Deciding how and when to play each of the possible poker hands pre-flop is an art, not a science. All in all, Ace Nine off suit is a good candidate for that hand you'd like to play, but fold instead while patting yourself on the back. The old needle used on players who just overcommitted themselves with A K off suit says that's a drawing hand. Home Strategy Texas Hold'em Poker. The only word of warning about pocket aces concerns the concept of over attachment. In poker communities, it is common for hole cards to be given nicknames.
Hands such as ten-jack unsuited lose money played from early position, but are sometimes acceptable on the button. Since the value or playability of a hand changes with position, a static chart like this is no where near the complete story.
But the chart is still useful for getting a general sense of the relative merit of hands. The hand 72o ranks below 53o, but if you plug them into the Holdem Odds Calculator , in a faceoff, 72o wins more often. Again, this anomaly is due to the no-fold'em nature of the chart calculations.
When paired against just each other, 72o is superior to 53o, due to the high card 7. But when they go up against other better hands at a full table, the 53o is more likely to win because of its potential to make straights. Besides creating a feel for the game, the chart can also help fight impulses to play junk. For example, Eight-seven offsuit is a hand people know they should not play, but it is a connector, and on the button in an unraised pot we feel we can get away with it.
For an education, look hands up as you play online. It is useful to note the half-way point, that is, where half the hands are worse, half are better. If you are playing one-on-one, then far more hands are playable, and the half-way point provides a guide to roughly which hands have value.
This occurs in the vicinity of hand number So for suited connectors, the average strength hand is 74s. Suited disconnectors, it's J4s, and unsuited connectors it's Q9o. All pairs are well above the median. Because of limitations noted above, there cannot be a clear cutoff point where hands stop being profitable. Although K9o has a feeble rank of 81, good players can eke out a profit with it from last position in an unraised, family pot.
Below that, hands are almost certainly never worth playing at a full table. In this scenario, an early raise followed by a reraise or two typically signals hands like A K or better, so playing pocket queens at that point can put you in a bad position.
This is the first non paired starting hand on the list, and as such, it includes information on suitedness. And as you can see by scrolling down a bit, Ace King suited is actually a much better hand than its off suit equivalent.
Poker players love big slick as much as any other hand in the game besides pocket aces. This has something to do with the concept of potential no doubt, because even though an A K in matching suits looks pretty, it's still just an ace high hand until you improve. Aside from flopping a set, there's nothing quite so satisfying as putting chips into the pot holding A K, before watching the dealer slide out a flop that pairs your hand.
But when you do improve, flopping an ace or a king most likely, you'll always have at least top pair and top kicker to work with, giving you a huge leg up over randomized opponent hands. Remember, many showdowns boil down to the best kicker, or second card in addition to the pair being played, so A K protects you from kicker trouble in almost every scenario if your opponent pairs their inferior kicker to make two pair, you're simply out of luck there.
Similarly, a suited A K is also invulnerable to higher flushes, because you'll always hold the nut flush — or the best possible flush — using big slick. In the same vein, the only straight you can make with A K is the Broadway variety, or A K Q 10 J, so once again you'll be protected against losing to the higher end. From a positional perspective, A K suited is a great hand to open with from early position, but the real fireworks come from late position thanks to the aptly named squeeze play.
When an open and either a call or three bet has come in before you, rearising from the hijack, cutoff, or button seats is a staple of aggressive strategy. When you can make this move holding a monster like A K suited, however, players who play back at you assuming you're on a bluff will find themselves up against the real deal. And for short stacked players looking to double up in a hurry, A K suited is one of the best push and pray hands you can have.
Once you get the chips in, the only hand you'll ever be truly crushed by is pocket aces which will win 87 percent of the time. Against two kings, you'll still have 34 percent equity, and you'll be flipping a coin against all other pocket pairs. Any ace high hand that calls you will be dominated too, so when in doubt, A K is as good of hand as any to make your stand on. The fishhooks are universally despised by recreational players as an impossible hand to play correctly, but that's a matter of perception versus reality.
As a pair of face cards, pocket jacks just feels like stronger hand than what it truly is: Indeed, as you can see, J J rates closer to 10 10 in terms of performance against nine random hands than it does to Q Q.
But when you're in the heat of the moment, during a rough stretch of cards or struggling to run up a stack, the sight of two jacks in the hole can cause even experienced players to become a little too attached. The problem with jacks is that, as millions of recreational players have already alluded to, you'll never have a great way to play them.
