Playing Small Pairs in No Limit Texas Hold’em
Tuesday, 5. January 2010

One type of hand you might find yourself holding in No Limit Hold`em is a small pair. Small pairs, those below 8-8, are not the most profitable to play in No Limit Hold`em. You generally only want to play these hands in late position, and not for any kind of substantial raise.

Truth be told, players should only roll with a small pair if they feel that their opponents are bluffing or if they think that a bluff on their part will cause their opponent to fold. At the end of the day, under most circumstances, small pairs should be folded in the face of a bet and most certainly in the event of a raise.
Hit Them Hard and Go for the Kill
Your only goal with a small pair is to flop a set (a card on the board matching your pair to give you three of a kind). A good rule to follow is the maxim “no set, no bet” meaning if you don’t hit your set on the flop and someone bets, you are done with the hand. If you do flop your set, you should by no means slow play. You should almost always bet your hand in this situation. Your opponents will not put you on a set since it is mathematically unlikely for you to have one, therefore if they have made top pair or a strong draw they will probably call you. Furthermore, as good as your hand is, if someone makes a straight or a flush they will still beat you. You need to get enough money in the pot early so that if they get close to making a hand that can beat you, you can bet them out of the hand and still win a nice pot.

With No Hit You've had Your Chips
Very rarely do you want to put any money in if you miss your set. If your opponents all check to you, you might consider throwing in a bet to win the pot right there. If it is checked all the way to the river and someone makes a bet on the river, you need to consider if they are trying to steal. Only if you are reasonably certain they are should you call with your small pair. It is highly possible that there will be five over cards to your pair once all the cards are out, and everyone who played the hand will need only match one of them to beat you.

Another time you can stick around is if your small pair gives you a good straight possibility, for example, you have 5, 5 and the flop comes 4, 6, 7, or you have 4, 4 and the flop is 3, 5, 6. What’s nice about this situation is that if the straight comes, you are likely to get paid off by over pairs or top pair since there are not many holdings with a 5 or a 4 in them that are profitable to play, and it will be hard for people to put you on the straight.

A Modest Holding After All
It is important to remember that small pairs are not very good in No Limit Hold`em . Even if you get your hand heads up, you are rarely a big favorite over any hand, and are a big underdog to a good number of hands. Treat this as a late position drawing hand, and don’t waste too much money chasing it.

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