What is a big hand in NLHE?

I still see many players failing to recognise big hands in poker when they see them. Hand strength in deep stack no limit cash games is different to other games like limit hold’em and tournament no limit hold’em for example and this then affects the overall strategy on sites like 888poker. In a deep stack situation like say with 150bb or more then there isn’t one single hand in no limit Texas hold’em that you could be dealt pre-flop that would require you to stack off or get all in with betting increments on every round when your hand has not improved.

That even includes pocket aces because if the pot starts to escalate with betting on the flop, turn and river then your aces are unlikely to still be the best hand at showdown. So here we have a relationship between hand strength and pot size which is highly instructive. If you take a hand like Ac-Ad then it is immensely powerful pre-flop as it is the nuts at that stage. The arrival of the flop weakens pocket aces considerably when they don’t improve and that effect is compounded even more by the addition of turn and river cards.

So we can see that a big pre-flop hand that fails to improve gets seriously weakened by the arrival of more board cards. So big cards that fail to improve or improve significantly are usually not helpful to us in big pots in deep stacked cash games and especially when our opponents are tight-aggressive. So when there is betting on the flop, turn and river then hands like unimproved premium pairs are not the types of hands that you want to be holding. Years ago the great Doyle Brunson started talking about suited connectors and such in his pivotal book SuperSystem.

Many people believe the book to be dated and while that is true, it still has vast amounts of poker wisdom inside it. There is no doubt that a thorough understanding of that book (and I do mean thorough) would elevate a player to a level that was higher than any player that they would encounter up to say NL25. For example that book teaches us to be wary of high cards because they frequently make second best hands. However it isn’t just that they make second best hands, they also make the types of hands that can get you into trouble when the pot starts to escalate.

Hands like top pair and top kicker or even worse – top pair and decent kicker are hands that can keep you giving action past the point where you should have folded. Suited connectors may start out being weaker than hands like aces and kings but as the pot begins to escalate post flop through the streets then you are either done with the hand or you have made a big hand with it. In order to be a strong deep stack no limit Texas hold’em cash game player then you are going to need to restructure your thinking when it comes to hand strength.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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