MCU poker tip: Bad news for hold ’em small pairs

As you may know, I teach that it’s usually wrong to call the big blind early with small pairs, such as 2-2, 3-3, and 4-4. Many things work against these hold ’em hands, such as (1) you can make three of a kind and lose to a larger three-of-a-kind, (2) if you get lucky enough that your pair might matter, a bigger pair (or bigger two-pair when there’s a major pair on board and your second pair isn’t large enough) might beat you, and (3) two bigger pairs might show up on the board, leaving you with essentially no hand at all.

But if this argument — and the simulation of millions of hands which I’ve done by computer — doesn’t convince you, here’s some more bad news: You usually can afford to call a single raise after you call the blind with a small pair, but not a double raise. So, if you call, and there’s a raise, and then there’s a re-raise, you should usually fold. But in folding, you’re surrendering a first bet without any shot at the pot whatsoever.

Flop

When I talk to people who are trying to analyze whether these small pairs are profitable in an early position, they seldom mention the fact that you might have to throw the hand away without seeing the flop. So, even if you can argue that the small pair is a close decision without the forced-to-fold factor, it is not a close decision when that factor is correctly considered. Once again: Seldom play small pairs from an early position, unless you’re in a very loose game with very timid opponents who don’t raise aggressively AND you can outplay those opponents on later betting rounds.

If you never play these small pairs at all from early seats, you might sometimes be missing a long-range expectation of tiny average profit, but you won’t be sacrificing much. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today’s foremost authority of poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full biography at Poker1.com.

3 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Bad news for hold ’em small pairs”

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  1. Its not even close you would have to play world class poker close to 100%of the time to show a profit with small pairs up front

  2. Shush,
    Don’t the the guys at my home game. They love trying to set mine and fold to flop bets when they miss. Take this out of the game and there is no profit for us.

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