Problems with Playing Low Pocket Pairs

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Problems With Low Pocket Pairs in Poker

This article goes over potential problems and common leaks made by players with small pairs.

Acting on the Flop  – Problems with Playing Low Pocket Pairs

Unless you intent to fold your low pocket pairs if you miss the flop you’re going to get into an awful lot of trouble over-playing these hands.  Any over card on the flop is a scare card and because each player has a 40% chance of making a pair on a flop – with two or more players in a hand you’re almost always going to be behind. 

Another problem is that regardless of the flop texture, if any of your opponents bet you’re not going to get any vital information by flat-calling.  This would be negative EV play and the only way you’re going to win the pot or get good information here is by re-raising (i.e. committing 8-10 BBs). 

Playing Low Pocket Pairs on a Straight/Flush Draw Flop

When there’s a straight or flush draw on the flop, especially with over cards your opponents could easily have hit such as a 10h-Qh-9d flop, it’s extremely difficult to find where you are.  Although it’s likely you’ll still have the best hand against a single opponent you’re very likely going to get called with multiple draws.  Negative implied odds can also make raises negative expected value because your opponent could hit a straight that beats your set.

Example of Problem Arising Playing Low Pocket Pairs

You limp with 8-8 and see the flop Ks-Kd-10h.  Your opponents are holding A-J and Q-J.  Although they’ve not hit anything, they both have very good draws.  What’s more, each of these players has a 16% chance of hitting a pair by showdown.   Even though you have the best hand you won’t be able to take it down easily without risking your chips in an over bet.  If you check out of position and get raised you might have the pot odds to call but you still don’t know where you stand.  What’s more, you’re likely going to have to fold to any agressive play on the turn or river when you miss.  So even though you have pot odds to call when playing small pocket pairs in these situations on the flop there are so many other considerations on later streets that make the play unprofitable.  Against loose opponents you should almost always fold in situations like these.

Conclusion on Playing Low Pocket Pairs

As a strict principle on playing low pocket pairs I recommend one of two strategies.  Either limp into a pot for as little as possible hoping to hit a set with great implied odds (without draws on the table).  Or raise pre-flop and continuation bet on the flop until you hit a dead end.

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