Playing small pocket pairs

Although generally speaking, under normal circumstances small pocket pairs do not represent a starting hand you should waste money on, they are playable in a few instances. Before playing online poker, use a code bonus poker stars to make even more money.



The reason why playing your small pocket pairs is not profitable is that left unimproved, the best you can hope for is a coin-flip. The odds of your small pocket pair improving are negative (most often they won’t improve) due to the small number of outs you have on them.

Sometimes however, a coin-flip is exactly what you’re looking for.

Small pocket pairs in tournaments

Take the late stages of a high buy-in MTT for instance. You’re already in the money and like it or not, you’ve been slowly backed into a corner. Your stack is no longer big enough to command respect, and you know you have to make a do or die move to get back into the fray, otherwise the end is near.

In such cases, shoving it all in on your small pocket pair is the right thing to do. This is a semi bluff. You’ll probably get called by someone with AK or AQ and the coin-flip will be on. If you get called by a player with a higher pocket pair though, there won’t be a coin-flip anymore.

Whenever you make your move on your small pocket pair, make sure you’re the one who initiates the all-in and not the one who makes the call. By shoving all in you’ll secure extra equity, because the possibility of your opponent just folding and gifting you the pot will still be there. If – on the other hand – you’re the one who makes the call, you’ll rob yourself of the fold equity.

Small pocket pairs in ring games

Small pocket pairs are often played in cash games too, particularly deep-stacked cash games, where the objective of the player is to make a set on the flop. This practice is known as set mining in poker circles and indeed, some players specialize for this tactic.

Apparently, successful set mining alone can turn one into a winning player. The theory behind set mining is relatively simple, but don’t you for a second believe that practice is just as easy.

Here’s the theory: when set mining, a player takes advantage of the implied odds. While it is indeed a negative EV move to see flop after flop on your small pocket pairs, hoping to catch a set, the potential winnings when you do hit that set may well make up for all the lost money and generate some profit too.

When you take your small pocket pairs to the flop looking for that set, you’ll make your set a much smaller percentage of the time than you’ll miss it. Hence the EV- on the move. Those few times though when you do make your set are likely to yield huge pots, because a set made with a small pocket pair is one of the best concealed monsters in poker.

Therefore, every time you hit your set, your aim is to get your opponent all-in and to take his entire stack. The problem with this objective is that unless your opponent makes a legit hand too, getting him all in will be difficult. Thus, not all the sets you make will yield huge pots. This fact will seriously bite into the profitability of the undertaking, turning the whole thing into a delicate balancing act with good variance.

Counting on taking someone’s entire stack every time you hit a set on your small pocket pair would be a huge mistake. Make sure you actively limit your losses on the hands in which you miss your set as damage control will come in extremely handy when you aim to making money mining sets.

Written by Steve Larson.
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