Slow down and see the flop though, and pocket jacks can shrink up in a hurry whenever any over cards appear on board. After all, opponents tend to play aces and faces, so flops like K 7 2 or A Q 5 can cause pocket jacks to become severe underdogs in a hurry.
For this reason, many players swear by simply folding pocket jacks rather than get caught up in one of those two unfavorable situations. This is ludicrous, of course, because folding the fifth best starting hand in the game simply sacrifices too much equity over the long run.
Sure, you might find the correct spot to lay down jacks, especially after opening from early position only to be faced with multiple rearises after that — and indeed, doing so is the mark of a disciplined style.
But for the most part, you should be looking to solve that age old holdem puzzle: You'll surely take your lumps here and there, because jacks aren't the monster they're made out to be, but wielding this hand effectively is a dangerous weapon in any holdem player's arsenal.
In any event, Brunson's words of wisdom on A Q, suited or otherwise, still hold true today. Obviously, you shouldn't be folding it every time out, as it still ranks as the sixth strongest starting hand out there.
Putting a few chips into the middle and taking a flop with A Q isn't a bad idea in the slightest, as you'll rate to beat random hands much more often than they'll beat you. But you should always exercise caution when playing a big pot with A Q in the hole, for one simple reason: When you find the flop you want, something like A 9 3 for top pair, A Q can look like a world beater.
Get the chips all in, however, and more often than not an opponent will happily roll over A K to have you outkicked. A K is an eminently playable hand — much more so than A J — so even when you've made top pair, A Q tends to run into that stronger King kicker quite often.
For that reason, A Q even suited is best played cautiously, especially from early position when the chances of somebody finding A K behind you are much higher.
On the flip side, in late position with no aggression in front of you, it's safe to assume that A Q is in the lead at the moment. Another hand memorialized in a poker strategy book is King Queen suited, after Daniel Negreanu penned the following appraisal in his strategy book More holdem Wisdom for All Players:.
Novice players commonly overvalue the strength of K Q when they flop a pair to it. And on a queen high flop most amateur players As Kid Poker alludes to, K Q is always a tricky hand to play after the flop, even in the favorable scenario offered by flopping top pair.
And even with the strength of suited cards, making a king high flush is always nice — until your opponent tables the nut flush with an ace high hand. Both of these scenarios refer to something called second best syndrome, which simply describes the all too common occurrence of making the second strongest hand at the moment.
Invariably, you'll run into that nut hand from time to time, and when you do, K Q can lead you to bleed away significant portions of your stack by calling off. Deciding how to play any hand in holdem is predicated on the power of position, but that maxim is especially accurate with Ace Jack suited. Another safe course of action in early position would be to test the waters with an open, but retreat at the first sign of aggression in the form of a three bet. The trouble with A J suited is its kicker of course, because you'll be crushed by two commonly played ace high hands in A Q and A K whenever an Ace drops.
To increase your confidence that these stronger Aces are out of the equation, A J should be played from late position more often than not. That way, you'll be able to see if any early position openers or middle position three bettors have signaled that they hold big Aces. If they do, get out of the way, and if they don't, you can at least be mildly confident if you happen to find an Ace on the flop. Hands like King Jack suited straddle that fine line between strong and marginal holdings.
Although it looks quite nice, K J suited is best played as a speculative hand, or one which can be played fast when it fits the board perfectly, and ditched without a care when it doesn't.
With two face cards to work with, and suited cards to boot, the potential for making straights and flushes is higher with K J suited. In terms of landing a straight, K J is a great hand because you'll have the nuts on action boards like A Q 10 and Q 10 9. As for the flush, a king high flush is always nice to see, but you'll still have to fade the deck delivering a fourth suit on board to counterfeit your hand, sending the pot to an opponent holding just the Ace.
Pocket tens are the first pocket pair on the list that doesn't include face cards, and as such, players tend to approach it like any other medium pair.
This is a good thing, preventing the same sort of issues that plague players with pocket Jacks, but it can also lead to other issues. Namely, players tend to play pocket 10s too weakly, essentially trying to set mine with them and hope to hit a third 10 on the flop. But when the flop brings an over card or two to the board, which is quite likely, pocket 10s tend to be dumped in the face of that first continuation bet.
