Playing Small Pairs - Tips for Playing Pocket Pairs
Playing Small Pocket Pairs
Pocket pairs are the bread and butter of Texas Hold'em starting hands. The premium pairs such as aces and kings are the foremost hands in your arsenal and over the course of time provide consistent winnings. Small pocket pairs however are slightly different in that they require special attention and proper strategy to be profitable.
Why should I play small pocket pairs?
Generally we can define small pocket pairs as those below seven. Depending on who you talk to, some might consider eights and sevens small pocket pairs. There are a few reasons you should play small pocket pairs. One reason is because of the excellent winning potential you have when you flop a set. The other reason is because there is a chance-albeit diminishing with the lower rank of your pair-that you can win the pot even if you don't improve your hand. The ultimate goal however when playing small pairs is to get your money in the pot when you complete to a set or a full house.
Some thoughts on playing small pocket pairs
There are a few different ways to go about playing small pocket pairs. Generally speaking, you are going to flop a set when you hold a pair about one out of every eight tries. A very simple strategy then would be to see the flop for as cheaply as possible and dump the hand when you miss the set. Pre-flop play with a small pair is usually not this simple though.
If you are in early position with a small pocket pair, there are generally two ways to go about it. Either enter the pot aggressively and represent something bigger, or simply do not enter the pot. Cold calling or limping into the pot is not a good idea from early position unless the pot is already large, or you are certain it will become large. Entering the pot with a call or a raise is a more advanced strategy that should be used with tact and consideration; do not do this every time.
In late or middle position your decision with a small pocket pair will usually be easier, keep in mind though sometimes the stage is clearly set and you should not enter the pot. A highly contested pot between early position players that has been raised and re raised is usually a pretty good indication that your small pair is clearly dominated. Be an opportunist with small pocket pairs, not an idiot.
Weak opponents or few opponents
Small pocket pairs are excellent hands to play against weak or few opponents. In a heads up situation or one that could easily become heads up, it is very possible that your pair could win unimproved. The problem arises when you are against many opponents because a pair of two's simply will not win much if you do not complete to a set. Take advantage of weak players and cash strapped players by pushing them to the limit at opportune times. Many times these players will feel like everyone is trying to push them around so they will call on impulse to try and prove a point. With a small pocket pair you have lured them into a deceptively poor situation.
By carefully examining your opponents and playing small pairs at the proper time you can make these hands a powerful part of your game. Do not get lured into trying to compete with a small unimproved pair unless you have evidence to support your chances of victory.
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