I'm still uncertain about best way to play small pairs on early or middle positions. 22, 33, etc. even up to 99. Straight and Flush possibility are low, and even if you catch one of these - someone can have higher straight of flush. Jackpot is a Set. But sets are so rare.

How do you think, what is the pre-flop and flop betting strategy, and what do you think about chasing the set after the flop ?

4 Answers 4


It is almost always best to see the flop if possible with small pocket pairs. By if possible I mean limping in or calling a small raise. It doesn't pay to add anything after the flop, but a set on the flop, especially a low set, is more hidden and can win some nice pots.

  • 2
    Something that's significant, is that implied odds are a very important consideration when deciding whether or not to see a flop if Hero's plan is just to "set mine".
    – Toby Booth
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 17:34
  • Implied odds. That was the term I was looking for.
    – jacknad
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:21
  • I would agree that a low set is more hidden, but also more risky, following this strategy there could be more than one limper with poket pair, and you can find yourself in a difficult set over set situation, I don't have the numbers but I've seen it on micro stackes a few times.
    – rodrigoq
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 14:45

Well, obviously like everything in poker, the answer is: "it depends".

Let's strip it down to its core: Pocket pairs are good because if you go against an opponent that doesn't have a pocket pair, he needs to hit the flop/turn/river somehow in order to have showdown value. You don't have to connect to the flop to do this, because you already have a pair.

This is actually the reason why pocket Aces are the best hand. In this case, your opponent has to connect to the board. But because there is no higher pair than Aces, he has to do it twice in order to win (with some exceptions obviously). This is unlikely to happen, especially in Texas Hold'em.

Small pocket pairs lose their value as their rank goes down. Let's take for example pocket sixes. Cards bigger than sixes are 7 and up, this means (14 - 7 + 1) x 4 = 32. There is a huge chance that one of those 32 cards will show up on the board. Now if we consider pocket threes, then there are 44 cards bigger than a 3.

What this means is that, unless you hit a set, the value of your hand will be low, especially if a multi-player hand.

In my opinion a good way to play these hands is to make a standard preflop raise and hope to hit a set on the flop. If you can see a free turn or river, go with it. But if at any time you start to encouter resistance (a.k.a. your opponent(s) bet or raise), GIVE IT UP. The odds of hitting a set are so low, that calling any bet would not make sense.

I usually never play 22-55 unless I'm deep enough (at least 40 BB). When it comes to 66-88, the value increases a bit so you can play the hand a little more often.

When it comes to pocket nines or above, things change significantly.

All this is obviously just a small part of the decision process. There are a lot more factors to consider. There are situations where it's a good idea to play pocket fours and other situations where folding Jacks makes a lot of sense... It depends on the action, how your opponent(s) play, is it tournament or cash, how deep everyone is and much more.

  • (+1) I'll just add that you can win big pots when you have a pocket pair that connects with the board to make a set. From my experience, these hands can catch your opponent off guard when there is a non-descript board (e.g. 2-4-7-J-K when you have 77 and they have AK or KJ). This dynamic doesn't exist as much with other cards (e.g. suited connectors) because players often notice when there are flush/straight possibilities or when the board pairs to give someone a set/full house possibility. This added element can win some huge pots with pocket pairs and, I think, gives more added value.
    – Macro
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 17:29

You shouldn't play the small pairs in early position unless the table is "loose" (Lots of callers, few raises).

Then I'd limp in for ONE bet, and call no more than ONE raise if it gets back to me. And call the raise only if there are at least three others playing so that I have enough "set" equity.

  • 1
    This makes sense for limit. For no limit, you don't need this many players in the pot to have enough "set equity" Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 16:04
  • Passivity of the opponents behind you is definitely significant, as you say. I'd add that it's important to specify that when categorising players, e.g. Loose-Passive (amongst other variants) is more useful than just Loose.
    – Toby Booth
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 17:29
  • but if the table is loose - that increases a risk of reraise Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 19:44
  • @DmitriyNaumov: That's true if the table is "loose aggressive." If "loose passive" (all calls and few raises), no. Telling the difference is one of the keys to winning in poker.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 22:25

A lot depends on stack size.

You are only going to hit like 1/8 so you and your opponent need 8 x your bet behind. You could get raised.

If you just limp with small pairs they should figure it out and raise you.

Say you come in for 3 BB the you need stack sizes of 24 BB (MINIMUM).

You are rarely getting odd to chase a set if you miss the flop.

You want to have an over pair to continue after the flop.

Discount 22-55 as they don't make as many straights and ace is a blocker.

I don't like to come in early with less than TT.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.