MCU poker tip: Hold ’em, raising with small pairs late

In hold ’em, you should fold most small pairs from early positions. Fine. We’ve talked about that before, and the only major exception is when you’re in a very loose game, in which opponents are not aggressive.

In that case, you can anticipate many callers and a reduced likelihood of a raise. That gives your small pair the potential odds needed to be profitable from an early position, justifying you to call the big blind. Don’t raise, though. If those conditions don’t exist, folding should be the usual choice with 2-2 up to 5-5.


And you often can call profitably with a small pair against a long line of players in hold ’em. But when you’re in late position and no one has entered the pot. it’s different. Then, you should usually raise, not just call.

The reason is that against many players, you’re trying to take advantage of pot odds by calling and seeing the flop. You realize that you’ll almost certainly need to connect for three-of-a-kind to win against that many opponents.

But when you’re in late position, you can raise hoping to end up one-on-one or to win the blinds outright. Winning the blind money without a fight is the best thing that can happen, so the more conservative your opponents in the blind positions are, the more willingly you should raise.

Take the pot

If you do end up against just one opponent, there’s a good chance your small pair will be enough to take the pot, affording you an extra chance to win that you would seldom enjoy against many opponents. The raise is designed to chase players out and give yourself that extra chance to win.

So, with tiny pairs, usually fold in early seats; usually call against many opponents already in the pot for a small wager; and usually raise in late seats if everyone has folded to you. That’s the winning formula. — 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 on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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