There's no way around it, folding hands in poker are boring. It means you can't play anymore and have to wait for everyone else to finish the hand before you can play again. However, if you want to become a winning player you'll need to get comfortable with folding a lot of hands preflop.
In this article, we'll be covering which poker hands to fold preflop if you want to improve your win rate.
Poker Hands You Should Fold Preflop
There are a lot of hands players will play that is actually costing them money in the long run and should be cut out of their preflop opening ranges.
Suited Connectors with Large Gaps
The hands we'll be discussing in this section are hands like 94s, J6s, and 83s here rather than KTs, and A9s as the latter are classed as broadway hands rather than suited connectors. You will want to fold these poker hole hands when you get them. These hands are most often played by beginner players for the sole reason that the hand is suited. They rightly realize that a flush is a very strong hand in poker and if you make one you'll likely win the hand. However, they don't realize how infrequently you make one even if your hand is suited, so they play any two suited cards in the hope they can make a flush.
Depending on your position, you shouldn't play suited hands that have a big gap between the cards. This is a major poker strategy any player should take note of. The exception to this is when you're in a late position and are trying to steal the blinds or in the big blind facing a late position open. From these positions, it's acceptable to play suited hands that have one or two gaps between the cards.
The reason these hands should be mostly folded is that the only way these hands have value is by making a flush - which doesn't happen often enough to make money by playing them. The card values are too low to make strong pairs and they're too far apart from each other to be able to make straights.
Jack and 10
Specifically, JT offsuit - JTs can be played from every position. In fact, this can be extended to most offsuit broadway hands. A lot of weaker players will play any two broadway cards from any position. Their rationale is that they can make a lot of top pair hands and good straights when they have two broadway cards. While this is true, the top pair of hands are often not as strong as they look.
If you play a hand like JT or J9 and flop top pair on a wet board of you're going to be pretty happy with your hand - until a lot of money starts to go in. When your opponent puts in a lot of money on this kind of board, it's very unlikely your JT is going to be good. They're either going to have a set or a hand like AJ/KJ/QQ+.
The danger with playing these weak, offsuit broadways is that the majority of the time you're either going to win a small pot or lose a big one. Better to play on the safe side and fold this hand unless you're close to the button.
Small pairs (66 and lower) are notoriously difficult to play but most players will still play them from every position at the table. If you don't flop a set, there's not a lot you can do with this hand as the majority of the cards left in the deck are overcards and can give your opponent a higher pair. Even if you do flop a set, there are times when the board can run out four to a flush or four to a straight and make your set a bluff catcher at best.
At a nine-handed table, you should only be playing these hands from the middle/late position. If you play them from the early position the chances are too high that a player behind will have a stronger hand that is likely to beat you post-flop and you will be losing money by playing it.
These hands don't flop well enough often enough to be able to justify playing them from every position. Too often you'll be left with a very marginal hand having to make tough turn/river decisions. You can save yourself the headache and the chips by folding these hands more often.
7 and 2
72o is considered the worst possible hand you can be dealt pre-flop in Texas Hold'em. It has terrible high card value, only makes very weak pairs, cannot make flushes, and the card values are too far apart to be able to make a straight. All these terrible characteristics come together to make the worst hand in poker.
On the other hand types, we've covered so far can be played in some situations, but are often overplayed by the majority of players. However, this hand should never be played unless you're playing on the button against players who massively over-fold the blinds. Even then it's a risky prospect as you have very little chance of winning the pot post-flop if you're called.
The only situation that you can justify playing this hand is if you're dealt 72s on the button against two very tight blind players, and even then it's not necessarily a +EV open as you have so many better hands to raise. In all other scenarios when you're dealt this hand it should be folded; otherwise, you'll be lighting money on fire.
How Positions Determine Which Poker Hands to Fold Preflop
Just because a hand is profitable to play from one position, doesn't mean that it is profitable to play it from every position. Knowing what position you're in at the table and what hands that means you can profitably play is an important skill for a winning poker player and is called positional awareness.
The most important thing that changes depending on your position at the table is the number of players that are left to act behind you. If you are first to act at a nine-handed table, you have eight people left to act after you make your decision, whereas if it folds to you in the SB, you only have one person left to act after you make your decision. It's this fact that influences how strong of a hand you can raise.
In the scenario where we're first to act at a nine-handed table, there are 8 different two-card combinations you have to face. The chances are, at least one of these 8 different hands is going to be a strong one. Therefore, we must start with a strong hand ourselves in anticipation of one of our opponents being dealt a strong hand.
Conversely, when we're on the button only have two players left to act which is 2 different two-card combinations. The chances of our opponents having a very strong between them is far less likely so we can raise a much wider range.
Another thing to consider is the post-flop position. When we raise from an early position, if we get called we're likely to be playing out of position post-flop which puts us at a disadvantage. Therefore we need to tighten our range further in anticipation of being at this disadvantage. However, playing from the button we're guaranteed to be in position post-flop and can therefore play a wider range knowing we'll have a post-flop advantage.
