't cover every sticky situation a beginner is liable to encounter at the felt. I'm not saying you shouldn't play these hands, but play them with due diligence.

For a beginner the one rule you should never forget is "If you think you're beat in a hand, you probably are."

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