MCU poker tip: Hold ’em small pair disaster

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Small starting pairs have many problems in hold ’em. One reason they’re often unprofitable is that they sometimes become no pair whatsoever!

If you hold a medium pair like 8♥ 8♠ and the board is 2♦ K♠ 4♣ 4♦ K♣, you hold a potentially commanding two pair, kings over eights. But, with that identical board, if you hold 3♥ 3♠, you have the same two pair everyone else does — kings over fours — with a three kicker.

Remember, the rank of non-premium pairs matters. There are many other reasons for this, too, beyond the disaster discussed above. You should often automatically fold small pairs in early positions — in both limit and no-limit hold ’em games. Especially in raked games, deuces through fives tend to be unprofitable when played from early positions.— 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.

5 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Hold ’em small pair disaster”

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  1. thanks for putting this up. This tip in particular has saved me quite a bit and where can I get pp3. Haven’t been playing long but learning fast but need to learn faster “breaking even or small profit most days but still lose more than I win”

  2. I agree with the maestro, el professoro de poker, the most brilliant of brilliance on everything contained herein EXCEPT pocket pair 5’s – you can’t make a straight without a 5 (or a 10 for that matter) and that can make all the difference in this scenario. 5-5 is profitable, Phil Gordon calles it “Presto”
    Comments, Mr. Caro?

    1. Hi, Dave —

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      The poker term “Presto” was probably first used in the Usenet community newsgroup rec.gambling.poker in the 1990s. You are right that it refers to 5-5.

      The name didn’t mean that the hand had any special power though. Rather it was just fun for forum members to relate (or possibly exaggerate) instances of the hand winning.

      Michael Wiesenberg defines three separate instances of the word “presto” in the MCU Dictionary of Poker: https://www.poker1.com/archives/5546.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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