Poker hand A is said to dominate poker hand B if poker hand B has 3 or fewer outs (cards to catch) that would improve it enough to win. Informally, domination is sometimes used to refer to any situation where one hand is highly likely to beat another. The term drawing dead is used to denote a domination situation with 0 outs.
In hold’em poker variations, domination usually refers to one of three situations involving the hole cards:
- Higher pair dominating a lower pair (e.g., QQ vs. 99): Barring an unlikely straight or flush possibility, the underdog must catch 1 of 2 remaining nines (improving to 999) to beat the QQ.
- A pair dominating higher than at least of one the cards in a non-paired hand (e.g. JJ vs. A8, AJ or 87)
- Sharing a card, a higher kicker dominating a lower kicker (e.g., AJ vs. KJ or AJ vs. A9): Barring an unlikely straight of flush possibility, the underdog must catch 1 of 3 remaining cards of his kicker rank (and not catch 1 of the 3 remaining cards of the opponent’s kicker rank).
The following table shows examples of common domination situations. The precentages represent preflop pot equity in a heads up confrontation (percentage of winning plus half the percentage of splitting the pot).
vs. A♦ J♥ 9♦ 9♥ 8♦ 7♥ J♠ J♣ 69.5 81.0 82.2 A♠ K♣ 74.0 44.3 61.9
The green percentages denote the three common domination situations noted above. In contrast, the brown percentages denote non-domination situations. After the flop domination becomes more complex and there are many domination situations which don’t deserve exhaustive treatment however most commonly domination is maintained:
- A higher hand vs. a lower (AJ vs. A9 when a A flops with no 9 or J)
- A higher pair vs. a lower (QQ vs. 99 where no 9 or Q flops)
However a situation can emerge where domination is lost. This can either be a result of :
- the weaker hand adding addition outs (example: JJ vs. A8 where an 8 flops with no J or A)
- the weaker hand becoming stronger but not dominating (example JJ vs 87 with a flop of A-8-7, or 9♦ 9♥ vs. 6♠ 5♠ with a flop of 4♠ 3♠ 5♥
- The weaker hand can become the dominating hand (example: QQ vs 99 where a 9 but not a Q flops, or J♠ J♣ vs. 8♣ 7♣ on a flop of 6♦ 5♦ 4♦ ). The term reverse domination is applied to the 3rd case of preflop domination under one of these reversals (example: AJ vs A9 when a 9 but not a J flops, regardless of whether an A flops).
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