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Playing Pocket Pairs

Pocket pairs of all strengths can be profitable hands in no limit Texas hold 'em, but only if they are played properly. How you should play them varies somewhat depending on the skill level and style of your opponents, but the same basic strategy will work fairly well in most games you are likely to encounter online.

First of all, you should always raise all big pockets, that is, JJ and above. Big pocket pairs are very strong hands by themselves and should be played as such. Be aggressive until you have good reason to slow down. Don't be stupid and slow play yourself into trouble by not getting weak hands out pre-flop. Depending on your hand and the skill of your opponents it might be advisable to call a raiser or it might be better to re-raise. Don't be afraid to slow down with JJ, but don't be afraid to all-in AA or KK either.

Small and medium pockets are a different story. These hands will need help to win most of the time, but when they do hit they have the potential to pay big. They work best in many way pots as you have much greater potential to be paid off when the pot is full of players who have hit "something." Pocket pairs should be limped pre-flop most of the time, but it is permissible to call a small raise due to the implied odds of hitting trips against a big hand.

When you have a small or medium pocket, what you are looking for is trips on the flop. When your 55 hits a 5 on something like a KJ5 board, you have a strong chance of being paid off. In a multi-way pot, someone is likely to have a K and maybe even KJ. Players almost never put an opponent on trips and this are willing to call down any bet with two pair or even top pair. Pairs don't hit very often - about 1 in 8 tries - but when they do they tend to win big pots.

One of the most profitable situations in hold 'em is where a weak opponent raises small or limps with AA/KK/AK and allows your pocket pair to flop trips. They won't put you on anything and will bet big to get draws and such out. Of course AK has to hit top pair to pay you off, but that will happen nearly 50% of the time. The best strategy is to slow play your trips if you are being bet into. The other “big hand” will probably put you on a draw and will bet more aggressively on the turn to "get your draw out." You can then re-raise all-in and he will have no choice but to call.

Of course, if you miss the flop it is time to fold on most boards. A small-medium pocket isn't going to stand up to much betting except in rare circumstances where it is actually an over pair - like 88 on a 762 board.

JackRag


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