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.
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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