Playing Small Pocket Pairs
by Chad of Predictem.com
There are not many better feelings in poker than looking down at your starting hand and having "pocket rockets" staring back at you; however, this doesn't happen as often as any poker player would like. Instead, you will be much more likely to see a small pocket pair. For the most part, poker players consider small pocket pairs to be eights and lower, anything higher being considered big pocket pairs. Small pocket pairs have tons of potential to earn a lot of money if you play them properly, which means not overplaying them. In More Hold'em Wisdom for All Players, Daniel Negreanu explains the advantage of small pocket pairs:
"Small pairs have loads of value if you're able to see the flop cheaply. They're also easy to play after the flop. For example, if you call to see the flop with a pair of deuces, you likely will continue only if you hit another 2 on the flop; otherwise, you'll probably fold. If you're lucky enough to catch trips, you're set up to win a big pot, especially if an opponent has a hand like top pair."
The first crucial step in playing small pocket pairs is trying to see a flop as cheap as possible. Hopefully this means being able to limp in a multi-way pot, as this increases the chances of you getting paid by one or more opponents if and when you do hit the flop; in other words, small pocket pairs have the most money-making potential when seeing a flop multi-way. Another great opportunity to make money with small pocket pairs occurs when an opponent holds an over pair. Many players become married to big pockets pairs and are unlikely to get away from them. For instance, if you hold pocket deuces against pockets queens and the flop comes 2-5-8, you are likely to get all of your opponent's chips!
In Negreanu's example, deuces are used because they are the easiest to play, along with pocket threes, fours, five, and sixes. This is because if you don't flop trips, of possibly a straight draw, you will likely encounter a board containing bigger cards and you can easily get away from your hand.
Things can get a bit more complicated with pocket sevens and eights because it is possible for the board to come all low cards; in which case, you are liable to continue with the hand since there are no big scare cards. The important thing to remember in this situation is that it is possible for another opponent to have a bigger pocket pair or even two pair, so proceed with caution.
Most of the time you are not going to catch trips or flop all undercards with your small pocket pairs; as such, you must be willing to part with them immediately. This means not getting fancy and paying to see another card in the hopes of spiking a set on fourth or fifth street or attempting to pull off a big bluff when you miss. If you properly play small pocket pairs by investing little and earning big in the right situations, you are guaranteed to come out a big winner in the long run!
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