Using PP's solely to flop sets isn't a winning strategy.
(note: I'll stick to talking about open-betting pre-flop and not cold-calling which
leads to similar post-flop situations, but infers different ranges for all players
involved. Also, I consider small PP's 22-88; mid PP's 99-TT; and big PP's to
be JJ-AA. JJ is a special case. Closer to being a mid PP IMO, as I find it's
commonly misplayed and is often better considered more like 88, 99, TT than it
is QQ, KK, and AA.)
Think, "Are our Implied Odds (IO) favourable?" and "Will we have enough Fold Equity
(FE) later in the hand?". Playing with this in mind with marginal equity, yet high
potential hands like PP's is good due to commonly having high IO whilst having low
FE, and vice versa.
If your level of post-flop skill is such that flopping sets is how you plan to make
money with PP's then it's likely that you'll be missing a ton of value, if not
losing with them. That said, these will be some of your most profitable hands if played correctly,
shorthanded or full ring. To that end, improving your hand-reading will help you play those PP's
best when you only have one pair, a draw or thin value to bet with instead of the monsters that you're already comfortable with.
As a starting point, your odds of hitting a set on the flop with a pocket pair is
around ~7.5 to 1 or ~11.8%. That is...
1 - (48/50)*(47/49)*(46/48)
...represents your chance of not hitting a set on each sequential community flop
card subtracted from 1 to get the overall chance that you do hit a set within 3
cards. You can continue this until the river to get ~19.22% or ~4.2 to 1 of hitting
Generally, mid to large PP's 99-AA are likely profitable from anywhere due to their underlying strength. They have all the advantages of small PP's, plus the addition of better showdown value.
Specifically, opening a small pocket pair from any position should be
considered with regard to just a few important things:
- Number of players yet to act and their aggressiveness.
- Implied Odds and Stack to Pot Ratio (consider width of ranges and the equity
opponents are willing to stack off with)
- Your image
Small PP's (22-88) play better against the extremes of player types. Namely tight
and weak, or loose and aggressive. This should affect whether you decide to
open these hands in the first place. Generally, the more numerous and aggressive
pre-flop the opponents left to act are, the less inclined you should be to open.
Consider folding more often in that case. And vice-versa.
Tight-Weak opponents will play a range that will give you lots of action with overpairs, TPTK and strong draw type hands, or just give up very easily vs mild aggression the times when you have air or marginal equity and they have the same. Loose-Aggressive opponents will play a range that is wide and weak that will commonly bluff repeatedly and also allow you to get greater value with your marginal hands, the times when you don't have a set. They'll also react aggressively when you bet into them. Both are typically what you'd
consider good IO situations. The middle ground between these extremes is more difficult to navigate as you'll often (~7.5 to 1 against flopping a set!) not have much equity and will commonly lose at showdown if you get there.
With regard to your image, how aggressive you are, and your likely range should
(but not always, depending on opponent adjustments) dramatically alter how
profitable you are pre- and post-flop with PP's. Depending on the players left to
act, opening from EP and MP with small PP's (22-66) will be more difficult when you have
aggressive, shortstacked or combinations of those types of players behind, as they
can price you out of your implied odds.
Considering whether players cold-call, 3bet, squeeze, float post-flop cbets, etc. against you should make you consider tightening or loosening your opening standards. The simplest example would be opponents who are IP on you. Opening is less attractive with aggressive opponents yet to act. Conversely, if you have weak, tight and passive opponents who fold too much and/or allow you free passage to hit your strong equity hands at favourable odds, then opening small PP's becomes a better prospect.
I hope that helps. :)