Here’s a typical scenario: We’re in the Big Blind with 5 3 offsuit and there’s a raise and two calls before play comes around to us. Thanks to the pot odds we call with our modest but nevertheless potentially juicy hand. There’s nothing unusual about this situation, nor the rationale, but it’s interesting to consider just how such hands tend to perform.

Moreover, if we delve a little further than the almost automatic ‘pot odds’ justification, can we even be sure that such hands are worth committing to? In fact, 5 3 offsuit here might not be as exciting a prospect as we might believe (or wish for).

And there are several reasons why. Assuming that in this specific situation we’re getting 5:1 odds on our call, then that translates to our needing to win the pot at least 17% of the time to justify our play. To manage that level of success is a tall order.

First, this kind of hand is going to hit the Flop even reasonably strongly quite rarely and, to compound the problem, when we are lucky enough to connect with and find something like the bottom two pair, we’re on potentially dangerous ground. The opposition’s draws or even lesser made hands will simply have too much equity thanks to our shaky hold on the hand. For example, a mere pair affords them reasonable equity, and we’ve yet to factor in the additional equity brought about by the potential counterfeit possibilities that bottom two pair is always vulnerable to. This is a good example of the kind of negative outcome to which hands like 5 3 are susceptible to because, at the end of the day, size often does matter in poker. 5 3 connecting to a 5 3 K board might well look promising, but there are two streets’ worth of potential counterfeit fillers to come, and many a big pot has been lost to such an eventuality, and even the chance of having such an opportunity is unlikely.

Meanwhile, should we fail to connect with the Flop, bluffing as an option isn’t as good as we would like because in most cases we would indeed be trying a pure bluff and, more bad news – one that brings zero equity. At least shoving after missing the Flop with, say, A K affords us something in the form of overcards, for example.

It seems, then, that we’re not going to find success at anywhere near the right level that would justify getting involved with such low-card hands, even when pre-flop pot odds (and implied odds) seem to scream out for a call. In terms of how we can expect these hands with several players to pan out, this kind of holding just doesn’t seem robust enough, and what might appear to be shiny opportunities can end up being poker’s equivalent to fool’s gold, with the prospect of being overtaken on future streets being all too real – or, at least, too real to justify considerable investment. Also, the potential to effectively bluff doesn’t look great.

To conclude, important factors to consider are how a hand is likely to perform, and what are the prospects of winning with it. Therefore, however natural it appeared to call with this hand given the ‘family’ pot and the pot odds, I would argue that it’s quite feasible and logical to simply fold in this situation. Whereas suited 1-gap (or even suited 2-gap) hands or any Ace might well be worthy calling candidates in the Big Blind here if we’re getting (at least) similar odds, 5 3 offsuit has so much less (and probably not enough) going for it.

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About the Author

AngusD

AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

Latest changes

The last changes of the page “Is it worth playing ‘small’ hands?” was made by AngusD on September 08, 2021