Pairs in Poker

You have been sitting at the poker table for ages, waiting for a good hand; finally, you are dealt a pair of deuces under-the-gun. For many players, their initial reaction is to raise and try to play a pot because their hand figures to hold some value.

While it is true that a pair of deuces is already a made hand, and will win just over half of the time against an unpaired hand in a pre-flop all-in, the fact remains that it is the worst pair in poker, a fact recognised by most players in the WSOP 2012 Satellites.

Indeed, a player could call you with A-3 from the big blind, pair their three on the flop, and take a chunk of chips from you. 

Novice poker players will often be too willing to commit chips to the pot when they are dealt a pocket pair, and this is something that can cost them money. As with all situations at the poker table, position is crucial; if you are not in a good spot to play your pocket pair profitably, then you should fold. 

Breaking down the various pairs into categories, it is possible to say that any pair between deuces and eights is a small pocket pair. Pocket nines and tens could be classed as medium pocket pairs and pocket jacks+ are premium pocket pairs. 

The reason for classifying anything up to and including pocket eights a small pair is that, in a post-flop situation, they do not fare too well. Indeed, a pair of eights can quickly become a tricky hand to play when the flop rolls out: T, A, J. For this reason you should only raise small pocket pairs from middle to late position. 

For medium pocket pairs you can be a bit more liberal, and raise them from seat 2 in a 6-max game or seat 3-4 in a full ring game, depending on how tight/ loose the table is. 

By far the most important point to remember, when deciding whether to raise with pocket pairs or not, is your position at the table. If your hand is not that strong and you have many players to get a raise past, then it is probably best to fold, and save yourself some chips.

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Last Updated 24 July 2016
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Pairs in Poker