Playing Pocket Pairs in No Limit Holdem Poker


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.


  1. I agree with you on this one. Usually I will just call to see another card and try to make my set. Depending on the cards on the Flop and if it is not a dangerous board I may try to see another card. Depending on the person and position I may raise to get them out of the pot or to try and get more information. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi there

    Most professional poker players play small pairs not only for set value. hitting a set is nice but happens only one out of eight times and this is not enough to get the right implied odds most of the time.. especially in tournaments.. so try to play your pairs aggressive pre and post flop to get max value out of them..


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