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Dynamic Hand Value

I have received a lot of questions regarding this topic, so I am going to dedicate an entire article to it. Most advanced players know that Sklansky hand rankings (or my hand rankings for that matter) are not set in stone, but are rather general guidelines for ranking hands. This is because hand value fluctuates greatly depending on the number of people in the pot. Many people are not quite sure how to treat their starting hands when the game's dynamic fluctuates between loose and tight, thus affecting the number of people in the pot. The answer to this dilemma lies with what type of hand you hold, and how many players this type of hand is suitable against.

I am going to divide the types of hands into three categories:
  1. Large pairs (JJ or higher),
  2. Big cards (two cards of AKQJ), and
  3. Small pairs and suited connectors (I know they are totally different but I am going to treat them the same here, you'll see why).
Most of this is written assuming the game is longhand limit.

Large Pairs (JJ or higher)
These are 'premium' hands that people hope to receive. They have a lot of value in of themselves and are not board-dependent to win. People generally raise preflop with these hands for value, but often a major reason to raise preflop is just to knock people out. For example, consider KK. Unless an Ace hits the board, KK will probably be the best hand at the flop. However, consider this situation:

Ks Kd
Qd Jd
Opponent #1
Ac Kc
Opponent #2
Qh Ts 2h

Both opponents will be tempted to draw to see another card. Someone with two hearts will be drawing as well. All of a sudden, you face a situation where there are seventeen outs against you. Now, while you still have the highest chance out of anyone to win the pot, it is more likely that someone else will win the pot instead of you!

This is a common situation with large pairs, where they are the best hand at the flop but there is enough runners out there that one of them is bound to beat you at the river. Thus, the way to alleviate this situation is to knock these people out of the flop by making raises aimed at limiting the size of the pot. Reraise people after they raised you to make it expensive to see the flop and raise at the flop to knock people out.

For example, in the above situation, suppose you were in early position and there were 5 people at the flop. You should consider checking the flop hoping for a check-raise to knock the people between you and the original better out. This way, people with 5 outs or less won't be in the pot against you, and you have to worry less about longshot draws beating you.

Big Cards
Big cards like AK, AQ, KQ are great for shorthanded games, but often a curse in longhanded games. While big cards can at least become an overpair and win money from someone whose hand won't likely improve (such as top pair plus top kicker), these hands are the ones that make top pair + top kicker. Thus, when you hit the board with these hands, unless you are outkicking your opponent or your opponent is an idiot, he or she will generally be on a draw against you. Thus, you generally want to go ahead and take the pot down at the flop, or at least make it very expensive for your opponent to see the turn.

Small to Medium pairs and Suited Connectors
These hands change drastically in value depending on the situation. Assuming a non heads up situation (where small pairs do well simply due to the chance of your opponent not hitting anything), these are hands you want to play in a multi-way pot. You generally won't hit much with these hands, or you will hit a very nice hand like a three-of-a-kind, flush, or straight. The overreaching goal with these hands is to have pot odds in your favor. (Note: Ax suited plays a lot like a suited connector.)

If you have a suited connector, you are hoping there are enough callers and dead money in the pot to justify drawing to the straight or flush. Pot odds is why these hands will show a profit with four or more people in the pot, but will generally be poor against two or three opponents. In a multiway pot with a suited connector, you may have a flush or straight draw (that will win if you hit) but only must put in 1/10 of the pot to see the next card, which is very good odds.

If you have a small pair, you are hoping for the 13% chance of hitting a set on the flop. So if 7 people are in the pot, you have the exact pot odds for a set. However, for small pairs, not only are the pot odds good for a set, the implied odds once you hit your set are great. If you hit your set, chances are good that someone will have a second-best hand that has a slim-to-none chance of beating you.

3s 3c
Your Hand
Kh Js 3d

There's a good chance that someone will pay you off with a King or maybe even a Jack. Small pairs really begin showing their profit potential with around 5 or more people in the pot.

A common question about the small pair strategy is "How should I evaluate the set potential of large pairs?" After all, I talk about how the implied odds once you hit a set are generally great. Unfortunately, this does not apply to large pairs.

As Ac
Kd Jd
Ah Js 5d

If you hit a set with a large pair, there's a good chance it will be top set (meaning there's no cards on the board that are higher than that), so you won't get much action from anything besides draws. In this example, there's only so much action you can get from a hand like [[cards K d J d ]] .

Next Article: Advanced Drawing and Pot Odds Theory

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