Conversely, if the flop comes something like 9 4 2, or anything else where the high card on board is lower than a 10, players can become far too attached to their overpair. And even if your opponent actually started with an inferior pair, those low card flops give them three chances to have scored a set.
Position is key once again, so if you're first to act, a plan of open and fold to a three bet doesn't sacrifice too much equity.
From late position, pocket 10s can be played flexibly, either as a strong hand to take against the blinds, or as a prime squeeze play candidate that still has a decent shot of flopping well when your big three bet or four bet happens to get called.
An unsuited big slick plays essentially the same as its suited counterpart, so the basic words of warning about overplaying Ace King still apply. It's a great hand all things considered, but for cash game players especially, the tendency to jam big blind stacks or more into the middle with an unpaired hand can be severely detrimental over the long run.
The old needle used on players who just overcommitted themselves with A K off suit says that's a drawing hand. And while that quip is usually made in jest, the joke actually contains a hard earned truth: A K in holdem can hold its own in a pre flop confrontation, but the best players try to avoid those highly volatile coin flips in favor seeing a flop first.
And even when you miss the flop entirely, on something like 8 6 3, strong players know how to wield A K as a bluff catcher. After all, A K on that board is the nut no pair hand, or the best hand you can have minus any pair. So when players act aggressively pre flop — signaling a strong hand like A Q, A J, or K Q — but wind up whiffing on these ragged flops, you can comfortably call their continuation bet bluffs knowing you have the best possible unpaired hand.
Interestingly enough, if you polled a random group of holdem players and asked them to define ace rag hands, a good portion of responses would run from Ace 2 through Ace 9 — while leaving Ace 10 suited in the realm of playable hands. This is because of the Broadway appeal, as A 10 contains two of the five Broadway cards, or the highest five cards in the deck A K Q J Another reason people favor A 10 is that you can't make a straight in holdem with a 10 or a 5 involved, so the hand tends to form many more straights than weaker aces.
Finally, the suited aspect offers the potential to make the nut flush, or even the elusive royal flush if the deck cooperates. Even so, this really is just an ace rag hand disguised as something better, as evidenced by the narrow gap in win percentage between A 10 suited So consider folding it straight away from early position, while proceeding with prudent caution from middle and late position.
Experienced players love hands like Queen Jack suited because it offers so many pre flop possibilities. When the flop comes A K 10, K 10 9, or 10 9 8, all three combinations will make Q J the nut straight — perfect for avoiding the pitfall of landing a dummy or low end straight. Even flops like 10 9 X and K 10 X provide a tremendous opportunity, creating open ended straight draws to the nuts that are partially concealed from casual opponents.
Making a flush with this hand will provide a little more drama, as you'll always be in fear of king high and ace high flushes, either of the made variety or if a fourth suited card hits the board. As for flopping pairs, Q J suited is the type of hand you'll want to make two pair or better with, because any one pair holding will have plenty of kicker issues.
A hand like King Ten suited is another favorite for beginners that experienced holdem enthusiasts avoid like the plague. From early position, K 10 suited is a likely candidate for just folding and living to fight another day. You'll simply face too much downside and not enough upside to justify playing it in a multiway pot. Sure, K 10 can flop straights on the A Q J and Q J 9 flops, both of which make it the nuts, but those rare perfect flops will be far outweighed by the 10 9 4 and K 5 2 varieties.
In each case, you'll have top pair, but one pair of 10s can be brought down by any big pocket pair, while a pair of kings and just a 10 kicker is a recipe for disaster in a big pot. Finally, chasing that king high flush can seem like a fool's errand when you wind up crashing into the ace high variety. All in all, K 10 suited has more to lose than it does to gain, making it more of a marginal hand than the Broadway card monster it appears to be.
Another hand that sits right on the fringes between playable and passable, Queen Ten suited a favorite hand for speculative players looking to land sneakily disguised hands.
Players of all stripes love getting to the flop for cheap with Q 10 suited, because they know so many three card combinations will provide at least one draw or another.
And in many cases, Q 10 suited will find combo draws, or a straight draw and flush draw combined, creating situations with 12 or more outs going to the turn or river. And when the hand hits something marginal like a single pair, Q 10 suited is easy to lay down because you'll generally suspect either kicker isn't up to snuff when the action escalates. A regularly cited poker proverb claims that if you had to play one hand against pocket aces with your life on the line, Jack Ten suited would be the best possible hand to slay the dragon.
