Playing Texas Hold’em, you will be dealt a pair in the hole roughly 6% of the time. That means that a pocket pair will come your way about every 17 hands that you play. Many times those pairs will be of the low variety. While online gambling playing a small pocket pair correctly is highly dependent upon your table position for that particular hand.
There are times that your small pair will be the best hand at the table pre-flop. But after the flop, the odds will change substantially when overcards hit the board and you failed to hit your set on the flop. Many players wonder if its wise to be raising pre-flop with a small pair for that reason. It can be the correct play, but your position and the bets of other players will dictate whether it is or not.
If you’re seated in early position with pocket 4′s, its advisable to give way to players in later position who may be raising with a better starting hand. You wouldn’t want to raise and see an opponent re-raise before the flop and end up risking a lot of money in a situation where you may have only two outs to take down the pot. In early position with a low pocket pair, its best to just call and see how the action plays out behind you.
But holding those same 4′s in a late position where no other players acting before you have raised and perhaps just one or two have called, it would be a good idea to raise about three times the big blind in an effort to thin the playing field and keep the blinds from limping in. Your 4′s in the hole should be considered a stronger hand when your later position on the table can be used to your advantage. Its important to know that two overcards on the flop gives your table rivals approximately a 49% chance of hitting a draw against your pocket pair, which is what you are hoping to avoid. For that reason, in late position, your goal is to knock players out by raising to keep them from seeing the flop.
If you happen to be in late position with those 4′s and a player raises before you, calling or folding with your low pair depends on the size of the raise and your knowledge of the playing style and tendencies of the raiser. If a solid and extremely tight player who raises with only the best starting hands made the raise, its not entirely wrong to fold before the flop with only a small pair. You can call based on the strength of your favorable position. But keep in mind that a pocket pair will hit trips about 1 out of 8 times. Should a loose-aggressive player who plays a wide assortment of starting hands be the raiser, calling the bet is usually advisable because if you hit your trips you’re likely to win a huge pot.
Missing a Set
Missing your set on the flop requires you to make a decision on whether or not you can possibly outplay the other player or players post-flop, or whether folding would be the wise choice. Again, your position is the main factor in that decision-making process, as well as your knowledge of your opponents and how they may act or react to any bets. It is generally dangerous to bet from early or middle positions on the table with a small pair that didn’t make a set unless the flop lends itself to you thinking that your opponent didn’t improve his hand and that your hand is likely still better than his while online betting.
Small pocket pairs are generally not very good starting hands and how they are played should be done with your position at the table in mind. Statistically, low pairs are not moneymakers from early positions. They become better hands in late position in the right situations. They are extremely profitable the 1 of 8 times that you’re able to hit a set. The goal is to minimize your losses when you play the low pair and don’t hit a set and to maximize your gains by winning huge pots when you do manage to hit trips. Also, you can take a stab at some pots with low pairs–preferably in a later position–when the texture of the board and your opponents’ betting patterns gives you reasonable certainty that your small pair is still the highest or best hand.