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Texas Hold'em No Limit Advanced

Dominated Hands

8,304 Views on 19/7/12

Dominated Hands - Avoid getting in to situations with 'Decent' hands in bad situations

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What are “dominated hands”?

  • The broadest meaning of is exactly as it sounds. A hand is dominated if there are better hands out there. JQ dominates 78 pre-flop. 2-Pair dominates 1-pair on the flop.
  • However, usually people are referring to something a little more specific when they talk about dominated hands, depending on whether you are pre-flop or post-flop.


  • This usually applies to situation where you and your opponent share one hole-card. Perhaps your opponent has AK, and you have AQ. Or you have JQ and your opponent has TJ. There are two main problems with this, bad equity and reverse-implied odds.

Problem with dominated situations - Equity

  • The first problem is that your equity is a lot worse in dominated situations. Which hand would you rather have pre-flop - AQo or 78o? Probably AQo, right? Which hand would you rather have if you knew your opponent had AKo?

Let's take a look at the equities (likelihood to win) from pokerstove -

Hand 0: 74.016% ak

Hand 1: 25.984% aq

Hand 0: 61.889% ak

Hand 1: 38.111% 78

Wow, crazy huh? 78o is in much better shape than AQo. We'd choose 78o all day if we knew our opponent held AK. It's dominated situations that result in having the worst equity and we really want to avoid them somehow.

Problem – Reverse Implied-Odds

  • It's not just a matter of our equity, but also what could potentially happen post-flop if we were to connect with the board. Hopefully you can see why having AQ on an A52 board when your opponent holds AK is a disaster. There is a decent chance you may end up paying your opponent off two or three streets.
  • On the other hand, take 78o. Not a great hand, we probably shouldn't be playing it in a lot of situations. However what happens on the A52 rainbow board? Nothing - our opponent hits but can't extract any value. What about an A72 flop? Perhaps we might pay our opponent off one street but we aren't likely to lose a lot of money with our second pair. Then there are flops like A78, A88 or A96 where we can potentially win a lot of money from our opponent's top pair.
  • The point is not that we should start playing 78o more often, but rather that – non-dominated hands are easier to play than dominated ones. Even if we end up folding a lot, at least our decisions are easy. We are probably unlikely to get stacked with 78o, and if we do, it'll usually be with 2pair or better. Facing a third barrel on an AK227 with AQ can be very tricky, depending on the opponent.

The Solution

Obviously we can never know for certain if we are dominated. We could certainly just stop playing hands like AQ, but that would be foolish. Hands like AQ are a decent source of profit, despite sometimes being dominated.

The key is to avoid situations where we are often dominated.

Imagine a tight player opens UTG. We are on the BU and look down at kq . In order to understand why some hands are dominated more often that others, let's put our opponent on a range. Mainly pairs + broadways, but also one or two suited-connectors.

Opponents Hand: 77+,A8s+,KTs+,QTs+,JTs,ATo+,KJo+ Equity: 57.7%

Our Hand:kqEquity: 42.3%

This is a 12.7% range. KQ actually has just 42.3% equity against this range. Given that we will have position post-flop we could easily decide this is an acceptable call. Let's think about it from a dominated-hands point of view though.

  • Suppose we were to flop a K or Q. Which hands would we get action from? QQ-AA and then all the Qx and Kx in our opponents range The pocket pairs are possibly unlikely to continue over multiple streets unless they flop a set.
  • It's true that sometimes we may even dominate our opponent if he opens hands like JQs or KJs from UTG. But now compare that to the hands that dominate our KQ. AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ . If we flop a K or Q against these hands we could potentially lose a lot of money, while if our opponent doesn't hold any of these hands we likely won't get any action. So while our equity pre-flop seems to suggest a call is reasonable, the reverse-implied odds mean it really isn't a great spot. You should seriously consider folding pre-flop.
  • If our opponent was opening from the cut-off, it might have been a different story. Perhaps he has more hands that we dominate, like K9o, or QTs. So long as we dominate our opponent more often than he dominates us, it'll be a good spot to play.


This usually applies to situation where you and your opponent hold the same type of hand, but one is better. Perhaps you have a K-high flush and our opponent has a 9-high flush. Or your opponent has the nut-straight and you hold the second nut-straight. Perhaps you both have top pair but your kicker is better.


  • We have the same two problems as we had pre-flop, but now to a more extreme degree. Pre-flop we will always have at least some equity, whereas post-flop we can be drawing stone cold dead.
  • If we have made a strong hand we can also suffer from some serious reverse-implied odds. If we have a K-high flush and our opponent has an A-high flush, it is easy to see why we are in trouble.

The Solution

Again we need to avoid situations where we are often dominated. Usually it won't matter so much if on occasions we draw to a king-high flush and our opponent has the Ace-high draw. Of course, it still sucks, but we didn't necessarily do anything wrong. So long as our opponent can have more dominated draws in his range than draws that dominate us, we can probably chalk it up to variance or a cooler.

On the other hand, if we are routinely drawing to 6 high flushes on paired boards, we are asking for trouble. We need to keep in mind our reverse-implied odds. If we have a weak draw on a dangerous board, our reverse-implied odds will often completely outweigh any implied-odds we have. It starts to become increasingly likely that when we hit, we will either get no action or we will lose a large pot to a hand that dominates us.

Some drawing situations to avoid -

  • Low flush draws
  • Flush draws on paired boards
  • Draws for the lower end of a straight I.e 78 on 9TK
  • Straight draws on flush draw boards
  • Straight draws on paired boards
This is not to say we should never call with these hands. We should think about our opponent's range and decide whether we think better draws are a large or small part of it. Having draws to the nuts is always far more valuable that holding dominated draws. We want to be the ones dominating our opponents, not the other way around.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More

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