Playing big pocket pairs
January 8, 2009
It’s always a great feeling to peek at your hole cards and find paint – a pair of aces, kings, or queens. These three combinations are the top starting cards in the game. They’re huge favorites to smaller pairs, and even bigger favorites to even the best drawing hands. When you see these wired pairs, be ready to grab some chips. There are, however, a few rules you should follow when playing these monster hands. Read on to learn more.
One of the biggest mistakes amateurs make when playing big wired pairs is slow playing. Slow playing can often be an enticing play, but by doing so, you’re taking the risk of being drawn out by an inferior hand. There’s nothing worse than having your pocket aces or kings taken down by a lucky river.
You want to eliminate that possibility by firing a large raise – or re-raise – before the flop. Many players feel that if they bet too large, they’ll end up just picking up the blinds. You should have no problem with that. It’s better to win a small pot that to lose a large one. I’ll take that any day of the week.
With any luck, however, you’ll get at least one call. With even more luck, you’ll get a raise, in which an all-in move would suit best – especially if you’re holding aces. At this point, you’re most likely – if not definitely – holding the best hand. Be confident in what you have, and exude that through your appearance. Remember, chances are good that you’re going to be leaving this pot with a lot of chips. Don’t let large bets scare you off.
With a wired pair of face cards, no matter what the flop holds, you can count on being in decent shape. By this point, your large betting should have cut down a few players with lower pocket pairs or draws. Chances are, you’re heads up or in a three-way pot.
Lets say you’re heads up with pocket kings and you have position on your opponent. The flop comes with two suited cards and a queen. Your opponent comes out betting aggressively. What is your best course of action, at this point?
Raise. Chances are, you opponent may have hit top pair with a hand like A,Q, or he’s on a flush draw, trying to run you off with a large continuation bet. If he’s hit top pair, you’re in great shape, and if he’s on a flush draw, you’re in even better shape.
With top pair, he probably thinks he has the best hand, especially holding the ace kicker. He’ll probably call your raise or move all-in. Either way, the odds are hugely in your favorite.
If he’s making a continuation bet with a flush draw, more often than not, your raise will scare him off. If not, watch the turn. If an irrelevant suit comes up, don’t give him the opportunity to see a river – push all-in. Unless he’s insane, there’s no way he can call. You’ll be walking away with a nice sum of chips.
Although slow playing isn’t necessarily the best play for most situations, it can come handy in a few, snagging yourself move chips than you would get, otherwise. Here are a few situations when slow playing could be best utilized.
Under the gun pre-flop.
We’ve all fallen victim to the dreaded check-raise throughout our poker careers. It’s a move you hate to have happen to you, but love to inflict on someone else. If you’ve hit a high pocket pair and you’re under the gun, consider limping in. Chances are, there’ll be at least one raise by the time it gets to you. Be ready to re-raise, or possibly make an all-in move. This will catch your opponents completely off guard. Any reads they thought they had on you can be thrown right out the window. By doing this you’re adding more chips to the pot, and making it much more difficult for your opponents to call you. Very rarely will you see a check-raise without a great hand, and your opponents know this. Utilize this move to its highest potential.
In front of aggressive players.
If you’re seated to the right of an aggressive player or two, slow playing will probably be your best play if you’re dealt premium pocket pairs. You can count on these types of players raising the pot, especially in late position with few calls. These types of players are prone to trying to steal the blinds, and by limping in front of them, you’re signaling weakness. If they have anything at all, you can count on a medium to large raise. This couldn’t be more perfect for you. With a premium starting hand, call or re-raise and take down the pot.