In an ideal world, you’d always be dealt a royal or straight flush and win every poker match you ever join. But the world of poker is far from ideal and sometimes, you’re going to be dealt some bad poker hands. What do you do then? 

In this article, we’ll explore some tips and strategies to help you make the best of suboptimal poker combinations. Take what resonates and see how they work for you on your next poker session. 

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Reframing “Bad Poker Hands”

Always remember that poker is a game of skill and strategy. You’ll improve your chances of winning when you take this tenet to heart. It’s a reminder that your chances of bringing home the pot will always be as good as your opponents’.

As long as you play your cards right, any poker hand can come out on top—even the Dead Man’s Hand, the most notorious of them all. 

If you’ve been playing poker for a while, you’ve probably heard of this supposedly cursed poker combination consisting of two black aces and two black eights. The Dead Man’s Hand’s owes its bad reputation to the legend of “Wild Bill” Hickok, the 19th-century American lawman who was believed to have been holding the hand when he was killed during a game.

But professionals and experts have debunked this myth. The Dead Man’s Hand is not cursed although it is a tricky one to play simply because other hands have better odds of winning. This does not mean you can’t turn a game around when dealt these cards, of course. You can overcome the Dead Man’s Hand with a solid, foolproof poker strategy—just as you would with any other poker combination. 

To put it plainly, bad poker hands are not jinxed or doomed to fail. They may be weaker than most poker card combinations, but they are not devoid of winning potential.  

Here are tips you can use to turn mediocre hands into wins.

1) Start conservatively 

As mentioned, the Dead Man’s Hand is a tricky one to play. It would be prudent to play conservatively at the beginning of the game when you’re just starting to get a feel for the other players and their strategies.

Keep your bets small, but don’t be afraid to go ramp it up as you get a better read of the situation. With a weak hand like the Dead Man’s Hand, it’s best to play aggressively when you’re sure you have the best hand on the table or are familiar with your opponents enough to know that they’ll likely fold out.  

2) Use your position to your advantage

If you’re the last to bet, you have the advantage of observing your opponents and knowing how much they’re willing to put in the pot.

Pay close attention to how the other players on the table behave. You can use this information to make better decisions about how you play your own cards.

Alternatively, if you’re the first to act, you can use this opportunity to set the tone for the game with your decisions. 

3) Take advantage of poker tells

In relation to observing your opponents, pay attention to their poker tells. These are players’ unconscious behaviors or mannerisms that reveal information about their hands.

Some poker tells are more reliable than others, but they can all give you an edge if you know how to read them correctly. For example, a poker player who is fidgeting or sweating profusely is likely to feel anxious about their hand. This could mean that they have a weak hand and are more likely to fold.

On the other hand, a poker player who is confidently leaning back in their chair or making direct eye contact is probably feeling good about their cards and is more likely to stay in the game.

Paying attention to poker tells can help you make better decisions about how to play your hand.

4) Know when to fold

While it’s good to go aggressive when you’re confident about where you stand in the game, you shouldn’t be afraid to fold otherwise. If you pay close attention to your opponents’ every move, you’ll know when it’s time to give up your cards. There’s no shame in that. It’s always better to cut your losses than risk losing more. 

5) Don’t be afraid to bluff

Bluffing is part and parcel of the game. It’s how you make the most of what poker hand you’re dealt, even if it’s not the best.

The key is to ensure that your opponents believe that you have a better poker hand than them. This way, they’ll be more likely to fold and you can take the pot with a less-than-optimal poker hand.

But be careful not to overdo it. If you’re caught bluffing too often, your opponents will catch on and start playing more cautiously around you.

The best poker hands are those that are most likely to win. But sometimes, you’re dealt a hand that isn’t the best. In these cases, you need to make the best of what you’ve got and try to turn it into a winning hand. With a little bit of skill and wise strategizing, you can do just that.