Be Wary of Trouble Hands at the Poker Table

Trouble hands get their name because these weaker holdings look playable but often put players into difficult situations after the flop.

It is possible to win a poker hand with any two cards. Strong hole cards win more frequently, but you can win with any holding. The fact there are no rules to which hands you can play and win with leads some players to throw caution to the wind and play any two cards. Trouble hands, those that look pretty but are not strong, are one of the biggest holdings that get players into, well, trouble.

What Are Trouble Hands in Poker?

Are you familiar with the term trouble hands? The concept is simple: they are hands that get players into trouble. Indeed, any cards can get you into trouble, but you are less likely to find yourself in a difficult spot with pocket aces than one of the many trouble hands.

Think along the lines of king-jack or king-ten. Queen-ten, or small unsuited aces, and one or two-gapped connectors like ten-eight. Those are common trouble hands. But what are they considered such? Because they leave you second-guessing yourself unless you flop a super-strong hand.

Imagine calling a raise with Ks-Ts, the flop falls Kc-8s-4h and your opponent makes a continuation bet. There is a chance you have the best hand, but there is also a significant chance you have an expensive second-best holding. You call with top pair, and the turn is the Qd. What do you do if your opponent fires a second bullet? You have top pair but many hands beat you. For example, ace-king, king-queen, king-jack, pocket queens, eights, and fours. You are essentially hoping they are getting frisky with a king with a worse kicker than your ten, a funky-played queen, or total air. You called a preflop raise and a flop bet, and now likely fold.

It Is Best To Be The Aggressor When Playing Trouble Hands

Trouble hands get you into all sorts of difficult spots, but fewer if you are the aggressor. Being the aggressor gives you momentum in the hand. Furthermore, your aggression opens the door to bluffing and representing a different holding to what you have. Think of the example above but this time you are the raiser with king-ten and an opponent calls. You can happily raise preflop and fire a continuation bet, and a turn bet, too. You may have the best hand, but your aggression allows you to represent a much stronger hand.

Great Hand and Player Reading is Essential

The very best poker players have exceptional hand reading skills. In addition, they have the ability to read their opponents like a book. Combining these traits allows them to play trouble hands with relative ease.

They can let go top pair when they know they are likely beaten, and do not get trapped chasing draws with 9s-7s. You are best avoiding trouble hands if your hand reading skills are not razor sharp.

The Hidden Strength of These Holdings

Trouble hands come into their own when they hit disguised strong hands. Raising or calling a raise with 7c-5c and the flop falling Ad-7s-5s gives you plenty of equity against someone holding an ace.

One and two-gapped connectors can make straights that your opponents will not put you on. Imagine calling a raise with 9d-7d and the flop comes 6d-Ac-8s. You can call a c-bet here with your open-ended straight draw. A five on the turn will likely see the aggressor bet again, right into your well-hidden straight. It is a similar result with a ten on the turn. A hand like As-Td is going to have a tough time getting away from their hand.


Trouble hands are called such because they put players in tough situations more often than not. Most players, especially those new to no-limit hold’em, will lose money with these holdings. However, they have a place in a seasoned player’s arsenal, so long as they are both aggressive and disciplined with the weaker holdings.

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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