Are you looking to increase your poker skills and knowledge? Learn about what pocket pairs are and how to use them effectively to beat your opponents.
One of the best ways to become a stronger poker player is to know the ins and outs of the different types of hands you can be dealt and how to effectively use them to dupe your opponents and win big. Pocket pairs are a type of hand that can be powerful or a big challenge, depending on the type of poker you play. Here’s your guide to pocket pairs and how to play them.
What Are Pocket Pairs?
In general, a pocket pair refers to a hand in which you have two matching cards, more commonly known as a pair. In Texas Hold ’em, a pocket pair means you were dealt a pair right away and, in many cases, can really get stronger with the flop, turn, and river. In Omaha Hold ’em, a pocket pair would mean you have two same cards in your hand of four. But in stud poker, a pocket pair would be a pair in your first two down cards.
Why call them “pocket pairs”? Well, the cards you’re dealt that the other players don’t see are often referred to as “in the pocket,” almost as if they’re in your pocket.
Now that you know what pocket pairs are, let’s talk about how likely you are to get them.
In any game of poker, the odds of you getting a pocket pair are 5.9%, or 17 to 1. Breaking this math down even more, your odds of an 8-8 pocket pair or better are 3.2% (31 to1), your odds of getting dealt a premium pair of pocket Jacks or better are 1.8% (54 to 1), and your odds of getting pocket Aces are less than half a percent at 0.45% (220 to 1).
The odds get even more tricky when thinking about flopping a two-pair, a set, and other awesome hands. The odds of a two pair are 16.1%, and to get a set, it’s 10.7% in your favor. As for getting a full house or even a four of a kind are less than 1% likelihood. To get a full house that’s a set plus another pair is 0.7%. But to get a full house that’s a set on the flop plus your pocket pair or a four of a kind, you have a 0.2% chance.
Ranking Pocket Pairs
Every card has a different power, and that power can increase or decrease depending on the other card(s) in your hand or on the table. Similarly, the power of pocket pairs lies in the cards’ rank. For example, the best pocket pair would be two Aces, and the least powerful pocket pair would be two 2s.
Most people typically rank pocket pairs in the following way:
Premium pocket pairs: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J
Medium (or middle) pocket pairs: 10-10, 9-9, 8-8, 7-7
Small pocket pairs: 6-6, 5-5, 4-4, 3-3, 2-2
However, some consider a 6-6 pocket pair to be more of a medium pocket pair, and others may categorize 10-10 as a premium pocket pair. Others may consider 9-9 and 10-10 as “danger pairs,” which are a type of medium pocket pairs that can be particularly powerful against some hands. These small differences don’t really matter, especially once you’re playing Texas Hold ’em and you have K-K and your opponent has a 9-9 pocket pair (as long as the table cards are in your favor).
But in other types of poker, like stud and Omaha, pocket pairs can be a blessing or a bit of a curse if not played right.
How To Play Pocket Pairs
Knowing what to do when you’re dealt pocket pairs can help you make the most of this hand, even if it’s not always in your favor. Here are some tips for using this hand to your advantage when playing at your favorite online casino.
In Texas Hold ’Em
A pocket pair is a great place to start a round of Texas Hold ’em. But it’s important to leverage this early advantage and use your other poker-playing skills to assess your opponents as the flop, turn, and river hit the table. Here are some strategies to keep in mind when playing a pocket pair in Texas Hold ’em:
If you have a premium pocket pair, try to get as much money in the pot before the flop by raising, which can also help you get players to fold when they’re not willing to go up against what they think is (and could be) a powerhouse hand.
If you have a premium pocket pair and other players fold before the flop, try to stay in the game as long as you can since you’re a lot less likely to be overtaken by one player when the flop hits.
Don’t be afraid to fold your premium pocket pair if someone else is leading the betting and raising action after the flop and especially after the turn because that could mean near-complete sets in other people’s hands.
Consider playing a medium hand like a small pocket pair by calling, instead of raising, in a big blind spot to play on the safer side.
For small pocket pairs, be conservative in betting before the flop and get into it as cheaply as possible.
Avoid using small pocket pairs as a bluffing strategy against multiple people, but you can try it against just a single opponent.
In Omaha Hold ’Em
Pocket pairs can also be a great start to a round of Omaha, but not nearly as strong as in Texas Hold ’em. That’s because pocket pairs are more likely to occur since you’re dealt four cards instead of two. However, a pocket pair is more likely to get outdrawn after the flop, so it might be best to be conservative when playing this hand. It’s also important to note that many consider small pocket pairs to be “danger” pairs because you’re more likely to be overpowered by a better set.
Premium pocket pairs can be very strong as a wired pair, meaning a pair in the first two first down cards, because the other players cannot see them. In that case, rely on the face-up card to try to throw your opponents off the scent.
But if you get a pocket pair via a split pair, where one is down and the other is on the table, then the hand isn’t as strong since one card is exposed. Just keep in mind that your opponents may always be considering the fact that you could have a split pocket pair.
Big Considerations in Playing Pocket Pairs
Here are some additional things to keep in mind when creating and implementing a pocket pair strategy:
How many chips you have will likely determine how aggressively you play pocket pairs throughout your game. If you have a lot of chips, you’ll probably want to fold small pocket pairs, but if you’re down and you’re the first up, you might go all in. The general rule is that you should have 15 to 20 times the pre-flop bet in a hand.
Where you are at the table and your betting position can really make or break how effective a pocket pair is. If you’re the first to bet and you have a pocket pair, especially a premium or high middle pocket pair, then you’ll probably want to keep players around before the flop to keep increasing the pot. You can also use your big blind spot to use the last betting action to your advantage.
But in the small blind, it might not be best to call a small pair. So make sure you know the tendencies of the player in the big blind to make the most of this spot.
Your Opponents’ Playing Style
Even before you get a pocket pair, you should be assessing your opponents to understand how aggressive or conservative they are with betting and bluffing. If you’re playing against a passive player who usually calls on raises and you have a medium pocket pair, then you should avoid raising large amounts before the flop. But if your opponent plays unimpressive hands, try to go for the set with small pairs.
Make sure to have as much poker knowledge in your pocket if you want to play to win. Knowing what to do with a pocket pair is just as much about knowing your opponents, knowing when to be aggressive or conservative, and knowing when to follow other standard poker guidelines.
Now that you know what pocket pairs are and the different ways you can use them in an online poker game. Take advantage of the best New Jersey online casino bonuses to put these strategies to the test.
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