Playing Pocket Pairs from Position vs. Out of Position

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Today, lets take an example of a pocket pair and examine how a hand like this plays when you are in position at the poker table vs. playing it from out of position. Playing pocket pairs is not always easy. There is a big difference between early and late position when playing a hand like this and I will highlight why many players struggle with pockets pairs with this example.

pocket-pair

Let’s say you are dealt 7-7 on the Button. You are obviously last to act in this instance and if you have a couple of limp-ins or min-raises in front of you, you can make the decision to either raise because you will be playing from Position later in the later or simply flat call to see what happens on the flop. If you call, you will minimize your investment in the pot for the times that the board with look something like A-K-T. You can pretty much be sure one of the the guys in front of you has a face card and you can easily shut this hand down if/when they lead out with a bet. Whether you raise or flat call with pocket 7’s on the button, depends on your table dynamics, stack size if you are playing a tournament, etc and that is a discussion for another article. The point here is that pocket 7’s play very easily on the Button. Your decision based on the flop and the other player’s actions in front of you will be quite an easy one.

Now let’s look at pocket 7’s from UTG. (under the gun) Since you are the first player to act you are probably going to put in a raise rather than limp in and risk a player raising with a random hand simply to punish you for limping. Unless, of course, you are at a table full of limpers and think you can get away with it. In which case, you should be raising anyway to pressure them and keep them from limping so much; HA!

So you make a raise UTG with pocket 7’s. This commits more chips to a pot pre-flop than you might have to commit if you were playing it later in the hand. What if someone comes along and 3-bets you? Do you really want to call a big raise with pocket 7’s knowing you will be playing the rest of the hand out of position? Tough decision, right?

What if you get 2-3 callers and the board is something scary like A-J-J? You will want to make a continuation bet because God knows that’s what every poker camp-instructional video-book has told you to do. So now you have even more chips committed to a hand that you cannot control because you will still be out of position on the Turn and River. What if another player makes a big raise behind your bet, signifying that they hold and Ace or a Jack? Are you going to call them a liar with your pocket 7’s?

Probably not, and the point here is that most scenarios I can draw up here in a hand where you are playing pocket 7’s out of position will entail you making tough decision or simply laying the hand down. Tough decisions are not the decisions we want to be making at the poker table. Of course, you may catch a 7 on the flop and have a monster pay day with this hand, but on average that will only happen 1 in 8 times. The other times you are going to get stomped on and have to fold or risk doing something stupid that may or may not work, like an all-in shove, etc.

This example may seem simple to you when it is laid out before you like this, but it is an illustration of how important playing from position really is. You will always have easier decisions to make when you are last to act. I am NOT saying you need to fold pocket 7’s from early position. That is definitely not my point. But you need to examine how your hand will play when you are playing it from out of position. Then you can make the proper decision of how to play it.

Contact Chris Wilcox at: chriswilcoxpoker@gmail.com

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