When it comes to powerful poker holdings, we all know about pocket aces and suited connectors. But there are some Texas Hold’em hands that tend to fly a little under the radar. Here’s a selection of underrated hands that we feel are somewhat undervalued.

The Ace of Spades protrudes from a deck of cards. The Joker sits on the top of the deck.
There are several hands in Texas Hold’em that don’t get the credit they perhaps deserve.

1- Jack-Nine Suited

One of our favorite underrated hands is the deceptive J-9 suited. As with all suited gappers, it can make both a straight and a flush. The straight in particular would be fairly well disguised, too. However, much of its value comes when you make two pairs.

Let’s be very clear about J-9 suited. While you certainly shouldn’t be looking to play it in a very early position, such as under the gun, it’s definitely a strong enough hand to raise with from the Lojack (three seats to the right of the button) and beyond. Furthermore, it’s a perfectly acceptable hand with which to defend your blinds.

This underrated hand is actually a marginal favourite when going all-in preflop against the smaller pocket pairs, 2-2 to 6-6. Even if you found yourself up against aces, you can expect to win around 20% of the time with J-9 suited.

The hand’s nickname is TJ Cloutier. Legend has it that the poker great flopped three straight flushes in a single calendar year while holding the J-9 of clubs!

2- Ace-Five Suited

According to a sample of over 100 million Hold’em cash game starting hands, A-5 suited was the 27th most profitable. In truth, you wouldn’t be too comfortable flopping a pair of aces, on account of your kicker. Though in short-handed games, this still represents a strong holding.

The real value of the hand known as “High Five” is in its drawing potential. Any flush you make will be the nuts, thanks to the ace. And of course, any lower value cards will be appreciated, due to the possibility of a well-disguised straight.

A-5 is also a great hand with which to stack someone else with a pair of aces, should you make two pairs. Imagine a flop of A-T-5 when your opponent is holding A-K. Delightful.

3- Small Pocket Pairs

Okay, it’s small, but it’s still a pocket pair. It’s certainly among the best hands in Texas Hold’em. For example, 5-5 and 4-4 are the 37th and 48th strongest starting hands in the games. Even so, lower value pairs sometimes get a bad press with players who can’t play them properly.

Aside from their obvious set mining potential, small pocket pairs are often enough to take down the pot unimproved. Particularly in short-handed or heads-up games. And when playing in late position or against tight opponents, you can go to town with these holdings.

Look to open with any pocket pair from the button. At a tighter table, you can safely open with 8-8 through 4-4 from the lojack position. However, don’t get carried away with small pairs in the early position.

4- Seven-Four Hand

No, we haven’t gone crazy. Remember, we’re talking about underrated hands here. Nobody is claiming that 7-4 is better than pocket aces. But this particular holding can make an extremely well-hidden straight and is easy to ditch if you miss it.

You want to be playing 7-4 from a late position in order to control the number of chips going into the middle. Nobody wants to be contesting a massive pot with such a weak hand. But if there is no raise and you’re trying to pick up the blinds, these are good cards with which to steal. Get it through and you’re laughing. If not and the flop comes 5-6-3, or T-7-4, how can anyone possibly put you on such a big hand?

Even in the worst cases, 7-4 suited is not a terrible holding. All-in preflop against A-Ks, you’re still going to win 37% of the time. Even up against pocket rockets, you’re going to win 1 out of 5 times.

7-4 is sometimes known as “Double Down”, due to its strength in the game of blackjack. Any hand totaling 11 would be a good spot in which to double your bet.

5- Queen-Eight Suited

You may be surprised to discover that Q-8 suited proves more valuable than many suited connectors, such as 7-6 and below. It also makes more profit than 4-4, 3-3, and 2-2, based on a sample of over 100 million hands.

Much like the aforementioned J-9 suited, most of the hand’s strength comes from its drawing potential. Naturally, it makes the third-best possible flush, as well as a straight flush. Even so, you must be a little more careful with the straight. A board of J-T-9 is excellent, but you could get your fingers burned when facing K-Q.

This particular hand is nicknamed Kuwait, as in the Middle Eastern country. Try saying it out loud if you don’t get that particular joke!

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