The reasoning behind this almost accurate urban legend is simple really: J 10 suited can make more straights than any other hand A K Q, K Q 9, 8 9 Q, and 7 8 9, all of which make the nuts; with the added flush outs putting it over the top in terms of equity.
Indeed, taking J 10 suited up against pocket aces offers a But as you'll discover later in the section, a few smaller suited connectors actually create a slightly higher probability of cracking aces. Even so, J 10 suited is a favorite hand for any poker player based on the bounty of possibilities the hand offers on every flop. You'll almost always flop some sort of draw or outs, with the chance to improve to strong hands on the turn or river, making J 10 suited a great hand to execute the float play that has become so popular of late.
The objective with a hand like J 10 suited should always be to see the flop, and unlike most holdem hands, playing against a few other opponents in a multiway pot is actually preferable to getting heads up. This is based on the concept of implied odds, or the impact of additional chips you'll be likely to earn from opponents should you connect to form a big hand.
Because J 10 suited can make so many nut straights, along with a fairly high flush, getting a few players into the pot ensures that you'll have a Huckleberry to pick on after spiking your gin card. That is to say, eight high and seven high flops make 9 9 an overpair, which is dangerous because 10 10, J J, Q Q, K K, and A A are all still out there. On the other side of the coin, 9 9 will frequently be out flopped by three card combinations that contain one, two, or even three over cards.
This can lead to a damned if you do, damned if you don't dynamic, whereby any sort of flop that doesn't contain a third nine will leave you wondering exactly where you're at in the hand. For that reason, 9 9 should generally be considered more of a low pocket pair than anything else, suitable for set mining — or seeing a cheap flop in hopes of spiking a third nine.
That means limping or opening small from early position — with the plan being to fold in the face of a three bet — or making your standard late position play to get to the flop against a random blind hand.
When faced with a big bet before the flop, it can be tough to lay hands like 9 9 down especially when that set does happen to appear, but in the long run you'll be far better off folding marginal pocket pairs to major aggression. Of course, should the flop bring all baby cards, or a single over card, your pocket pair still rates to be good a decent portion of the time.
So playing 9 9 post flop can be a tricky proposition all the way around. Most of what needs to be said about Ace Queen off suit was covered in the suited entry for the hand, as they both play in a very similar fashion. Doyle Brunson was no dummy, and if he avoided playing A Q at all costs, he had a good reason.
Sure, poker has evolved in many ways since the days of the Texas road gamblers, but one truth remains unchanged: A Q is always dominated by A K. But part of the reason for the old timers' derisive view of A Q off suit was based on generational hand strength limits. In other words, players back then just didn't get into the pot with A J or worse very often, if at all. So playing A Q was never a winning proposition, because it was almost always running up against A K or a big pocket pair.
Things have changed though, and today most holdem players in tournaments and cash games alike will gladly take a flop with A J, A 10, or K Q — all hands which are dominated by A Q. So by all means, feel free to loosen up your game just a bit with A Q in the hole.
But be cognizant of the cooler factor — or the tendency for big hands to collide in seemingly set up collisions — and realize that sometimes an ace high flop just means you have the second best hand. If you were able to track all time rates for money won and lost when playing hands like Ace Nine suited, they'd invariably wind up among the poorest performers.
The reason for this is the perception of playability. In short, most recreational players like the look of any suited ace high hand because it offers a draw to the nut flush. Anybody who has ever found that fifth suited card to fill their ace high flush knows that it's one of the most enjoyable moments in poker. You're likely to get paid off in a big way when opponents hold inferior flushes, and in many cases your hand is well disguised.
So after squeezing a hand like A 9 suited, most casual players perk up and put calling chips into the pot, even at the price of an open or three bet, just for the privilege of trying to flop two or three of the right suit. Of course, the odds of flopping a flush are a paltry to 1 against, for just an 0. Flopping just a flush draw is an 8. In the end, these number add up to one truth: So more often than not, playing a hand like A 9 suited will result in a complete whiff on flush outs, with you chasing a flush draw, or the all too common outkicked ace scenario.
You'll make the nut flush and drag big pots here and there, but unless you exercise pot control and discipline when drawing to the hand, steady losses incurred along the weigh will likely outweigh the occasional wins. Kid Poker already said it best in the King Queen suited entry, so we'll just say that all of the drawbacks for that hand apply to the off suit variety as well. Throw in a few percentage points of equity lost by losing the suited element, and K Q off suit becomes another hand that simply plays poorly post flop against competent players.
