The chances of being being dealt a pocket pair in Texas Hold ‘Em are approximately 6%. In other words, every 17 hands played will result in your hole cards showing some sort of pair. Obviously, the majority of those times you will be looking at a middle or low pocket pair and wondering the best way to play it. Well, the correct way to play your paired cards depends a lot on your position at the table. In this article we look into effective middle and low pocket pair strategy.
Often times, a low or mid-level pair pre-flop will be the best starting hand. However, once the flop arrives, those odds change dramatically if one or two overcards have flopped onto the board and you haven’t been able to catch your set. With that in mind, the question is, should you be betting pre-flop with the best starting hand as the general rules of pot equity tell you to do? Yes, and no. If you are in early position and looking at a pair of 5′s in the hole, you have to be wary of players acting behind you who may have a better starting hand and will be raising. You don’t want to raise and get re-raised pre-flop and have risked a lot of money on a hand that will more than likely be giving you only 2 outs to win the hand. For that reason, its a better idea to limp in with low and middle pairs in early position and see what the players acting behind you do.
On the other hand, holding those 5′s in late position without any raises in front of you and perhaps only one limper, you may want to raise the blind 3 times and thin the field and not allow the blinds to limp in on the hand. So basically, your pocket 5′s are a much stronger starting hand when you can use your late position to your advantage. Raising other players out of the pot prior to the flop will add money to the pot while you are ahead with probably the best starting hand and will also increase your odds of winning the pot by eliminating the players who could possibly suck-out and beat you later on in the hand. Keep in mind that any two overcards that appear on the flop will give your opponents about a 49% drawing hand versus your pocket pair, which is the situation you are trying to avoid. So its best to knock out players with a raise when in late position with a mid-level or low pocket pair.
If you are in late position with and there is a raiser in the early or middle positions, your proper play then would be to either call or fold your low pair, depending on the playing style of the raiser as well as the size of the raise. If he is loose and aggressive with a wide range of playable starting hands, calling the raise and hoping to connect with trips on the flop is advisable. If he is a tight and solid player who only raises with premium starting hands, its not always a mistake to fold pre-flop with your low pair. You can still call due to the strength of your late position and if you are likely to be heads-up against only the raiser. Just keep in mind that unless you can use your position to feign having a stronger hand than you actually do, you basically have only two outs that can make your hand a winner. And you will hit your set, on average, only 1 in 8 times that you are dealt a pocket pair.
If you should miss your set on the flop, your choices are to try to outplay your opponents and represent that your hand is stronger than it actually is, or simply to fold if confronted with a bet. Again, your decision should be based on the tendencies and bets made by your table rivals in the hand, as well as your position at the table. Its usually dangerous to be betting from early or middle positions with a low or middle pair that did not connect unless the texture of the flop leads you to believe that your opponent did not get any help on the flop and your hand is better than his.
Some middle and low pocket pair strategy examples
Let’s look at another example. You are holding in early position and limp in to see a tight-aggressive player on the button raise 3 times the big blind. Everyone else folds and you call the raise knowing that your opponent has a premium starting hand. The flop comes . Basically, this is not the worst flop because there is only one overcard and it is a somewhat low over-card. You know that your tight-aggressive opponent has either A-K, A-Q or a pocket pair that may be higher than yours based on the way you have seen him play his hands in the past. This would be an opportune time to try and take the pot right here. Because if you check, you know that a continuation bet is coming regardless of the flop due to your opponent’s late position and his aggressive play in these situations when table positioning is most favorable to him. But you also know that he doesn’t like to throw money into a pot where he does not have the best hand and if he doesn’t have a pocket pair and missed hitting an A, K or Q on the flop, he would be reluctant to call your bet and keep chasing his 6 outs. You should bet the pot. If he calls or raises, I would assume that he has a higher pocket pair. But if the flop missed him, you’re likely going to be scooping the pot with your pocket 7′s without giving him a chance to pair up.
Low and middle pocket pairs are not premium starting hands and should always be played with table position in mind. A good middle and low pocket pair strategy is therefore vital for minimising losses with the hands, and maximising wins. Statistically, they are not the best moneymakers in early position, however, in late position they can be profitable under the right circumstances. Of course, in the 1 out of 8 times that you will hit your set, they can be very profitable. The key is to minimize the amount of money that you risk or play in those instances that you don’t make your set and maximize profits by taking down a huge pot when you do connect with trips. Also, you should be trying to win a few pots with a middle or low pair when you are reasonably certain that the board does not favor other players and your pair may still be the best hand.