One Hand In My Pocket

We’ve discussed at length what makes up a good, bad, or mediocre hand according to The Poker Model, but not so much the specifics of your pocket cards and how their value varies depending on the texture of the board. Today we’ll drill down a bit, expanding your ability to qualify your hand correctly.


The image above shows nine example pocket hands all sharing a flop of Kd-9s-7d. A benefit of using The Poker Model is that you will always be able to categorize your hand as good, bad, or mediocre. After you make this determination, you will know the correct action to take. See the general breakdown below (assuming no short stacks). These categories are oversimplifications so that there are less routes to take. It’s easier to make a decision with three routes as opposed to more than three.

  • Good: Two Pair, Three of a Kind, Straight, Flush, Full House, Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, Royal Flush
  • Mediocre: Over Pair, Top Pair, Second Pair, Open-Ended Straight Draw, Flush Draw
  • Bad: Third Pair or worse.

Now see the general breakdown for what action to take depending on your hand and table position.

  • Good: Bet to build the pot in hopes of getting all of your chips in while dominating your opponent.
  • Mediocre: Check to keep the pot small in hopes of improving your hand later.
  • Bad: Bet to win the pot right now and pump the brakes if unsuccessful.

You’ll deal with the intricacies of each hand by reacting to your opponent’s plays. If your opponent raises when you have a good hand, you’ll look to get your chips in and raise back (4-bet). When your opponent raises when you have a bad hand, you’ll fold. A check with a mediocre hand will take you to the Turn. In the above cookie-cutter example, every hand fits exactly where it should. Now see how a different Flop can change our categorization below.


It’s obvious that when different cards show on the Flop individual hands will change, like in the first image where Ad-10d was a mediocre Flush Draw and then a Royal Flush in the second image with a different flop. You can see all of the those changes above. But what’s noteworthy here is how an individual hand can move between categories. Take 2s-2d for example. In the first image 2s-2d was worse than Third Pair and bad, no surprise there. But in the second example, 2s-2d became a diamond Flush Draw, which technically is a mediocre hand. Common sense tells us that the lowest Flush Draw on the board is not something we hope to improve on, mainly because if we make the Flush it’s likely that an opposing player has a higher one. For this reason, we move the Two High Flush Draw into the bad category, even though it is still a Flush Draw. Generally speaking, a one-carded Flush draw must be over eight high to be considered mediocre because of the potential for higher Flushes on the board. We’ll cover more in depth examples of this concept in future posts.

The purpose of today’s article was to provide some concrete examples of how to classify your hand. Review the general categories, but keep an eye out for gray areas like we saw in today’s example.


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