You'll be outkicked in many one pair showdowns, and dominated by the big ace high hands when stacks get in before the flop. That's not to say K Q shouldn't be played of course, only that sharp players approach it as just another marginal hand to try and play well, rather than a monster that plays itself.
The snowmen are a favorite hand for set miners, as a third eight on the board tends to fit in with the likely range of opponents in many pots.
Players sitting on connectors or one gappers between 5 6 and 9 10 are usually happy to see an eight arrive on board, as it adds either gutshot or open ended straight draw possibilities. So unlike pocket pairs like deuces, when you happen to hit a huge hand with a set or better of eights, the likelihood that someone else made a quality second best hand is higher. Pocket eights are a right in the middle of the pair range, so they should be approached as such: When the flop fails to bring that coveted set, unless it's a baby board like 5 6 7 that also provides additional outs, you're usually better on moving on to the next hand rather than mixing it up.
One of those curious holdem hands that looks a lot better than it really is, King Nine suited has more drawbacks working against it than anything else. Spiking a flush is always nice, and the king high version only loses to the ace high nut, but as you might expect, that's the one you'll run into more often than not in bigger pots.
People aren't as willing to bring a queen high flush draw to battle, so if sizable bets are being made on a three flush board, chances are high that a king high hand has been bested. Perhaps even worse than that though, K 9 can only make one straight, and that's on the Q J 10 board.
Once again, hitting your hand in this spot is nice, but you'll always have to fear the possibility that somebody's big slick has materialized into Broadway. Simply put, K 9 suited is tailor made hand for landing second best hands.
Unless you're playing it as a blind steal or a bluff, it's normally not fit for full ring play on a regular basis. Ten Nine suited is a perfectly playable drawing hand that holds plenty of potential for taking down premium holdings. It makes three nut straights 6 7 8, 7 8 J, 8 J Q, two of which are nicely disguised on most boards, giving you a good chance to sneak up on opponents who become overly attached to their hands.
The goal with a hand like 10 9 suited before the flop should be to see three cards as cheaply as possible. From there, it's all about assessing your draws and pot odds, before coming to the correct decisions on how to proceed. So the same caveats about the danger of chasing flush draws and watching out for kicker trouble apply. Suited aces have their place, and you'll no doubt be seeing a few flops with A 8 suited. The goal with a hand like this is just to pick your spots wisely, and avoid investing too much of your stack in marginal drawing spots.
A watered down version of Queen Ten suited, the Queen Nine suited is a hand that looks more playable than it really is. You'll often flop one draw or another, but as mentioned many times already, some draws lead to nothing but a second best hand. On flops like J 10 X, for example, spiking a King to make a straight can be disastrous when your opponent shows up with A Q. This hand, like many of those to come, is really playable based on position more than any other factor. It only merits entering unraised pots when most of the table has already folded around, or defending your blinds in certain spots.
The fact that Jack Nine suited is ranked one position better than the Ace Jack off suit below, despite a clearly inferior kicker, speaks to its strong drawing potential. The J 9 suited can obviously make a flush and a straight flush if fate is smiling on you that day, but the real advantage is found in several favorable straightened board. Obviously, boards containing the 8 10 X or 10 Q X offer open ended draws. But when you combine those boards, with something like 7 10 K, the J 9 connects for a double gutshot, or double belly buster, straight draw.
The weakest ace face combination, Ace Jack off suit possess all of the same weaknesses as Ace Queen — and it can't even beat that. It's still a big ace of course, so you'll be happy to open pots from middle position or call a single raise to see a flop. But as experienced players can attest, when playing A J off suit the best case scenario is finding a jack on board — not an ace. People tend to play past the pre flop stage with their big aces A Q or A K, so on any ace high board, you're likely to be dominated by an opponent who was already willing to commit calling or raising chips.
In either case, you should exercise caution when it comes to risking major portions of your stack on A J off suit — pre flop or post flop. In a pre flop confrontation, A J is flipping at best and dominated at worse, and against snug opponents acting aggressively after the flop, the likelihood of facing an ace with a better kicker or an overpair to jacks is high.
