I tend to discuss how to play pocket pairs a lot. I think it is extremely important to your overall poker strategy and most players seem to struggle with playing smaller pairs like 4’s or 6’s.
It’s easy to get excited when you get dealt a pair in Texas Hold’em. It always seems like a good thing to look down and see two matching cards in your hand. But what does that pocket pair really mean?
Small pocket pairs can get you into a lot of trouble. Playing them online is even tougher than playing them at a live table. It is much harder to get a player to lay down a hand that contains over cards online, even if it is not a very good hand. Here is a look at what to do with small pocket pairs in certain situations.
First of all, conventional wisdom says that you raise with pocket 5’s or 6’s in order to push other players out of the hand. However, online that seldom works. Online players tend to let ego become involved in their thinking (and many of them are novices anyway) so they hate to lay down what they perceive as being a good hand. The only hands that can call you are bigger pairs or over-cards and that is what online players will tend to be playing. In a live casino, you may be able to get players to fold more than you can online and that is a fact.
So, what you want to do 80%-90% of the time is to limp in with small pocket pairs or call small raises. The reason for this is simple: you are looking to do one thing only: hit a set. (three of a kind) If you don’t hit your set, you are in big trouble after the flop. You are dominated by any over card that might have paired up in anybody’s hand. You are dominated by anyone who happened to be playing a bigger pocket pair. This is why it is a stupid play to get too much money invested in these hands pre-flop.
You can’t control the pot post-flop unless you hit your set. Obviously, there are exceptions to that, maybe if the flop is particularly orphan looking or you are huge stacked in a tournament, but by and large, it is going to be hard to bluff after the flop with a small pocket pair unless you want to commit way more chips than you should.
Of course, if you hit your three of a kind, you are going to win a big pot and that is the entire reason why you want to see a flop if you have a pocket pair anyway. Basically, with a small pocket pair, you are trying to hit a homerun. If you hit a set, it is nearly impossible for another player to know that you did and you are going to get paid on this hand, particularly if an over card comes on the board. Someone may figure their top pair is the best hand and you can take them for a lot of chips. But, if you miss the flop, as is the case 7 our of 8 times, statistically speaking, then you want to be able to fold your hand and get away as cheaply as possible.
The key to playing small pocket pairs is to play enough of them that you hit a set every once in a while and score a big pot. In most No Limit Holdem games I play, I don’t like to fold pocket pairs unless I absolutely have to. However, you have to be careful not to go broke while you are waiting for that set to come.
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