How to Play Low Pocket Pairs in MTTs

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How to Play Low Pocket Pairs in MTTs

Pocket deuces to sixes are the type of hands that TAGs like Harrington suggest you should only play from position.  But, catching a set with these hands, it is the easiest way to double your chips and trap a deep stack with 100+BBs.  The problem with low pocket pairs is that nits don’t release them at the right time.  Also, if you miss the flop than playing with overcards on the board is hardly profitably.

A deciding factor when playing low pocket pairs is the size of your stack and the stage of the tournament.  The following article outlines how I’ll play 22-66 in MTTs.

The Early Stages

At the start of an MTT, the blinds will be so small that everyone will be a deep stacked e.g. 5/10 starting blinds and 1,500 chip stack.  With everyone on over 100BBs there’s massive scope for hitting your set and getting paid off.  That’s why I’ll happily set mine in or out of position with 7:1 odds of catching the board.  I’ll fold to pre-flop raises or 3bets worth more than 10% of my stack however, as this just doesn’t justify the cost of calling.

When you’re UTG with low pocket pairs at this stage you have a choice.  You can either open the pot 4xBBs or you can limp.  Both have their advantages, by raising you’re increasing your equity in the pot, increasing the size and also giving yourself opportunities to cbet the flop.  But, limping UTG lets you draw more opponents into the pot and increase the implied odds of catching a set.  With more opponents, there’s also a greater chance of someone catching a decent hand like top two pair and calling you all-in.

The Middle Dtages

Once the blinds and antes kick in, everything is a different ball game.  The average stack will have dropped from 100BBs to just 20BBs, making you shallow and increasing the need to steal pots or fold your marginal hands.  You can’t afford to just limp with pocket pairs anymore because any decent player will try isolating you or 3bet steal from the CO. 

Out of position, I’m open-folding low pocket pairs.  If I’m facing a 3bet then it’s best to fold because there are so many hands that beat me.  A rule of thumb is to never open-raise and fold to a 3bet if you started with less than 15BBs.  You’re already pot-committed and it’s definitely worthwhile heading into a coin-flip situation against AK or AQ.

From the CO, I’m either raising or shoving low pocket pairs depending on my chip stack. With less than 15BBs, I’m shoving and will happily lay the pot to see all 5 community cards to make my set.  With more than 15BBs, I’m open-raising or 3betting from CO in the hope of winning pre-flop or cbetting the flop.

The End Game

The value of low pocket pairs shoots up towards the final table.  The average chip stack will be around 10-12BBs which makes pre-flop shoving a necessity with these hands.  There’s no room for post-flop play or limping – and taking down the pot pre-flop is very profitable.

I’m always going to shove over the top or call a small stack player’s all-in here.  With M < 10, short stack players will be shoving with any Ace rage and you’ll almost always be favourite.

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