Playing Pocket Pairs in Fixed Limit Holdem
Sat 10 June 2017
Playing pocket pairs is fairly simple, it just takes discipline and the ability to put down good cards. If you can't fold a good, but losing hand, you can lose a lot of money with pocket pairs instead of winning lots. Playing big pocket pairs - AA, KK and QQ - is the easiest. Unless you are playing in a very tight game you should just raise before the flop no matter what position you are. If you are in a very tight game you may want to just call because you don't want everyone to fold. In most games though, you will still get at least of couple of callers even if you raise. After the flop, you should raise AA until you are certain you are beat. For example, there are 3 or 4 of a suit on the table and other players are raising and reraising each other. It is much the same with KK and QQ unless there is a higher card on the table.
When this happens, especially when it is an ace, it is often best to just fold. This also depends on your opponents. You should bet out on the flop if you are first and see what your opponent does. If he is the type of player to fold unless he has a pair of aces, you may be in trouble and should think about checking and folding on the turn if your opponent bets. These are the trickiest to play. JJ, TT and 99 are very strong cards if only 1 or 2 other people see the flop with you. However, if there are 4 or 5 other people, you more than likely have to get 3 of a kind to win the hand. How you play these hands before and after the flop largely depends on the players you are against and how many people are in that particular hand with you. You must realize, though, that with 4 or 5 other people in the hand you have to fold when almost any over card hits the board unless you have three of a kind. It does depend on the card but if an ace or a king flop, you should pretty much fold automatically. These are 88 down to 22. In most any situation, you need to flop 3 of a kind to win the hand. Most players play these cards way to often, in positions they shouldn't, and end up losing a lot of money with them.
You must realize that the only way you will win the pot with 4 or 5 others in the hand is to flop 3 of a kind. If you don't, you have to fold if someone bets. Because this happens only about 1 in 8 times, you must win a lot of money compared to what you put into the pot to make this play profitable over the long haul. Because of this you should only be calling before the flop when a couple of other players have called before you and neither of them raised. If anyone raises and you haven't put any money into the pot yet, fold automatically. It is good to have at least 4 other players in the hand but, hopefully, even more. You want as many players in the hand as possible to make sure that you win a large pot when you flop three of a kind. The only other situation I think you should be calling (or raising) with these cards is if you are on the button or your are the player just before the button and no one else has called.
You could raise and try to steal the blinds outright. If that doesn't work you still have a pair against only 1 or 2 other people after the flop and you will be in decent, if not great shape. Remember that high pocket pairs are good in almost any situation and it is usually best to bet before the flop and keep betting until you feel you are beat. With medium pocket pairs, you must be more careful and how you play them depends largely on your position and how the hand plays out. With small pocket pairs, you must make sure you get in cheap before the flop and with a lot of other players. Most players make the mistake of calling (or raising) way too long with pocket pairs and don't realize when they are beat. Worst yet, some players know they are beat but keep calling just because they had such a nice looking hand and they're annoyed that someone with q5 is going to beat them. Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Pocket pairs can be very profitable but you must pla y them smart and fold when you know you should.