In our series on common mistakes that Texas hold’em players so often make, let’s examine Hi-Lo hands. In this case, the player’s hole cards consist of one high card (Ace down to 10) and one low card (7 down to deuce). So often have I seen poker players invest their precious chips before the flop in such hands – especially in low/middle limit games. Almost always, they will lose those hands. See the flop only when you are the Big Blind and the betting is not raised – so you get to see a “free” flop.
Explanation: By way of example, let’s say you have been dealt K-5 offsuit – a typical Hi-Lo hand. You would love to play to see what the flop brings. You are very tempted. One out of three times, the flop will pair one of your two hole cards. Suppose your five in the hole is paired up on the flop. You have a small pair of fives with a good kicker.
With eight other players at the table, it is highly likely one will hold a higher pair in the hole, or catch one on the flop or after – on the turn or on the river. While your King is a very good kicker, it’s not about to win this hand for you. You could get real lucky and catch trip fives or pair up your King. With just five outs (three Kings and two fives), those possibilities are long shots – certainly underdogs.
Instead of the five, suppose you got lucky and paired up your King in the hole on the flop. You can expect that to happen less than one out of five times. That big pair undoubtedly looks good to you. A pair of Kings is always an attractive hand. But, with eight opponents at the table, it is quite possible one (or more) may also hold a King in the hole – but with a higher kicker. Poker players like to see the flop with an honor card. If neither of you improve further, his kicker takes the pot. Your hand is second-best. That can only cost you lots of chips.
That explains why Hi-Lo hands should almost always be folded pre-flop. On the other hand, that high card (the King in this example) often is quite attractive to many poker players. All the more so if they have been mucking their hole cards hand after hand up to this point. That’s so frustrating. Always remember, patience is a virtue!
Just watch the hands they turn up on the showdown. Playing Hi-Lo hands is their mistake – likely to be a costly mistake. Don’t let such players serve as an example for you. Avoid those Hi-Lo hands and be patient until you are dealt a hand worth playing. Of course, there is one exception: If you are the Big Blind, and there have been no raises pre-flop, you get a “free” card.
There’s one problem with this strategy involving Hi-Lo hands. It happens quite often. After a while, some of your opponents in the game will read you as a very tight player. Then, when you do catch a powerful hand, they will be more prone to fold their cards – unless they have a very strong hand – leaving you with a very small pot to win. You are less likely to be able to build the pot as you bet for value.
Your best strategy in that case is to play deceptively by slow-playing and/or check-raising. Unless you are playing against a lot of tight players, deception can work for you. (If the texture of your table is very tight, it would have been a good idea to have changed tables long before this hand.)
Bottom line: As a general rule, it would be a mistake to invest your precious chips in Hi-Lo hands. The few times such a hand connects and then holds the lead until the end, will not make up for the costs. It isn’t worth the speculation. Why start off the hand by putting yourself into trouble’s way? Avoid Hi-Lo hands.