Texas hold'em features dominated hands

April 26, 2016 3:00 AM


Texas Hold'emDominated hands are quite common in Texas hold’em. As my dictionary explains, “dominating...is having a commanding position or controlling power over another person.” Every poker player would like to dominate his opponent.


It’s a middle–limit game, and you have been dealt A–K, while an opponent has A–Q in the hole. This puts you in a position of dominance over the A–Q. An Ace falls on the flop. Both of you have top pair, A–A, but your King kicker has his Queen beat. Your opponent would need to hit another Queen on the board – on the turn or on the river. And, that assumes you do not hit an Ace. If he fails to connect, his hand will be second–best to your A–A with King kicker. With only three outs, his chances are poor; the odds against pairing his Queen in the hole are about 8–to–1. (You have the same chance of pairing your King kicker.)

Being optimistic, your opponent thinks he has the best hand. On that premise, he will bet out or raise, believing that he is protecting his hand or building “his” pot. Little does he realize that you have his hand dominated. Great for you; disastrous for him.

Stop and think

At first thought, you are inclined to let him do the betting for you – slow–playing to build the pot. Just call his bets until the river when you could raise his bet to gain an extra big bet. That would be fine if only he and you are still in the pot. But, there are other opponents you need to worry about.

Like it or not, your flopped top pair is vulnerable. The more players staying in the hand, the more likely one will draw out on you. The smart play, of course, would be to raise his bet to force out other opponents, hoping to get heads–up against your dominated opponent.

With top pair, there is no way that he will fold his hand. In fact, he might even reraise, assuming that his top pair is the best hand at that time. Won’t he be surprised when you turn up the best hand on the showdown? His hand was dominated from the start.

How do you know?

Since you don’t know what cards your opponent is actually holding, how can you “know” when you likely have him dominated? Answer: If he comes out betting or raises on the flop, it is fairly safe to assume he has connected with top pair – A–A in this case. It is unlikely he has pocket Aces; likewise, he probably doesn’t have a King as his kicker (while you do).

Another example

You look down at pocket Aces in the hole. An opponent is dealt pocket Kings. Both are great starting hands. Fortunately for you, your A–A dominates his K–K; and, he has no idea of the strength of your hand.

Pre–flop, from his middle position, your opponent comes out betting. The player to his left calls. Then it’s folded to you in the Cut–Off. Two conflicting thoughts come to mind:

(1) You would like to thin the field to two or three opponents so your A–A has a good chance of holding up to the showdown. That would require a raise. It also could gain you the virtual Button (last position) when the others yet to bet, fold their hands. That’s an edge you would treasure.

(2) Alternatively, if you just call along, your opponents have little information as to the strength of your hand. And, with more players staying in the hand, you can build a bigger pot.

But, you know it is more important to give yourself the best chance of taking the pot. I’d rather win a smaller pot than lose a much bigger one.

So, in this case, raising is the wise choice. When there is no Ace on the flop, your opponent with pocket Kings is almost certain to stay in the pot, and contribute as you bet for value the rest of the way. Little does he realize that his hand has been dominated from the start.

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