Don't get married to your cards

Everything you need to become a poker pro

Don't get married to your cards

One of the biggest dangers of all: Getting Married to Your Cards!

It's an old expression but as true today as it ever was. The 32Red Poker experts strongly recommend that you "don't get married to your cards". It's sometimes tough to lay down really good-looking cards but if you want to be a successful Poker Player, then you are going to have to sometimes. Many poker commentators say that the ability to lay down a strong looking hand is the difference between a good player and a great player.

The classic actions of a novice player are to hang on to their cards in the face of bets against them. The possibility that their hand may no longer be the best on the table doesn't phase them as they are urged on by their unsuited King Queen (or similar) when all number of hands can beat them. You will hear some Poker players say there are two initial rules for Poker, first one is: Fold, the second one is: Fold (again!). It may not be quite that bad and we are on standby to offer you some help against your opponents, so read on for some more Poker tips from the 32Red Poker Room.

One thing we always stress is that there are more than just the cards you hold and the pot at hand, to be analysed. The poker playing style of your opponents, the image you have portrayed so far during the game to the other players, and the stage of the game are all considerations for the serious player. Here is a good example of what we mean by Poker Craft and how someone can get married to their cards.

The game is No Limit Texas Hold'em...

Steve is five places round from the dealer and is dealt an unsuited Big Slick, that's Ace King. Steve raises, as he is confident that his Pocket Cards are strong and everyone folds except for one player, we'll call him Paul. This player calls Steve's raise quickly without much fuss.

This leaves just the two players who are now what we call Heads Up. The dealer deals the flop and the resultant three cards on the Board are:

  • King of Clubs
  • Seven of Hearts
  • And 2 of Spades

Steve sees what is a good flop for his cards as he now holds the top showing pair. It is Paul to act first and he simply checks. Steve, buoyed with his Pair of Kings and by Paul's defensive action, places a large bet into the pot. Paul swiftly goes all-in. Steve is now left to consider calling the check-raise with what seems a very strong hand. If he calls and is wrong he's out of chips, if he follows what may be his instinct to support his two Kings and wins, he collects a sizeable amount of chips.

What would you do?

Most players are sure to call this bet without much hesitation. Steve's Ace King Pocket Cards represent a very high pair (Kings), plus he has an Ace as Kicker. There are only a couple of hands that can beat Steve as we stand and there is no Flush or Straight Draw on the Board worthy of calling all-in at this stage.

As we said earlier, it's not just about the cards you have. You must also consider other factors, especially the playing style of your opponent(s).

Here is some background on Steve's opponent in the Heads Up action, Paul. See how you think this effects the decision to call or not. Paul is a conservative player, and is not too aggressive towards his opponents; he is on the passive side of tight-aggressive. Throughout the game he has been seen to play only good hands and has folded regularly in the face of aggression when he's clearly had nothing to back it up. He's not a Poker player given to taking chances and splashing his chips around. Having second thoughts on Steve calling yet?

You should also calculate what possible cards the opponent could have to encourage him or her to bet so strongly. Here are some thoughts on potential hands Paul may have and how he may react to them.

  • King, Seven and three all of different suits on the Board eliminate the chances of a Flush Draw in Paul's possession.
  • The Community Cards on the Board also precludes a Straight being held by Paul at this stage.
  • Paul's playing style strongly suggests that he is not a bluffer so Steve can readily count these possibilities out.
  • How about Paul holding a pair of Sevens? Again Paul's style suggests that he wouldn't call a strong pre-flop raise like Steve's with a weak-ish low to middle pair.
  • The same goes for Paul having Pocket deuces (2 2), as again to defend a strong pre-flop raise with a weak pair is not the action of a passive, tight-aggressive player.
  • Two pair looks unlikely, as Paul would have had to have played Pocket Cards of King Seven, King Two, or worse still Seven Two, the weakest Pocket Cards in Poker.
  • More likely is Paul having a King with another good card. However in these circumstances you would expect Paul to have bet after the flop with his pair of Kings, especially if coupled with a good kicker like Ten, Jack or Queen (which a player like Paul would need to play this hand). Getting a little more inside Paul's head, he would suspect he is up against a very strong hand (unless Steve has shown himself to be a big bluffer), likely King Ace, and therefore would not be going all-in.
  • We are left with two likely hands for Paul. One is another Ace King and therefore we have a split pot, and thus reducing the incentive to call the bet.
  • The other possibility is a pair of bullets or Ace Ace held by Paul. A pair of aces is a massive favourite at this stage over Steve's Big Slick.

In this scenario Steve called the bet and Paul turned over - you guessed it - Ace Ace and took the pot and all of Steve's hard earned chips.

Our advice is to stop and consider what is going on. How does Paul play? What are the possible cards that can beat me? Is the risk worth the reward?

It is difficult to defend such a strong hand when faced with a slow play like Paul's. Often the call is the right action in this situation but with the evidence considered, especially Paul's style of play, it strongly suggested something was up... and it was!

At the 32Red Poker Room you get time to think, the software alarm will sound when you are running out of time; so use that time to take account of what's happening. And, remember, never get married to your cards!


These tips/guidelines are intended to help you enjoy poker and improve your chances of winning. However, the above should not be regarded as advice and 32Red disclaims any liability or responsibility for the accuracy thereof or for any losses incurred by players following these guidelines.

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