Doyle Brunson Poker Hand Preflop
The 'Doyle Brunson' is the nickname for T2 the hand that Doyle won the Main Event with it back to back years. The first time he got it in against Jack Alto who held AJ on and hit a 2 on the turn and a T on the river to make a full house. The second time Doyle got it in good on the turn after turning a higher two pair than his opponent's 85 on T852.
Since then, players have tried to emulate this feat by playing T2 in their games and showing the table if they manage to get a bluff through with it. There are certain hands like this that players will play, not because of the hand's inherent value, but because of the bragging rights, they get if they're able to win with such a trash hand.
This hand is a favorite for players to win with as not only is it a very bad hand and therefore considered skillful if you win with it, but it has a lot of history and is instantly recognizable to anyone who's a fan of poker. This is why you'll see players try and win a hand with T2 but not 92 (unless they're a complete maniac!).
Given how bad it is, if you want to try and win with this hand it's advised that you only do it in a fun setting or where very little money is at risk.
Poker Hands You Should Play Preflop
Now that we've covered the hands that you should be folding preflop, let's look at the hands you should be playing:
The high pairs (TT+) are the hands that will give you the highest win rate out of any other hand you can be dealt preflop. You should always play these hands unless there's a very specific set of circumstances (usually playing a satellite tournament where you are a middling stack that can fold your way to a ticket).
If the action folds to you and you hold one of these hands you should raise from any position at the table and continue versus aggression. Even if you aren't the preflop aggressor, you should be 3betting with these hands at an extremely high frequency and continuing against a four-bet unless it's from a particularly tight player from an early position.
Suited connectors require a bit more nuanced as not every suited connector should be played from every position. If you're playing at a nine-handed table then the majority, if not all of these hands should be folded from the earliest positions.
From the middle position, you can start to raise the better-suited connectors such as T9s, 98s, and 87s, but continue to fold the weakest ones such as 32s, 43, and 54s. When you play from a late position (CO, BTN, SB) then you can raise almost all your suited connectors. 43s and 32s are still considered too weak by some players but whether or not raising these hands will be profitable depends on the players you have left to act.
In these later positions, you can also raise suited gappers such as 97s, 86s, and 75s as they're not significantly weaker than suited connectors and will be profitable to raise from the CO/BTN/SB.
Ace and King
Some weaker players consider AK to be a weak hand or a 'drawing hand' because it is only ace-high unless it improves. This mindset leads to players playing it passively, letting in weaker hands for cheap, and losing to a weird two pair on an ace-high board - further cementing their dislike for the hand.
In reality, ace-king is a very strong hand as it contains the two highest-value cards in the game in the same hand. If you make a pair you're guaranteed to have the best kicker and if you do make a pair with AK it is guaranteed to be the top pair.
Therefore, this hand should be played very aggressively from all positions, raising pre-flop if the action folds to you no matter where you are at the table. Similarly, it should be 3bet against an open from every position.
Where this hand differs from the big pairs is how you should play against a 4bet. If you're playing a 100bb deep cash game, it will be profitable to shove over a 4bet from most positions. However, if you're playing deeper, against an early position 4bet, or playing against a very tight player you should play cautiously against a 4bet.
Poker Hands to Fold Preflop: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions about which poker hands to fold preflop:
Why should you carefully pick which poker hands to fold preflop?
You should carefully pick the hands you fold preflop because some hands are always profitable to play over the long run and some hands are always unprofitable over the long run. If you consistently play these unprofitable hands instead of folding them or randomly fold hands instead of choosing the unprofitable ones then you won't become a winning poker player.
Why is a Jack and 10 a weak preflop hand?
Jack Ten is considered by some to be a weak preflop hand because the pairs it can make aren't particularly strong. It's not guaranteed to be top pair and even if it is you're likely to be up against a better kicker if a lot of money is going into the middle.
Why are there professional players not folding the Doyle Bronson preflop?
Professional players could play 'The Doyle Brunson' for several reasons. One is to create a loose image at the table which they hope will pay off later in the game. Another could be to gain bragging rights over their fellow pros. If they are playing on a televised game they could be doing it to provide entertainment value in the hopes they get invited back to play again.
Should I always play Ace and Kings preflop?
99% of the time you should play aces and kings preflop as they are the two most winning hands in the game. The only scenario where you would not play these hands is if you're in a satellite and can comfortably fold your way into the money.
How do poker positions determine which hands to fold preflop?
Poker positions determine your preflop hand range as your position changes the number of players to act behind you and therefore the average strength of the field you're up against. The more players left to act, the stronger the average hand strength of the field is, therefore the stronger hand you must have to be able to play profitably.
While it's not glamorous, being able to fold the correct hands in poker is what separates the winning players from the losing players, and knowing which poker hands to fold preflop could improve your win rate.