Playing Top 10 Hands

Playing Top 10 Hands - Advice from Hoyt Corkins

Sometimes it's hard to decide when to get involved with a hand. Should you be playing only what are considered "premium hands," or should you splash around and see what happens? Hoyt Corkins, World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour winner, sat down to share his views on what you should play and when.

Question: What do you consider top 10 hands?

Answer: The top 10 hands include a pair of tens, jacks, queens, kings and aces. Also A-K suited and A-Q suited are in the top 10. The rest of the top 10 are generally considered to be A-K offsuit and K-Q and A-J suited.

Question: How important is it to follow the guidelines of playing top 10 hands?

Answer: A lot of it is situational. Of course, if you've got the big pair, you want to play those well.

Question: Do top 10 hands matter if you are the aggressor at the table?

Answer: I think later on in a tournament, it's very important to be the aggressor with the top hand. Early on, you might want to lie back and trap.

Question: Do you like to play only top 10 hands unless in position?

Answer: Out of position you want to play premium hands, but in position, button, small blind, big blind, you can make a stretch and play hands that aren't the best starting hands.

Question: What do you think about aces getting cracked a lot, especially by suited connectors?

Answer: Aces are a hard hand to play in the first two rounds of a tournament. I might say you should make small raises with them, but then sometimes it's not a big enough raise, and someone can hit trip fives. You don't want the guy with a pair of fives calling you, or a guy with 9-8 suited.

Question: How do you make bets, then, with these top 10 hands so that people will call you but not suck out on you?

Answer: Make a big enough bet that marginal hands couldn't call you. Then you don't have to worry about that.

Question: When do you play outside of the top 10 hands?

Answer: On the button, in the cut-off(seat to the right of the button), small blind and big blind.

Question: How important is the rank of hands compared to reading players and all the other aspects involved in poker?

Answer: I think it's very important for the players, who are just learning, but for the experienced players on the tour, it's real minor because they already have hands they want to play, for them, it's just about reading players and situations.

Question: Can you usually tell if an opponent has a top 10 hand?

Answer: Yes. If the player is real conservative, usually he is waiting for a premium hand.

Question: And you can tell this because of physical tells or betting patterns?

Answer: It's just an educated guess. You're always guessing, and hopefully you guess more right than wrong. When somebody's got a big hand, sometimes you have cards that you really want to play. Hopefully, you can guess right in those instances and dodge that big hand.

Question: What about super-aggressive players who play anything? How can you tell when they have a hand but are betting the same way as when they don't have one?

Answer: Those are probably the better players, the super-aggressive ones. They are hard to figure.

Question: Do you find it easy to stay away from those players?

Answer: I don't believe you can stay away from those players. You have to play the cards; you have to play the situation. You can't avoid players like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu.

Question: What is your favorite top 10 hand?

Answer: My favorite hand is A-9, but that's not in the top 10. It's my favorite because I have won a few big pots with it, though I've lost a few big pots with it also. It's just my action hand. Out of the top 10 hands, I definitely want aces.

Once dubbed "Mr.All-in" by Phil Hellmuth at the 2003 Foxwoods World Poker Tour event, Hoyt uses any advantage that he sees to capitalize on winning a hand. The Glenwood, Alabama, rancher was also dubbed the "Westworld Cowboy" by Vince Van Patten while winning more than a million dollars at that WPT tourney. He also owns a WSOP bracelet in Pot-Limit Omaha.