03-15-07, LearnTexasHoldem:

Hand categories in low-limit Holdem

This article is going to approach winning at low limit hold'em with a number of angles.

The first of which is to break poker hands down into a few main categories so you can get a conceptual perspective.

The second angle will be to give some specific scenarios to solidify what the categories.

The third will be a list of hands. The next angle will be to talk about different games and how tight or loose to play in them so you know how to adapt your style to each game.

We will finish up by talking about different types of players, how they play, how you should play against them and how you can learn from them.

  • The low limit hold'em hand categories are: Big Pairs, Draws, and Milking Hands. Every hand you play can fall into one of these categories and this will decide how you'll play it after that flop.

  • Big Pairs

    A big pair is how you guessed it, top pair or an over pair. For example a big pair would be when you have AK, and the flop is AQ6. Notice that you have top pair.


    Another example would be having QQ and the flop is T63. When other people with lesser hands are trying to beat you, you are in a way defending your position. You want to make it as costly as possible to try to draw out on you.


    If you have the best hand now, everyone is drawing against you. Some people may have legitimate draws, others may be long shots but either way, you have the winner now and want to keep it that way.

    "Big Pair" hands work best when there are few people against you. The more people in against you, the weaker they become because you have more people drawing and there will be less safe cards that won't help them improve.

    So when you have this type of hand, you want to play in such a way that will reduce the competition.

    For example if you have AA or KK preflop, the reason that you raise in a low limit game is to lower the amount of people in.

    Key Point: Big Pair hands don't like lots of opponents. They win most when there are few players against them.

  • Draws

    A drawing hand is a that still needs cards to improve to the winner. Some legitimate draws you will run into are: open ended straights, flush draws, small pairs, etc.

    An open ended straight is a hand where either end can hit and you will complete your straight.

    An example of this would be having KJ and the flop is QT4. Notice that if you hit either a 9 or an A, you will have the straight.


    An example of a flush draw would be having 9Tclubs and the flop is AcQc4d. Notice that it only takes one more club to make the flush for you.

    The last draw mentioned was a small pair. These are really draw hands because they need to hit to win usually. For example having 55 and the flop being A53. You would have hit your draw.


    You'll want to read the section on things to stay away from if you are tempted to go for gutshot straights, backdoor flushes, and catching your pocket pair after the flop.

    Key Point: Draws favor lots of opponents since they hit infrequently. Because of this, to make them profitable, lots of players need to be in the hand (or lots of money).

  • Milking Hands

    You would like to see these hands as often as possible but they are rarer then having top pair. A milking hand is any hand that you have the nuts, two pair or better. The "nuts" is the best possible hand.

    For example, let's say that you have Ad5d and the flop is Qd9d2d. You now have the best possible hand and for someone to beat you, they would have to pair the board or get very lucky. Your goal now is to extract the most money from them you can.


    Often this will be best accomplished by not giving away your hand too early and reducing the number of opponents. Instead you can "slow play", meaning not raising until later betting rounds where the bet size doubles.

    Another example would be if you have 88 and the flop is A84. Notice that there is no immediate danger in letting people draw cheaply against you so you can just call. Then on later rounds a raise or check raise is used to get as much from them as you can.


    You'll find that hitting sets like the 8s above makes a lot of money since the hand is so well disguised. The flush, straights, fullhouses, etc will still win but the set is the hardest to read if you are on the other end.

  • Key Point

    You want to make the most money on these hands that you can. The specific hand will dictate how you will want to play it.

    Now let's go over some specific hands and how you would play them this way and why:

    You pick up American Airlines/Pocket Rockets/Pocket Aces: AdAc You are in middle position with a couple callers in front of you.

    You raise. The reason you raise is because this falls into the Big Pair category and it doesn't do well against lots of opponents. If someone raised before you preflop, reraise them. There is nothing to fear yet.

    One more person calls in back of you and the other players call making it four of you. The flop comes back: QdJd4h

    The first person bets, on person calls and it is now your turn. The best move here is to raise and try to continue to limit the compeition. They could have anything at this point and reading hands is very hard at low limit.

    Most likely they either have a Q or a draw (straight or flush). If they do have a draw you want to make them pay as much as possible for it. You raise, the person in back of you folds and the other two people just call.

    The turn is: 5h making it QdJd4h5h

    They check to you, you bet again and they call.

    The river is a 6h making it QdJd4h5h6h

    They check to you, you bet and they both call, you win.

    Using this example, there are other legitimate hands that could have been in there with you. For example if someone had KT they would have an open ended straight draw. If a 9 or an A came, you could be in trouble.

    Another good hand here would be having two diamonds like Kd9d. Notice that if another diamond came you would also be in trouble. If you had either of those hands, you would be drawing and trying to improve. You wouldn't want to pay too much money to see the next cards and you would hope everyone would stay in the hand.

    We can interchange a number of hands for the AA and you would play it the same way. Some of these would be KK, AQ, KQ, QJ, etc. You would be playing the hand like what we mentioned above as a Big Pair.

    What if we had 44 in the above example, that would now give us a set. The poor guy with the AA wouldn't know what hit him, same thing if we had our QJ, or JJ. These would be considered Milking Hands and you would do your best to extract the most best as possible. We already mentioned the drawing hands.

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