Come on, read me...you know you want to...
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Ahh, the lovely pocket pair.  Nothing brightens the heart more than to look down at your hole cards, and find they match.  So much potential....and so much danger.  I cannot begin to tell how much money I have seen people win, and how much money I have seen them lose, with a small pocket pair.  It all depends on how they are played.  So that will be today's discussion......how to play small pocket pairs.  Grab a cup of coffee, and lets go.

I play regularly with one guy that will give you every one of his chips if he is dealt pocket 2's and is first to act.  No, not all at once.  But over the course of that one hand he will give them to you.  Everyone has tried to talk to him about his problem, including me, because quite honestly I don't want a guy like that to quit playing altogether. 

Here is a typical hand for him: 

He looks down preflop, small blind, sees the 2's, and raises.  Notice I didn't say anything about what happened before we got to him...because he doesn't care.  So lets say...2 callers.

Flop comes A-Q-9, he is first to act, because he thinks that is GOOD position, so he immediately bets out.  (Stop here:  If this was his only action the entire hand, I would fully support it).  And he gets......2 callers. 

Turn comes...10.  Multiway straight on the board, plus an Ace and Queen, which most people who are calling would have in their hand.  So what does he do?  Well of course he bets even bigger.  One caller.

Now, at this point, if you were NORMAL, you would assume you were beat.  In fact, you SHOULD assume you are beat.  And not just beat, but beat BADLY.  I would even venture to say that if another 2 hits the board on the river, you are STILL probably beat, if you get a call here. 

But what does he do?  He fires again.  Why not?  Its only chips.  Only this time, the other person....raises.  So my friend, solid player that he is, isn't thinking about the possible hands on the other side, he is only thinking "I have so much invested that I can't let this go".....and USUALLY....he reraises.  Sometimes he just calls though.  But he NEVER folds. 

And then the river comes, and quite honestly, I don't care what it is, because he is so far invested in this hand with crap that he is going to give up a bunch of chips.  He may even check when the card comes, but I guarantee he will call the bet of the other guy, and then throw away the cards. 

So where did he go wrong?  At what point in this hand did he make the critical mistake that cost him so many chips?  I know, you can see multiple mistakes, but which one is the one that did the most damage? 

Answer:  Raising from the small blind with a small pocket pair.  Every other move he makes is a bluff in an attempt to steal this pot (although he probably doesn't know that is what he is doing), except for the final call.....where he is just calling and praying the other guy was "bluff-calling". 

Lets replay that hand properly, and only lose a few chips.  Because trust me, it is going to lose a few in this situation.

1.  Cards dealt, 3rd to act raises, and the button calls.  You look down at pocket 2's, and you flat call hoping to catch trips on the flop.  Big blind folds. 

Flop comes A-Q-9, you bet out to see where you are, or....you check.....either move is correct here.  If you bet, and get a caller, you are DONE with this hand if another 2 doesn't come on the turn.  A message straight from God couldn't get you to bet one more chip.

And If you check and get a bet, you fold. 

2.  Raise preflop, you look down at pocket 2's, you fold. 

And see, either way saves chips, and typing on my part. 

There's nothing wrong with betting with a small pocket pair.  There's nothing wrong with calling a reasonable bet with a small pocket pair, hoping to see trips.  But that is the extent of the value of a small pocket pair.  Beyond that, they might as well be 2-7 offsuit.

And here's another little clue about pocket 2's.  Even if the other guy is short stack, and moves all in.....remember if you call it with your "pocket pair"...because you are sure you are ahead....you are at best in a race, automatically.  Because I guarantee you that he has two overs.  And guess what?  If he has pocket 3's, you are crushed. 

So stop putting so much value in small pocket pairs.  They are NORMALLY trash.

 

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