One question that I am frequently asked by poker players is how to play low pocket pairs. Particularly in online No Limit Texas Hold em, this can be a tough question to answer. Most of the time when I see other players play low pocket pairs, they don’t play them very well. The reason for this is a couple of things that you will encounter in online play that makes playing lower pocket pairs difficult.
First off, lets define low pocket pairs as 6’s and below for our purposes here. Conventional wisdom tells you that you want to make a raise with a pocket pair, such as 3’s or 5’s to drive out weak Aces, etc. The biggest problem with this theory as it relates to online play, is that many players will call raises that they should not with weak Aces. In other words, you are probably not going to push many people out of the way. In a normal, live game, you will not see nearly as many players playing the weak Aces and Hi-Lo over cards (K-3, Q-6 etc) that you will online. Further, they will call raises with them. So, what this means is just quit trying to push them around.
What this means to you is that you need to hit your set on the Flop, or your pocket 4’s are just about worthless if any over-cards show up. Someone who has stayed in the pot has over-cards, count on it. So, what is the answer?
My rule of thumb with low pocket pairs is that I want to see the Flop if possible. However, I am not going to fall in love with my hand. If someone puts in a big raise or re-raise, I am going to let my pocket 5’s go. However, I do want to see the Flop, so I am going to try and stay in the hand if it doesn’t cost me much. Obviously, many things will factor into this decision, including my chip stack, position, the looseness/tightness of the other players at the table, point in the tournament, etc.
If I am at a table of limpers, I will try to limp. If I feel that limping may result in someone making a raise I dont want to call, I may put in my own small, 2x-3x the Big Blind raise to make people respect my hand pre-flop. Then, if I do not hit the Flop, I can check it down or fold it and the situation dictates. I may even try a continuation bet if the situation warrants it. However, if there are over cards and I am raised, I will run for the hills. DO NOT FALL IN LOVE WITH LOW POCKET PAIRS.
The beauty, however, of seeing the Flop if at all possible, is that if you do hit your set (1 out of 8 times) then it is nearly impossible for your opponents to spot it, and you will probably be paid off quite well for your troubles. Especially if there is an Ace or over-card on the board that someone else might have paired up. If you have pocket 3’s and the Flop comes K-9-3, someone with A-K will have a hard time getting away from his hand, and you can thump him over the head with your trip 3’s.
It is great when you hit that set, and it generally pays quite a bit, just remember, don’t try to force it. If the set doesnt come, don’t worry about it, just fold and wait for next time. If I had a dollar for every time I have seen someone with pocket 5’s call a bet post flop into a board of A-9-4, I would be rich. Don’t be this player. Simply wait for the next time and save your money.
If you want a more in depth analysis of how to play pocket pairs, check out my e-book,.
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