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>> Playing Small Pocket Pairs in Hold'em

When to Play 22-77

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


Small pocket pairs (22-77) are usually played for one reason: hitting a set on the flop. In No-Limit Hold'em, it makes sense to play any pocket pair from any position if you're playing at the right sort of table. In Limit Hold 'em, you usually want to reserve these hands for middle and late position, but they can still become a very powerful hand. Let's review the best ways to play small pocket pairs both before and after the flop.

Beginning with Limit Hold 'em, you should always consider the current pot odds before making a decision about a marginal hand like a small pocket pair. In reality, the odds are 7 to 1 against you making trips on the flop. So, in order to play the odds, you'll need to have 6 others in the pot with you.

With a hand like 2-2 or 3-3, you don't really have many other outs, so just consider them a drawing hand. With a pair of deuces, every flop you see will contain an overcard, so if your hand doesn't improve it rarely will survive a showdown, especially with more than one opponent. Larger pairs like 6-6 or 7-7 have a greater chance of standing up to 3 rags on the flop. If you don't have 7 players seeing the flop with your small pocket pair, you can still play it, but it will be unprofitable in the long run to go against the odds.

On the other hand, with No-Limit Hold 'em, you might consider playing every pocket pair you're dealt if you can do it cheaply. It can make sense to play pocket deuces from early position if:

1. Your table is full of passive opponents who rarely raise preflop
2. At least half of your table usually calls to see the flop
3. You can release the hand if it doesn't hit on the flop

With No-Limit, you can think more in terms of implied odds (how much you expect to make from your opponents if you hit your hand). Since there are no limits on betting, you can double your stack if you hit your set and play it right. That is definitely great odds for calling the inexpensice big blind Even better, you can sometimes get more than one opponent in on the hand with a draw or other medium-strong hands like two pair.

Think about it: lots of people like to slowplay a big pocket pair like A-A. You couldn't be up against a better situation when you limp in with your pocket deuces. When your opponent sees a flop of 10-2-5, he's going to think that his Rockets are good. Wouldn't you? This is a great spot to come out better or even just check. Pocket Aces are going to bet or raise you, allowing you to come over the top of him. Just dodge another Ace on the turn and river and you've just made a great investment by limping in with your baby pocket pair.

You also have to have discipline to play any pocket pair. You HAVE to be able to release this hand when it doesn't connect on the flop. You're going to miss much more often than you hit, so have you need to have the strength to much your hand when it misses. Otherwise, your just drawing very thin and throwing more money away.

Also, be prepared for when your pocket pair does connect on the flop. If you watch much poker on TV, you might think that it's an automatic check as soon as you make your hand on the flop. This is not true, especially in the wild online poker games. There are just too many bad players out there who will see the flop with any two cards. Don't give them the opportunity. Analyze the flop properly before you decide to slowplay. If you played those pocket deuces and see a flop of 2-K-J with two hearts, you should definitely bet out. Why? There are too many draws out there and you don't want to give a free card. One more card could complete a straight, a flush, a full house, or a higher set than yours. There is nothing worse than hitting a set only to get drawn out on by J-7 suited. This is even more important when you have many opponents in the pot with you.

You need to know how much to bet when you hit your set on the flop. If you're first to act and there are 4 or 5 opponents behind you, you should usually bet out. A pot-sized bet is good choice in this situation. It might drive your opponents out, but you can't risk giving a free card in this situation. The texture of the flop is also important in knowing how much to bet. If you see two connected or suited cards of the board, you should bet more to make your opponents go against the odds to draw. If you're playing Limit, you should almost always bet out against multiple opponents. You should consider slowplaying only with a rainbow unconnected board.

It can be profitable to play small pocket pairs from any position if you do it in the right situation and play it strong. Rarely slowplay if a draw is possible, and just hope that your opponent is holding pocket Aces or Kings. You'll get all the action you can handle!




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