Speculative hands tend to be the winners in big pots. While
hands like pocket kings and pocket aces are certainly valuable
in and of themselves, it’s much more difficult to stack someone
with a pair than it is when you are holding the nuts (or
something close). The early levels of tournament poker are one
of the most ideal times to be playing speculative hands. You
won’t have a lot of risk to worry about and you’ll position
yourself to double up early. Speculative hands are still
speculative, though, so you shouldn’t be getting too carried
away with them.
How you define a speculative hand is up to you and your own
playing style, but they tend to refer to suited connectors and
other similar holdings. If you are playing pocket pairs and
broadway cards only, you aren’t playing very many speculative
hands. With that being said, however, JQ suited can turn into a
speculative hand if it’s being played in raised and re-raised pots.
Your hand’s value is going to be very much subject to change.
The higher the price to get involved, the more risk you are
inheriting. If you aren’t comfortable playing these types of
hands post-flop, you shouldn’t be getting involved with them
Which Hands to Play
Some hands are going to be much more speculative than others.
You don’t want to be playing 4 9 off suit in the same way that
you would approach something like 7 8 suited. This should go
without saying, but some players think they are Tom Dwan and
that 4 betting totally random (bad) hands is the path to
success. There’s a huge difference between what you see on TV
and what is likely to work in your tournaments.
First, most televised poker is of cash game play (or at least the games
where you’ll see abstract strategy applied). Second, these
players are on a different level of play. Odds are that if you
are reading this article, you are a low to mid stakes player.
There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, but you need to
adjust to your own level of competition. Attempting to apply
complex strategies to a simple game is only going to hurt you.
It’s like doing a spin move when you have a wide open layup. It
can hardly help you, but there’s plenty of room for unnecessary
The actual range of hands that would be ideal for play at
this stage of a tournament is quite dense. You shouldn’t be
straying far from 56 suited+ and maybe the occasional big suited
ace, king, and queen. There could be some opportunities to play
unsuited connectors, but these are going to be more of an
overall challenge as you are chasing after a lot less hands. If
you are playing unsuited connectors, they should be against
players who you feel are very prone to stacking off should you
make a hand.
The problem with playing anything less than the hands listed
above is that you’ll often times get sucked into pots. For
example, if you call with a connected hand and hit a pair of 9s
on a 5 9 2 flop, you’ll likely call a flop bet. When your
opponent fires again on the turn, you are going to be inclined
to call again. If they bomb the river, you still only have one
pair but will be tempted to make the call.
The issue with playing like this is that you aren’t going after the hands that
you originally intended. Instead of chasing after straights and
flushes, you are instead convincing yourself that one pair is
good. If you are dead set on playing mediocre hands in less than
optimal spots, you need to have the self-discipline to fold when
a made hand isn’t a truly big hand.
Your hand’s actual value is dependent upon a handful of
different factors. You need to gauge the price that it will cost to get involved, the
likelihood of winning a large pot, the chances of making a big
hand, and your position. Theoretically, you could add many, many
more items to this list, but these will encompass the majority
of what you need to consider.
Pretend that you are holding 7 8 suited in early position.
The options are to raise, call, or fold. Folding is weak because
it’s a valuable hand. Raising will put you in a tough spot if
it’s re-raised. Therefore, the best plan is to limp in. A limp
will allow you to see the flop if there’s no further action,
and you’ll also be able to safely call a raise. Now, adjust
this to 7 8 in late position and you’ll have different
options. In a raised and re-raised pot you would fold, in a
raised pot you might call, and in a limped pot you can raise or
call. This is how the value of your suited connectors is so
dependent upon circumstances.
The likelihood of getting paid off with a speculative hand is
arguably the most important dynamic of all. If you have a total
garbage hand but are playing against someone who never ever folds, it makes a lot more sense to
get involved than if you are up against a very tight player.
These are the spots that you should dream of. You should be
looking to play in as many pots as possible with players who
can’t control their own stacks. The value of your hand is going
to sky rocket when the chance of doubling up is present.
Sometimes your cards are all that matter and sometimes your
opponent is all that matters.
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