Playing Small Pairs
For the purposes of this discussion we are going to call small pairs anything in the range 22 – 88. Anything else is a high pair.
So, let’s go about defining how we play with these small pocket pairs.
When you get down to bubble play or even four handed you can raise with these pairs to take down the blinds. You certainly don’t want to get a caller when you have these hands in this spot. Depending on the situation it’s often correct play to push with these hands to deny a caller. However this involves introducing risk and risk is something we are averse to.
So the easy play is to Fold Them!
In a limit or no limit cash game these small pairs are a really useful bankroll builder. You play to limp in with the pockets and pray you hit a set. Then you pray that the flush or straight does not arrive to beat you.
When you limp in you are hoping you don’t get raised so that you get to see the flop cheaply. When the overcards come you can easily fold – no set no bet.
The fact is that a set is one of the most powerful poker hands because it is so well disguised and for that reason alone the small pocket pairs are loved by all poker players.
In limit hold em small pocket pairs are often overplayed. How many times have you been holding top pair top kicker and your villain catches his set on the turn? They should have folded but got lucky on you.
In no limit they are such a powerful hand. When someone raises or re raises a goodly amount in a cash game you can be sure they have a good pair. In this spot it’s often the case that you can call the raise with a smaller pair hoping to hit a set. This is taking advantage of what is known as “implied odds”.
Implied odd’s mean that you know that the weak player is going to get it all in the middle with their KK and if you hit your set you are golden for a double up.
In our SNG though, we know that there is always a very good chance of the overcards coming and once they hit you have some serious thinking to do over how to play the hand.
The reason I say “fold them” so strongly is because playing these pairs mean limping into pots and if you have read the ground rules you’ll know that limping is not allowed.
The problem with playing these hands is what to do once you are faced with a flop. When the overcards hit you just don’t know where you are.
In a cash game it doesn’t matter. You can easily fold even if you think you have the best hand in that situation. But in our SNG every chip is vital and so donking off chips just doesn’t factor into our strategy.
Even if you have a large chip lead there is no reason to play with these hands. More often than not they will get you involved in a pot that you should not be in. Often looking to hit a straight to be sure of winning the hand. You use TWO cards to try and make a straight and so playing this style will hurt you.
Remember that bluffers and poker pro wannabees abound in this game format and when they try bluffing at a pot how do you know where you stand with these small pairs? You can easily donk off your chips when someone hit’s a 10 on the turn or river to beat you.
Playing small pocket pairs is introducing risk to your game that you don’t need and for that reason you should fold unless you are going to take down the blinds with them.
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