How to Handle Being Card Dead

card dead

Card Dead

Being card dead is part and parcel of poker. For many, it’s just bad luck and you can’t change anything. A lot of players believe you cannot do much to avoid it and you will have sessions of card dead and either lose some money in cash or blind down in tournaments. This is only partly true. Obviously, poker is easier when you are on heater or picking up good cards but there is ways to help your chances of success without requiring strong hands. In this article, we will explore ways to handle being card dead so you are better prepared next time.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What Does “Card Dead” Mean?

It is where someone is dealt poor starting hands for a long period. Hands like deuce-seven and eight-three off-suit would qualify.

Take Advantage of Your Tight Image

One of the key parts of poker is perception. Now, if you’ve been folding for an hour, forget that you’ve had rubbish hands – your opponents don’t know what you’ve had. They’ve just seen you fold continuously. You have a solid table image. This image will allow you to get away with a steal or two that other players can’t. Use it to your advantage! This could be as simple as a pre-flop 3 bet or a flop check-raise against an active c-bettor.

Using your image to your advantage is something you should always be looking to do. Whether it’s getting paid off as a LAG or pulling off more bluffs. This strategy should employed regardless of whether you’re card dead or not.

Stay Active From Late Position Regardless

Have you ever noticed that a lot hands just end pre-flop? A simple raise pre-flop is all that is needed against some players. I’ve banged the drum about stealing in late position many times and will continue to here. As we know, hand selection widens, the later position you are. It’s important to keep your tournament stack growing and for your image and win rate in cash games too. So this point is important for both types of poker player.

Being an active player from late position is a way to help you when you’re card dead. This can come in a two forms:

  1. Raising first in. If it folds to you in the cutoff or button, put in a raise and pick the pot up or play post flop in position. I recall in live poker, I used to pretend to look when I was in late position then just play the pot. I didn’t want to look down and find rags so would prefer to just play blind. You’d be surprised how effective this was! Be prepared to adopt solid continuation bet strategy though. You can’t just blindly c-bet, you need to know the right opponents and flop textures. (Take our course to improve your c-betting)
  2. 3 Betting bad LAGS in position. If you’re observant, you will realise who is active preflop and who isn’t. An effective counter strategy to bad LAG players is to 3 bet them when you’re in position. They’ll often just fold pre-flop. Therefore, you can sometimes do this with rubbish hands. The strength of your hand is irrelevant, it’s the situation you’re playing. This is particularly effective on the sports-betting sites which attract bad LAG players. Free Bets UK showcases reputable sports betting sites so take a look there and use ones that offer poker.

Assess Your Hand Selection…

Many players cry “I was card dead” when they’ve actually had lots of profitable scenarios and hands. If you’re folding ace jack under the gun or folding suited connectors multi-way in position, you may want to review your hand selection. If you’re continuously finding yourself card dead, you may not actually be card dead, but just playing too tightly.  

This happens to a lot of poker players who have hit a level in their learning. They are not a beginner anymore but think they can skirt by playing super tight. This is rarely the optimal strategy and will find you losing a lot in blinds and more importantly, wasting opportunities to make money.


Being card dead is just probability. Poker is more than the cards you’re dealt though. We’ve looked at a few ways to help your win rate when you’re card dead but there are other ways too. Pay attention to your table, stay patient, pick your spots and don’t tilt. These are all practical ways to ensure you are equipped to handle being card dead. As are taking advantage of your image, staying aggressive in late position and assessing the cards you play.

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Featured image created by master1305 –

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: