How to Play Small Pocket Pairs

A small pocket pair would be considered as 22’s to 77’s. These starting hands can be very profitable to play because if you are lucky enough to hit trips, if you play the hand well, you can scoop a really big pot.

With that being said, there is a right and wrong way to play small pairs pre-flop and post-flop. You have to remember that playing a small pocket pair is a speculative hand in that you are hoping ideally to hit your card on the flop, giving you three of a kind, a very powerful hand in Texas Hold’em.

Playing From Different Positions w/ Small PP’s

You need to be disciplined because on most occasions you will miss the flop and will therefore no longer have a very good hand, as there will be at least one overcard to your pair. So you really want to see a cheap flop if at all possible, and take it from there.

If you are facing a big raise pre-flop, or there has been a lot of action pre-flop, like for instance, a raise from UTG+1, a re-raise from MP, and you’re dealt a small pair on the button, then it’s time to throw away your pair as it’s not worth it. In all likelihood you’ll be up against a higher pair, and you’ll be a big underdog. You also have to consider the number of players left to act. At an aggressive table, there is a decent possibility that an aggressive opponent re-raises after you, and you wouldn’t be getting the right odds to set mine.

In loose passive ring games, often you can enter the pot for very little money, and assuming you’ve gotten to see a cheap flop, let’s discuss how you should play the hand after the flop.

When You Don’t Hit a Set

Well, if you’ve missed hitting a set, then your small pair will now not look very good, so in most cases you should just fold to any kind of bet. An exception to this is when you get a low flop and you believe your pair, 55’s, 66’s, 77’s, for example, are in front at this point. The likelihood of having the best hand if you miss on a relatively safe looking board is increased the fewer players that are involved.

Of course, if everyone checks or there’s only a small bet you have to call and you sense weakness, then you can always see another card, but don’t feel pot committed calling these bets, as you have to remember that you only have two outs in situations where you are behind and facing big bets on future streets.

If you do hit your set then you stand a very good chance of winning a big pot, especially when playing live cash games, in which pots are always contested multi way, increasing the chances that someone actually has a hand, and making it easier to extract some more value from your opponents.

A lot also depends on position, but a good way to play your set is either to play the hand fast before players catch a better hand by the river, or to slow-play the hand by checking and check/calling, waiting for other players to do the betting for you. This can pay off big time particularly if there’s a high card on the flop like an Ace or a King as other players will bet their hand strongly if they’ve got top pair.

The thing to watch out for when slow-playing a set is to look for possible draws that can beat your hand. After all, a three of a kind will lose to a straight, flush or better hand, and you have to suspect you may no longer have the winning hand if someone bets big on the river after a draw possibly got there.

Protecting Your Hand

So, if there’s any danger of this happening, it’s best to either come out betting strongly to protect your hand and remove some of the field with weak draws just hoping to get lucky, or you can also consider waiting for an opponent to do the betting for you, but you must be confident they will bet, and then re-raise to build an even bigger pot and to protect your hand. If they fold, you’re not unhappy to win the pot there and then. If there’s no draws out there then you can of course slowplay and allow opponents still involved in the hand to put more money into the pot.

The best thing about playing a small pocket pair is that it’s very hard for anyone to put you on this kind of hand. For example, let’s say you hold a pair of Fours. If the flop comes down A-9-4, the last thing your opponents will be thinking is that you have a set of fours, and you can check, call and make small raises without arousing any suspicion, and knowing you’re almost certain to have the best hand.

So, you should never discount the value of playing a small pocket pair in no limit hold’em cash games and tournaments. They’re very deceptive hands that have the potential to win big pots. If you can manage to see the flop cheaply and hit a set, your speculative starting hand can potentially become a monster.