Playing pocket pairs gives a lot of players trouble in NL Hold’em. Specifically, low to middle pocket pairs. As everyone knows, having a pocket pair is good, but you are of course beat when another player ends up pairing over-cards on the Flop or after. Conventional wisdom says to compensate for this fact by raising with these pocket pairs in order to drive out players with over-cards who might hit the Flop. I don’t agree.
Especially playing online poker (particularly NLH) you will find many players who will play any two over-cards no matter the raise that is in before them. Unless you play at a high dollar level, you will find this to be true. So, if you raise pre-flop with say, pocket 8’s, the only hands that are likely to call you are the ones that have you beat if over-cards come on the flop. What happens if you make a 4x BB raise with your 8’s and then the flop comes K-Q-2? Your 8’s are now probably worthless depending upon the situation.
What I like to do in online games, particularly tournaments, is to limp with pocket pairs if I can, or call fairly minimum raises. This gives me the opportunity to see the flop for a reasonable price and get out without a huge loss if I don’t hit. It also gives me the opportunity for a huge payoff if I hit my set because it is very hard for other players to identify a set being hit against them.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. At certain stages of a tournament, I may push all-in with any pocket pair. I may make raises with a small pocket pair if I have fold equity and feel that I can steal the blinds and/or antes. However, in playing the phenomenon that is internet poker, my experience is that not getting too many chips in pre-flop with a small to mid pocket pair is by far the most profitable play.