A common mistake that happens with amateur players is overbetting the pot with weak or marginal hands while in a horrible position at the poker table. This is happening a lot in our freezeout tournaments. It’s a fundamental flaw that will cost us a lot of money when we head to the casino and face tougher competition.
Let’s begin by pointing two factors that must be considered, position and weak hands. The later you are in the hand you are to act, the better your position at the table is. The dealer position has the best position of all, followed by the cutoff, which is the seat immediately to the right of the dealer button. The better your position at the table, the more information you have available to you regarding the action and the players that have made decisions before you. Because so much of poker is about information and exploitation, our position at the poker table is a very valuable tool. We must always use it wisely.
When it comes to weak hands, we have to understand that a hand’s value increases or decreases according to our position at the table. These two concepts always work together in poker. JT suited is a very weak hand to limp or open with when a player is UTG (Under The Gun), or first to act preflop. Players should almost always fold this hand in early position. Yet, this same hand, when a player is on the button in a limped or unraised pot, JT suited transforms into a decent hand to pre-flop raise with. Pocket 3s are very weak preflop in early position, yet in late positions, they will demand a raise for optimal play.
The problem that’s happening too often in our freezeout tournaments is that players are deciding to play weak hands in early position, then overbetting the flop or turn whenever they hit. Take the following example that happened in a recent freezeout tournament. Player A limped into the pot with Q9 under the gun. Player B raised the pot, 5x the big blind. Everyone at the table folds except Player A, who calls. The flop comes AQ5 rainbow. Player A leads out with a full pot bet. Player B calls. A rainbow 6 comes on the turn. Player A bets the pot again. Player B calls. The river brings a 2, leaving a community board of AQ562, with no completed flush draws. The pot is inflated now. Player A bets over half his stack for another pot bet. Player B calls, winning the pot with Ace King.
Overbetting weak hands out of position is certain death in bigger casino tournaments. When you overbet the pot in No Limit Texas Hold’em, you are often polarizing your range, representing a monster hand, often nothing less than two-pair. It becomes a giant leak in your game when you make the mistake of inflating pots with weak hands or weak draws, especially out of position. It’s just not profitable over the long term; you are investing too much money into losing hands.
The best way to fix this leak is to cut out the tendency to play weak hands while in early positions altogether. Delete speculative hands from your UTG range for now. Force yourself to fold T9, K9, QT, JT, A9, 87, 65, and other hands in this range whenever you are UTG. You will save money over the long term simply by not allowing yourself to get into unprofitable situations out of position post-flop. As you become more experienced and more profitable, then you can begin to mix up your range from under the gun and early positions. But for now, our players should stop opening pots from early position with weak hands.