Despite the warnings against aces with low kickers, many showdowns will see Ace Five suited tabled. Players like the added equity provided by the wheel straight A 2 3 4 5 possibility, while any ace high suited hand can make the nuts with three more suits on board.
Of course, the most likely scenario with a hand like A 5 suited is pairing just your ace alone, which can cause trouble as the pot escalates due to the oft cited kicker trouble. Thus, A 5 suited should be considered a boom or bust hand, or one that works only when you hit a straights or a flush rather than one pair.
From a positional standpoint, A 5 suited is a decent limping hand from middle position, as you'll want to be in a multiway pot should the straight or flush come in. From late position, you should probably be folding A 5 suited rather than calling raises, but opening an unraised pot is considered standard.
Maybe it's the connotations of lucky 7s within the casino environment, but for whatever reason, poker players tend to believe that pocket sevens spike sets on the flop more than other pocket pairs. Mathematics and probability tell us that this isn't true, but 7 7 plays just like any other mid range pocket pair by offering a perfect set mining opportunity.
If you can see a flop for a relatively cheap price, scoring that third seven for a set can generate major payouts on big pots. As your basic middle of the road suited ace, a hand like Ace Seven suited really has one prime directive above all else: So the plan with A 7 suited in multiway pots should generally be to find a four card flush draw — and pay the correct price to chase it.
One of the more overplayed hands in holdem, the King Jack off suit happens to be a sight for sore eyes with two face cards after long runs of fruitless starting hands. But all things considered, the hand really looks much better than it really is. Nonetheless, opponents will be showing down K J off suit in several scenarios, and you'll find yourself playing it here and there too. K J off suit plays much better as a cheap hand in multiway pots, perhaps limping in late after a few limps, calling out of the blinds, or checking your option.
On the flop, the objective is to find a face card or two, while Q 10 X offers the classic open ended straight draw in which an ace or a nine gives you the nuts.
The big problem with this hand, however, occurs when you hit one pair, because both you jacks and kings will suffer from kicker trouble against solid players who have called or raised pre flop. These low suited aces are essentially the same hand, offering nut flush possibilities supplemented by a single wheel straight board for each.
Players tend to speculate with Ace Four and Ace Three suited because they can hit that extra straight in addition to the nut flush, and even aces with low kickers can win their fair of showdowns after pairing up. That's because the Q J can make the nut straight on a variety of boards — 10 K A, K 10 9, and 8 9 10 — each of which is likely to induce action. These three hands are the target when playing Q J off suit, and while two pair or trips will do in a pinch, making one pair with this hand can spell disaster if you become too attached.
Even though it's hard to lay down so much possibility, playing Q J off suit from early position isn't advisable, but limping or opening from early position, and opening or calling from late position, are both good ways to reach the flop and see what develops.
A basic small pocket pair suitable for set mining in most cash game scenarios, or flipping either with or against a short stack in tournament play, pocket sixes make the Devil's hand when they hit a set 6 6 6. This hand only ranks so highly on the list because it's king high at showdown, so it can beat nine random hands from time to time.
In reality, you'll seldom be caught playing King Eight, suited or otherwise. Maybe as a blind stealing vehicle or when defending your blind against a light opener, but in most cases, K 8 suited just isn't worth calling or raising with the intention of playing through all five streets. Throw in the flush possibilities, and experienced players have no problem putting a few chips into the pot to speculate with 10 8 suited.
Novices players like Ace Deuce suited because they enjoy the concept of having flush, wheel straight, and even straight flush possibilities before the flop. And yes, a few baby card boards with a suit or two in your favor will create the right conditions for a sneakily good hand. But the ace high component can become overvalued, especially when the board brings just an ace and no deuce.
Even with the lowest kicker in the world, many pots are played to showdown anyway holding A 2 suited in the hole — usually when a player flops both an ace or a deuce and a flush draw. If you make two pair, trips, or a flush in these spots, more power and probably the pot to you.
But when you miss, the fishing expedition you just embarked on usually costs a decent chunk of chips. Flush draws are always nice, but pretty much any middle card heavy board will offer one form of straight draw or another. The optimal scenario with 8 9 and J 8 suited is to land both draws at once, giving you at least 17 outs and a huge chance to take down basically any other opponent hand from pocket aces to top set. The off suit variety should be played cautiously on ace high boards, and while you might get away with pushing the action initially, getting played back at is usually a sign of trouble.
