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Poker Strategy | Advanced Poker

Small or middle pocket pairs

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If you have any kind of grasp of the rules of Texas Hold'em, you'll know that any pair is good enough to beat no pair. It's simple math that two is more than one. So a pocket pair, from 2,2 to A,A has to be a good starting hand right? Afterall, you are already ahead of the guys not holding pairs.

This rather simplistic approach to pocket pairs, especially the small ones, is a recipe for disaster. Let me talk you through a few odds regarding pocket pairs.

You are dealt 3c,3h and are heads-up against 8s,9s - pre-flop. Right now your 3,3 hand is an underdog to the 8,9. You are 47% likely to win this hand, 8,9 is 53% favorite. Interesting huh? How about if the 8,9 was offsuit? 3,3 would still be the underdog, although only very slightly.

Lets try another one:

You have 5,5 and are heads-up against A,K offsuit. Are you thinking 'AK must be slightly ahead if 8,9 is ahead vrs 3,3' ? You'd be wrong, 5,5 is ahead but only slightly as a 55% favorite.

The problem with small pairs like these is that they are easily dominated. Even when they are the favorite to win the hand, they often become only very marginal favorites.

So what's the best way to play a small pair? By limping, is the answer. A small pair can suddenly become a huge hand if you hit the flop and make a set. You're risking the minimum and could easily gain a great deal. Calling big raises with your small pair or raising and calling a re-raise is an error. You could easily be facing an over-pair and be in huge trouble unless you hit a set.

Play your small pocket pairs with great caution, they are not always the big favorites they may look.

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