How to play middle pocket pairs in Texas Hold’em
Being dealt a pocket pair in Texas Hold’em can be exhilarating and troubling. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made, especially when the cards are mid-range cards, typically those from 7s to Jacks.
The most critical time for middle pocket pairs is prior to the flop, when players are typically unsure whether to raise, call or fold. A strategy at this point is very important and will depend on how the table is being led.
Limping in or just calling preflop will not give any clues to your opponents. It gives you the ability to test the waters and limit your exposure without revealing the possible strength of the hand. However, be careful when using this approach. Loose players will more than likely join, even if they have weak hands, putting your pair at risk.
Calling before the flop can be good in hands where raising doesn’t necessarily limit the field. The call will keep the pot small and controllable, which you can use to your advantage or, if necessary, give you the ability to back out without taking extensive losses.
If you believe that your opponent could have a higher pair – which could be indicated by a big raise or a re-raise of your bet – be prepared to back out of the hand. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to back out, but you have to look at the size of the bet and the skill level of your opponent. Is he or she tight all the time, but has now shown a big re-raise? Chances are, a stronger pocket pair than yours is hidden.
It’s possible that you could get this wrong from time to time – every player does. However, remember what the ultimate goal is – to win the game, not the hand.
Raising with a middle pocket pair preflop can work well in some cases. However, this won’t always be possible. It’s important to evaluate the table and determine whether or not the raise will help think out the field. In most instances, after the flop, there will be at least one over-card to your mid pair, making it difficult to determine how the hand is going to go. The odds of someone else having a better pair are raised by the number of opponents still in the hand.
The general thing to remember about mid pocket pairs is that they’re good to start with, but not necessarily so good after the flop – unless you pick up the set. If higher cards come out on the board, get ready to back out of the hand so you don’t lose more than you have to and you can be in a better position in future hands.
As pretty as mid pocket pairs look, they can be extremely dangerous, especially for newer players. As pretty as they are, though, they can cause a lot of trouble and need to be viewed with cautious optimism. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you automatically have the winning hand simply because you have a pocket pair.