After all, consider a board like A 9 8. This top pair situation seems reasonable for a wager, and it is, but if you get raised the following aces beat or chop with you at the moment: Sure, you still beat A 7, A 6, A 5, A 4, A 3, and A 2, but opponents tend to play the first group of six a lot more than the second group, illustrating why A 10 off suit is seldom the best hand on an ace high board.
Ten high boards are a different story, however, because players do tend to stick around with K 10, Q 10, J 10, and 9 10, all of which you'll be dominating with your ace kicker. The two suited face cards with middling kickers shown above are essentially the same hand, and they'll be foldable for the most part.
The Queen Eight suited does offer straight potential on 9 10 J boards, but those usually see K Q show up for the nut straight to beat the dummy end. If you're already in the blinds and somebody raises the minimum from late position, these hands actually make decent three betting options though.
That's because you'll have a little to work with in terms of high card pairs and flush outs when you happen to get called. This hand has plenty of potential when the board comes Q J X, but making single pair hands is usually bad news with K 10 off suit. Avoid getting into the pot from early position with this marginal hand, and instead focus on punishing the blinds from late position knowing you'll have a decent level of post flop playability. Your basic baby pocket pair, pocket fives is a set miner's dream, because a 5 on board is usually considered a blank by opponent's holding big cards.
Limping and calling from early or middle position, and opening or calling from late position, is generally the correct approach with 5 5 in the hole. This hand plays tremendously on several different boards, ranging from 7 8 X to A K X and everything in between, so you'll usually have at least a gutshot draw after the flop. Along with its propensity for making nut hands, J 10 off suit is usually worth seeing the flop whenever possible from most positions.
The classic suited connector favored by players like Daniel Negreanu, the Seven Eight suited offers tremendous upside and relatively little risk. The point of a purely speculative hand like 7 8 suited is to see the flop for cheap, preferably in a multiway pot, and find some sort of draw to work with. Fortunately, 7 8 suited connects with many boards, so in addition to flush draws, you'll be looking for 4 5 X, 5 6 X, 6 9 X, 9 10 X and various combinations therein. As a great blind defense hand, or even when stealing, 7 8 suited offers an inherent backup plan when any middle card heavy board happens to hit.
A hand like Queen Ten off suit is all in the eye of the beholder, and that vision can change dramatically based on how you've been running. During a long barren stretch of bad hands, boredom can turn Q 10 off suit into a quite lovely hand to see. But when you're running well and picking up actual premiums, the Q 10 can easily be ditched in favor of something stronger.
So you'll find yourself playing Q 10 from time to time, usually from late position when the action has been tame in front, and the hand can actually hit a few boards well — namely the 9 J X and J K X open ended straight draws.
Both will produce the nut straight if you hit either side of the draw, making Q 10 a tried and true nut hand when it finds the right board. You'll also face plenty of boards like K J 10 or Q J 9 which offer both a pair and a straight draw, and as these are action inducing arrangements, the Q 10 can often be found tangling in big pots.
The three baby pocket pairs above can all be played in essentially the same fashion. For the most part, you'll be paying as cheap a price as you can get to see a flop, and the only viable path forward will be paved by flopping a set.
Of course, you'll be shoving or calling with low pocket pairs like 4 4, 3 3, and 2 2 in certain scenarios, such as with a short stack against just a few opponents, or when a short stack has moved in and you are last to act. But aside from these exceptions, the lowest pocket pairs in holdem are best played as set miners.
Some players swear by the concept of one gap hands 7 — 9, 8 — 10, etc. So a hand like Seven Nine suited is a favorite holding for that crowd, as it tends to land straights in a such a way that opponents don't always notice. As an example, consider a flop like 5 8 J where one of the cards is in your suit. When you're holding the 7 9 suited, you now hold an extremely well disguised double belly buster straight draw along with a backdoor flush draw to boot.
That is, any 6 or any 10 will complete respective gutshot straight draws, while any diamond will increase your out count from eight to 17 heading to the river. The 7 9 suited should be approached as a low risk, high reward proposition, so unless you connect with the board to gain 8 outs or more, laying it down in the face of post flop aggression is a prudent choice. A mini me clone of Seven Eight suited, the Six Seven suited plays in almost identical fashion: Try to enter the pot as cheaply as possible with the 6 7 suited, before taking advantage of boards ranging from 4 5 X to 8 9 X.