Playing Pocket Pairs in No Limit Hold’em


Playing Pocket Pairs in No Limit Hold’em

You take a peek at your pocket cards and yeehaw it’s a pocket pair. The question now is what do I do? You need to think about the value of your pair, your table position and also your chip stack. Depending on the flop betting on a pocket pair can be either a solid play or a semi bluff. Your play before the flop is what will maximize your winnings or minimize your losses.

Playing pocket pairs in No Limit Hold’em after the flop is very tricky because you will always usually have overcards to your pair the times you don’t hit a set. Against loose aggressive players (LAGs) with one overcard on the flop you probably still have the best hand, but are you prepared to call them down the whole way?

The first thing to consider is the value of your pair. I put pairs in one of three categories high, middle or low. You need a different strategy for each. A high pair would be AA, KK, or QQ. A middle pair is JJ or 10’s. Nines and lower are low pairs.

High pocket pairs lose value when there are many players in the pot, so the idea here is to maximize the size of the pot when you likely have the best hand to make the other players fold their weaker holdings.

Middle pairs also do not hold up well against many opponents. With these hands there is more to think about. Table position is very important. You need to be cautious because if another player has an A, K or Q then the flop can bite you in the butt. For this reason I like to call a small sized raise if someone puts in a preflop raise, although, against a late position raise, you likely have the best hand, and three betting definitely should be a consideration. You take the lead in the hand and don’t allow your opponent to see a free turn card the times you check to the preflop raiser and they check it back.

After the flop if no over cards come up I bet to get rid of opponents since it’s very likely you have the best hand. If there is one over card and it’s heads up or three handed I put in a small bet just to feel out my opponents and get a read on them, however I am quick to fold if I am reraised.

Low pairs are not worth very much on their own. You will most likely need to hit a set on the flop to be ahead in the hand when it’s a large family pot. If there is no raise pre-flop I will put in the big blind or call a small raise due to the implied odds of hitting a set against a big hand but no more.

After the flop you either have three of a kind and are in very good shape or all you have is a low pair, which even if it happens to currently be the best hand, it will be tough playing on future streets. With three of a kind bet for value. With a low pair after the flop depending on the size of your chip stack you can check and hope to see some free cards or semi bluff and hope for three of a kind on the turn or river. I only recommend bluffing when everything is right. You need to have good position, tight opponents, a tight table image and a big stack.

Unless your pocket pair is a high value pair you basically only have a drawing hand. Don’t be stuck to your middle or low value pair. A lot of novice players tend to overplay middley pairs like 99-JJ and play them the same as KK/AA, which is a mistake, especially when they get to see a flop but still get attached to their hand when overcards come.

If someone throws in a big bet then fold if you are not getting the correct odds to setmine, you likely are beat especially if the opponent is straightforward and playing pretty snug. Most poker players play their pocket pairs too aggressively, failing to understand that tight players are only stacking off against them when they have them dominated or when it’s a coin flip, meaning in the long run it’s a losing play. In order to maximize your winnings and minimize your losses you need to slow down and take it easy.

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