Playing Small Pocket Pairs
When we’re talking about playing small pocket pairs we’re talking about any pairs that range from 22-66.
These types of hands can be very difficult to play as they’re easy to overvalue. While it’s true that a small pocket pair is likely to be ahead of most other hands before the flop arrives, the chances are that post-flop our cards will suddenly become an underpair to the board … and then what do we do?
How do we know where we stand in relation to the other players at the table? After all, simply raising the pot and then watching our bet getting called, doesn’t help us at all.
Our opponents could have absolutely anything, and we’ve just wasted more of our chips.
The Joy of Sets
Small pocket pairs really come into their own when the flop transforms them into a set (or 3 of a kind).
Such a hand becomes hugely powerful – not only is it a high ranking hand, but it’s also incredibly difficult for your opponents to suspect what you’re holding, which could be hugely profitable for you.
Therefore, a very normal strategy for small pocket pairs would be to attempt to limp into the flop cheaply and then see if your cards improve. If you manage to hit a set, but all means keep playing. If not, then fold.
The odds of flopping your set
Poker probability states that you’ll hit your set one in every eight flops that you see (or 7-1). These odds aren’t great – in fact, if you calculate the pot odds, then really you shouldn’t even be thinking about playing your pocket pairs.
You’re forgetting one thing though: implied odds, or how much we can expect to win from hitting your set.
The good news for you here is that the implied odds for sets are enormous. It’s incredibly difficult for your opponents to place you on three of a kind, and so therefore if they have a hand themselves, they can end up losing a large portion of their pot to you.
It’s the Implied odds that make playing low pairs more than worthwhile, and while we wouldn’t recommend raising pre-flop, we’d certainly suggest that it’s worth calling up to 7 Big Blinds to see what the flop brings you, perhaps a little more if your opponent is deep-stacked.
That’s because the more chips (s)he has, the bigger the implied odds are, which means that calling for a little more than 7BB’s can be worth it, if you believe the rewards will be impressive enough.
Having said that we wouldn’t recommend raising with low pairs, this may be a profitable strategy for slightly more advanced players who have a strong post-flop game.
Getting your chips into the middle of the table first will give you the initiative in the hand and will allow you to take down a few pots uncontested, especially if you’re one of the last players to act.
Be careful though if you’re new to the game. This can be a sure fire way to lose large amounts of chips unless you know what you’re doing.
While it’s great to be aggressive at the table, there’s a time and a place for everything, so if you’re still learning poker strategy, stick to our initial plan of limping into the flop and hoping you hit a set.
It’s the most efficient and effective way of playing low pairs at the poker table.