In last night”s Mookie (I will continue calling it the Mookie until the name is changed on FullTilt), I heard about a hand that made me think it necessary to provide some parameters for the Hammer-playing audience. The Hammer, for those new to this corner of the blogosphere, is the mighty 72o, the worst possible starting cards in Texas Hold’em. The hand was named (nearest I can recall) by poker blogger The Poker Grub, named after a homegame player who insisted on playing the rags. Grubby eventually made a game out of it, encouraging his readers to send in screenshots of hands won with the hammer to win all sorts of prizes. The hand became popular amongst poker bloggers, and eventually, I worked the Hammer into my game as both a goof and a surprisingly effective tool, in the right environment.
The Hammer has existed now for easily less than 10 years in any public forum, but every once in a while, the name is used somewhere out of the blogosphere. I recall that it may’ve been referenced in a poker TV show, for instance, but my memory is admittedly hazy.
Over the years, the Hammer has grown and then declined in popularity amongst bloggers. Lately, I’ve noticed a resurgence, both in poker blogger tournaments and in my own game. But after last night’s hand involving my Team Donkey teammates Muhctim and JamyHawk, I think it is time for a remedial course.
[A brief disclaimer: These are my rules for playing the Hammer. They are not set in stone, and as far as I know, were not set by the Hammer's greatest proponent, Grubby.]
Surprisingly, when played right, the Hammer can be an effective tool in your arsenal at the poker table. So, let’s start with the basics.
What is the Hammer?
The hammer is traditionally 27 offsuit (aka 27o), the worst starting hand in poker. Traditionally, offfsuit was key; if it was a suited 27, then it was not the hammer, and should not be played. Over the years, though, I began to widen my hammer range, incorporating the suited 27.
Whether you choose to follow the traditional approach or my more unorthodox suited approach is up to you. However, if you choose to play suited hammers, I suggest a few nicknames: The Black Hammer (spades), the Diamond Hammer (duh, as in Nothing can crack the Diamond Hammer!), Club Hammer (as in, Club Hammer is OPEN for business!) and the Bloody Hammer (hearts).
Why play the Hammer?
In order to properly play the hammer, you must appreciate its many uses:
1. To Get Paid Off on an Unlikely Flop. No one expects the hammer (if done correctly). So, when the flop comes down 22A and your opponent has AK, you will get paid. And big time, too.
2. Steal the Pot. The hammer is often best played with a preflop raise. Why? Because usually, this is when the hammer is its strongest. In this way, the hammer is really a bluff randomizer. Raise preflop and take down the blinds.
3. Create an Image. This is one of the aspects that is perhaps overlooked by most blogger hammer players. Within the blogger games, showing the hammer has a different meaning than in most games. Outside of the blogger games, though, when you win a pot with the hammer (and show; See, How to Play the Hammer), your tablemates will instantly think you are a showboating fool and/or a donkey. Ride that image to the top!
4. To Tilt Your Opponents. This is an extension of #3. Once you show your winning hammer, some segment of the poker population will instantly tilt. Suddenly, that 27o is paying off not only in the present hand, but in hands to come.
5. Show You are In on the Joke. This one really only applies to playing in the presence of fellow bloggers. It’s a bit of an inside joke, really. Every once in a while, I will get a reaction at a random table where a player knows the hammer. In those scenarios, it is like having a secret password indicating that you are both “in the know.”
How to Play the Hammer
In general, you want to raise preflop (See, Why Play the Hammer?, #2). If possible, continuation bet. You may end up losing a hand with the hammer. That is ok. You can let the sucker go. However, if you win the pot, it is not a true hammer unless you show your cards. (See, Why Play the Hammer?, #3-5). Also, at least in my estimation, you must announce “hammer” in the chat box. Feel free to capitalize or add an exclamation point. But if you do not announce the hammer, it is not, to me at least, a true hammer.
How Not to Play the Hammer
This one goes out to Muchtim, who was busted with the hammer last night. It is also a concept that I have identified, so it is not part of the original Hammer Cannon.
Simply put, NEVER GO ALL-IN WITH THE HAMMER! This is an interesting distinction ignored by most players. However, from my experience, the hammer’s greatest weakness is the all-in. There are probably logical poker and mathematical reasons for this, but regardless, the vast majority of the time that I’ve seen people go all-in with the hammer, they have lost. The all-in is the hammer’s kryptonite. Learn this now and save money later.
Until next time, make mine poker!