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When you have a made hand

In poker you can either have a made hand or a drawing hand. Knowing the difference between the two is critical because it fundamentally changes the way you should play the hand both pre-flop and post-flop.

Even though Ace King is considered a monster hand before the flop, it’s still considered a drawing hand, because your hand need improvement on later streets to have any chance of winning against a made hand. Hence, Ace King should be played differently then how you would play Aces or Kings, for example.

On the other hand, when you are dealt a made hand such as a big pocket pair pre-flop, then you can expect to almost always have the best hand prior to the community cards are dealt. Obviously you will have to evaluate the flop to see if you still have the best hand, but you already have a made hand in a pair, which in a heads-up situation, will be the winning hand fairly often.

That being said, generally poker players talk about how to play a made hand on the flop. The reason for this is that generally you’re playing unpaired hands and you are required to improve to have a chance of winning the pot at showdown.

If you happen to make a pair or better on the flop you are said to have a made hand. How you should play the hand will depend on stack sizes, the other player’s tendencies, and whether you expect to have the best hand.

For example, let’s say you call a pre-flop raise with K-Q in a no-limit Texas holdem ring game and 5 players see the flop. The flop comes down A-Q-5 giving you second pair. Although you’ve made a hand, with so many players still involved in the hand, there is almost zero chance you have the best hand.

So against any normal sized bet on the flop, you should check and fold since you can’t expect to have the best hand. Generally you should be betting or calling with a made hand when you expect to have the best hand.

In situations where you have a medium strength made hand, then if your opponent is betting, you really are only bluff catching, since if they are betting for value, they likely have a better hand.

However, I see a lot of weaker players getting attached to made hands and calling bets they shouldn’t bet. Sure enough, sometimes they will call with worse and get lucky on the turn or river, but it won’t happen often enough, and your main objective in poker is to always try and be calling when you have the best hand.

So how can you recognize when a made hand should be folded and when you need to continue?

With experience and playing many hand knowing where you are at in the hand will become second nature. Once you develop a history with a certain player, you will get better at getting reads and identifying the strength or weakness of their hands.

Some players will never bluff so you can easily throw away your top pair decent kicker type hands. On the other hand, some players can be absolute maniacs, so you can be calling with a lot of weaker made hands.

There are various things to consider each time you are involved in a pot with a made hand.

Do you currently expect to have the best hand versus your opponent’s range of hands? Even though you may have a marginal hand, if you expect to have the best hand, then leading out with a bet should take down the pot a good percentage of the time.

On the other hand, if it’s likely that you don’t have the best hand, even though you have a made hand, you have to evaluate how many outs you can catch in order to make the winning hand, as well as the pot odds you are getting.

You don’t want to lead out with a bet in this situation, because you don’t expect to get a fold. Instead, by check/calling it allows you to keep the pot smaller to try and hit a monster hand that will stack one of your opponents, but you only want to caller when you’re getting favorable odds. It also becomes more appealing to call when there are more players involved in the hand, since it increases the likelihood of getting paid off when you do hit a big hand.

Even though you can never know for sure if you will get paid off, the more accurate you can estimate the answers, the more correct your decisions will be. The next time you find yourself in a situation when playing a poker hand, if you’re unsure of the correct play, ask yourself the above, it will make your thought process for the decision making a lot easier.

Continue with a made hand when you expect to have the best hand, and only call with worse some of the time when you expect favorable implied odds when you hit. Mindlessly calling with worse made hands without properly thinking about the situation is a trait of many losing poker players, and you don’t want to be one of those, right?