How to Pick the Right Poker Hands vs. the Right Players

In No-Limit Hold'em there's no such thing as a static hand chart.

There is, of course, a basic Starting Hands Cheat Sheet for beginners, which can help you decide which hands to play in which positions.

But the nature of the game allows for lots of styles of play to be profitable. And there are some hands that do better against certain types of opponents.

Knowing which hands are profitable vs. which opponents makes all the difference between being a good player and being a great player.

Obviously, no matter who your opponent is, the top portion of your range remains the same. You're always going to raise AA-TT, AK-AJs, etc.

These hands are just so strong raising them will always be profitable in a six-max game. It's the bottom portion of your range that should change depending on your opponent.

How to Make Profit from Bad Poker Players

The first thing you should ask yourself is "Where is my profit going to come from?" Against a fish, your profit comes from when they call down with inferior hands - which they do often.

That's what makes them fish. They play without regard for position, they call too often pre-flop and they take their hands too far post-flop.

Your profit will come from making top pair or better and value-betting relentlessly. So against a fish you adjust by adding more hands with top-pair value - meaning hands that make top pair and that will have a better kicker than your fish.

Hands like KT, KJ, QT, AT-A6 etc. all become raises when fish are likely to call because the fish will still play hands that you dominate.

Guy Laliberte

Fish make mistakes regulars won't. They'll call a raise with A2 and be happy to call three streets on an ace-high board.

In other words, when your opponent plays a wider range of dominated hands then you, you should widen your range of dominating hands.

How to Make a Profit Against Good Poker Players

Your profit from a regular isn't going to come from him calling you down with a dominated hand. He or she just isn't going to do it that often.

A regular isn't going to call all three streets with that same A2 on an ace-high board.

You may get one street of value from your weak ace, but if there's action on a second street you're probably beat.Get $88 FREE No Deposit!

Your profit against a regular comes from making him fold the best hand. Against a regular your top-pair hands go down in value and your bluff implied-odds hands go up in value.

Suited connectors are the best hands to play versus regulars. When they hit they make big hands - hands that you're willing to go to war with stacks with. But the best part about suited connectors is they often flop or turn a draw and are great for firing multiple barrels.

A good example:

$1/$2 effective stacks $200. You have 67 in the cut-off and raise to $7. A regular in the big blind calls.

The flop comes 832. He checks and you bet $12.

(Now a regular is going to peel almost any pocket pair here because he knows you're going to be c-betting a lot.)

He calls and the turn comes 10. He checks and you fire $25.

Now can he really call profitably? He has no idea if you have an overpair, an eight, a ten, or what. He just knows the board is getting worse for him.

You've also improved. You now have a gutshot straight-flush draw and even if you're called you can hit any one of your 12 outs and win the hand.

That's what makes suited connectors such great multi-barrel hands. They improve on the turn a high percentage of the time.

If you have one card of your suit on the flop, you're going to pick up a flush draw on the turn 1 in 4.7 times. And when you have as much equity as nine outs, it's always a great time to fire a second barrel.

Add in the fact you're going to be barreling overcards, your opponent is going to be forced into making tough decisions all the time.

Dan Harrington
Regs: tough to get value from but easier to bluff.

Bluffing With Equity in Poker

It's not bluffing in the true sense of the word, where you bluff with nothing. It's better. It's bluffing with equity.

When you turn equity, it's always a great time to fire a second barrel because your opponents are going to fold a lot. When they don't, you can still either hit your hand and win a stack or miss, fire again and win by making them fold.

Bluffing with equity is always better than bluffing with no equity because it gives you an escape hatch. You're banking on them folding, but when they call you're not dead in the water as you can still hit.

Where fish are happy to stack off with dominated hands, regulars won't. Those times you do get a regular to call three streets with a dominated hand, it's probably a cooler.

But you can't count on making money from regulars with coolers. In the end, they'll cooler you just as much as you cooler them.

The difference in your win rate is going to come from you making him fold with the best hand more often than he does you. And that's done by firing multiple barrels.

Suited connectors are great for that.

Poker is a Numbers Game

You won't be able to tailor your play perfectly all of the time but depending on the table you should be able to tweak your play depending on where the button is.

For example if you're in the cut-off, there's a tight player on the button and two fish in the blinds, you should be opening more top-pair hands. However if you're in the cut-off and there are two regulars in the blinds, you should obviously be opening more suited connectors and less weak top-pair hands.

It's a game of adjust and re-adjust. Just look around the table and figure out which style you should be using against which opponent and play accordingly. It's an easy adjustment to make and it will dramatically improve your results.

More strategy articles:

2013-11-20 20:44:36

i think you should not be cointung probability as if you know his hand. you should count the number of hands that could defeat yours.1) the only way to enhance you hand is if there is a K (2K) in the hidden cards. probability =(13×2+1)/(45&2) (assuming you do not know what the folded cards are)– so you can almost assume that is not going to happen2) the hands that are stronger than yours are22, 99, TT, AA, 29, 2T, 9T, which basically wins over you regardless of what cars will be turned over.3) then the cases where there are significant chances of enhancing. egCC, 78, 8J, JQ, etc4) tally the hands that are stronger than your 2+3, against those that are weaker than yours. i.e. all the rest, eg 33.then you know if you made the right call.

tongue blaggard
2012-02-22 09:30:41

i mainly play, and am successful at sit & go’s and some mtt play as well. recently i tried some micro full ring games. everyone was limping into the pot. there were hands where the entire table just limped. so i’m thinking this is going to be a breeze. i start raising from position and everyone who limped calls my raise. with good boards i can usually get it down to 1 opponent. i would rarely win at showdown, though. i could have it locked up on the turn, value bet the river, and sure enough foe makes his 1 outer to beat me. time and time again. over and over. lol. it was a joke. it was like i was being punished for raising. i would have it locked up and there would be a chop. that happened so often, too. the players who were in way too many hands, (every hand) and limping and calling raises were the ones who would connect, never the players betting and playing correctly. guess i’m a fish, too, coz’ i can’t beat em’ with good play, that’s for sure. i’ll stick to tourney play where it’s real.

2010-10-03 06:02:03

In your example I do not see how it will ever be mathmatically profitable to chase less than nut flushes and straights especially with only 3 of your 5 cards on the flop, I don’t care how much you think they will fold

2009-10-08 09:34:00

Yea there are a huge number of different types of regs. The ‘fish’ Dan was desribing, who call inferior hands on three streets are what I’d call donkeys, personally.

I’d go



TAGfish (me)


kenny r
2009-09-20 21:03:00

Very good article.
Your concept is often overlooked.
Yes, like – How to play pocket JJ
depends upon how the table (opponents)
are playing tight/loose). The same for tp verses suited that you allued too.

2009-09-15 23:26:00

he did explain how to play against tags and lags. lags have one common trait with fish, they play too many hands which are domminated. so play more top pair hands against them as you would with fish. tags he already explained, play suited connectors and preium hands.

2009-09-14 21:14:00

(poor english)
Nice article. I think should be more detailed, as above mentioned. Other article about specific regs and other for fishes. Playing against fishes is much easier, it was many times writen, what we have to do against passive\loose and about generally fishes information in this article are quite obvious. I would reccommend to write seperate article about playing vs good regs, agr/tags and agr/lags.

2009-09-13 04:46:00

It would be better to elaborate the different types of regulars, such as the TAGfish, the TAG/LAG, and the aggrodonk, and of course, the ones that can adjust and readjust according to who they’re playing against.

That would bring tougher competition to the tables though….not sure if it’s a good idea.

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