How to play pocket pairs

I think an awful lot of player misplay pocket pairs against a raise but the way to correct that problem is to use a basic rule of thumb used by many strong no limit Texas hold’em players. Let us say that it has been raised by an early position player in a $1-$2 ring game. They make it $7 and you have the 5c-5d in middle position. I see players that are really tight routinely fold these hands but I also see many novice and even intermediate players that should know better routinely call as well.

So what exactly is this broad rule of thumb? Well it is hardly sophisticated and it is hardly scientific but it does a very good job of helping you to make a good poker decision. This is to only call the raise if the effective stack sizes are around the 20-25 mark meaning that you both have between 20-25 times the amount of the raise in your stack. So in this instance I want my opponent as well as myself to have at least $140 and as much as $175. I tend to err on the high side in full ring where the players are tighter.

However in six max then you can probably go with the lower figure. This is for a heads up scenario and if you call the raise then a call can drag other players into the pot as well thus increasing your implied odds. This is a factor that is often missed by many players because a call can actually start an avalanche of calls from players looking for implied odds for their respective hands. It works in a similar way to players who refuse to sit at a poker table and play heads up.

Most would rather wait until there are more players before they sit down. In many instances then the arrival of the second player is quickly followed by a third and a fourth until the game rapidly fills up. There are many players that would call a raise if there were more players involved and so it could be your job to start that process off. Calling raises from early and middle position players with small to medium pocket pairs needs to be done with care and the effective stack sizes play a big role.

Because you have called the raise then you have made it more likely for your opponents to call as well. However you still need to a springboard from which to make that call and that springboard is having an effective stack of at least 20-25 times the size of the raise. If there has been a raise and callers then you can lower this figure to somewhere between 15-20 times the size of the raise. This is because of the combined effect of the total money in play. I would never advocate 3/betting a solid player from a decent position and especially in full ring.

You can though strive to take the initiative and probably should do so in six max and 3/bet most raisers when you have position. The minimum position that the raiser will come from is UTG but at other raises will come from the hijack and cut-off seats. You do need your opponents to make big mistakes to increase your earn rate and one way for them to make big mistakes is when they overplay premium pairs.


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