Pocket pairs is the most difficult hole cards for you to learn how to play. You know how good it feels to look down and see pocket Aces, Kings or Queens, but this feeling will usually get you into a lot of trouble because you’ll probably end up overvaluing and playing your pocket pair.
There are two types of pocket pairs. The first is low and midrange pocket pairs, 2s through 9s. And second is high pocket pairs, 10s through Aces. The reason low and mid-range pocket pairs are grouped together is because the strategy behind playing them is the same.
Here’s how you play poker pairs:
Low and mid-range pocket pairs
With low and mid-range pocket pairs, your pre-flop options are limited. Say you have a pair of 5s in your hand. Your best bet in this situation is to see a flop for free or cheap. If you don’t hit a set on the flop and there are multiple players in the hand, there is a good chance that you’re beat. If you do not have the option to see another card for free or cheap, you should probably fold.
Your other option is to raise pre-flop. This works the best if you are in an early position and can force others to fold who might have otherwise just called the big blind. If you do not win the hand pre-flop and do not hit your set on the flop, you have to decide whether you want to bluff or check/fold. This is where a continuation bet can be used (a continuation bet is making a bet on the flop, whether you caught anything or not).
Continuation bets are generally made with two types of flops: there are one or more face cards on the flop, or there are all low cards. Either way, you are setting yourself up for a possible re-raise or a call, in which you have to decide if it’s worth risking more money to make another bluff.
Your continuation bet will probably be more effective if there is an Ace or another high face card on the flop. If the flop shows all low cards, your opponent might suspect you are simply making a continuation bet without a good hand, and re-raise you.
You hit your set, now what?
If you hit your set on the flop, you can be in for a big payoff. Given that there aren’t any flush draws or straight draws on the board, you are in the perfect position for slow playing your hand. The best way to pull this off is to only check/call through the flop and turn, hoping that the other players “catch on” to your supposed weak hand and make bets. When the river comes, make a re-raise that you think your opponent will call. If there aren’t any obvious draws on the board, your opponent will probably think that you are slow playing a good hand and either fold or call.
If there is a missed draw on the board, such as two hearts to a flush, you may want to make a big bet on the river. By having only checked/called through the flop and turn, your opponent might think that you missed your flush, which means your bet on the river is only a big bluff. In this scenario, you can make a large bet or raise and still be called.
High pocket pairs
Along with Big Slick (A-K), high pocket pairs are among the most overvalued and misplayed hands in poker. High pocket pairs or an overpair to the board (a higher pair than any of the communal cards), tends to messup how you play the game. You’ll lose all of your instincts, such as missing obvious reads and tells. This tunnel vision can lead you to lose a ton of cash.
The biggest mistake you can make with high pocket pairs is slow playing them. The more players involved in the hand, the lower chances you have of winning. It’s important that you protect your hand by making an appropriate pre-flop raise to kick out players with shitty hands.
Lets say you have pocket Kings. Since the probability of you improving your hand on the flop is very low, you want to win the hand by seeing as few cards as possible. If the flop does not show an Ace, you should bet or raise. It is likely that your opponent called your hand with AK, AQ or AJ, so you do not want them to see another card. If the flop shows an Ace, and your opponent makes a good-sized bet, you have to respect the fact that he called your pre-flop raise and probably has an Ace.
Folding pocket Kings is one of the hardest things to do, but what makes a good player is knowing when to fold big hands.
High pocket pairs are not slowing playing or “chip extracting” hands like flushes, straights, or even sets. They should be treated with speed, and that means getting your money into the pot so you are not outdrawn and beat by lesser hands.
Low to mid-range pocket pairs should be played carefully because the only way you will win the pot is if you catch trips, or if you make a bluff or semi-bluff and your opponent folds.
If you happen to catch trips and you put your opponent on a lesser hand, you can try slow-playing to extract the most chips.
High pocket pairs should almost never be slow played. They should be played aggressively, and usually require a pre-flop raise. If your opponent calls and there is the possibility for a higher pair on the board, you have to realize you may be beat.
So, did this blog post change the way you are going to play pocket pairs?