Playing Pocket Pairs
Getting the best out of playing pocket pairs
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OK, so you pick up your Texas holdem hand and find you have landed a small to medium pair. Great!Or is it? In reality just how strong are your pocket pairs?
Take for example a starting hand of a pair of eights. Most people's reaction to landing this as their pocket cards would range from somewhere between happy to ecstatic. But if you look at it in the cold light of day with a detached unemotional eye, this isn't really such a great hand after all.
Statistically, out of all winning hands in Texas hold 'em poker, a pair or better wins about 55% of the time. A high card is enough to win the hand in around 45% of all cases. Your pair of eights, if you don't improve by getting a set on the flop turn or river, will only beat a high card or a lower pair and the lower down the pair scale you go, the worse it gets.
The disadvantages of holding 88 are that the only card that improves your hand is another eight while your opponents may well hold two over cards, either or both of which could pair up on the board. Furthermore they could have straight or flush possibilities while your pair means you cannot.
So what can you do about playing pocket pairs, and what's the best way to take advantage of them?
There are two different strategies that you can use with a medium pocket pair like this. The first one is to raise the potand try to force most of your opponents out of the hand. The less opposition you have when you go to the flop the better and if you can eliminate all but one player from seeing the flop then you have a good chance of winning the hand.
This only works in late position in the hand, if you raise early on and get re-raised or two or three callers, you could be in deep trouble and your middle pair is very unlikely to come out on top.
The second strategy is accepted by most as being the best way for playing pocket pairs which are middle or low in value. What you do here is limp in (ie call your opponent's unraised bets) and hope that you hit a set (3 of a kind) on the flop.
Three eights is a very strong hand and it offers the possibility of slow playing if the circumstances are right, ie the pot is being raised by someone else. The great thing about this hand is that it's disguised, your opponents will rarely put you on triples and there is even a possibility of a pair on the board, which would give you an almost unassailable full house.
So the message is clearly to tread carefully with your small and medium pocket pairs. Remember that the lower the pair the less chance it has of holding up and winning you the hand and always be prepared to fold your pair if required.
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