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How To Play Small Pairs


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#1 DanielNegreanu

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Posted 26 August 2006 - 11:20 PM

There's been much written on the subject of playing small pairs in Texas Hold'em. Small pairs consist of 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6. With so many words devoted to the topic, it's obvious that there are opposing theories regarding the best way to play them.Here are my suggestions.Unlike higher pairs, small pairs should not be played in all situations. Several factors determine whether you should enter a pot with a small pair: position, chip count, number of players, and cost to play.In a typical ten-handed game, playing a small pair from early position simply won't show you a profit at the end of the year.Your chip count and your opponent's stack size are also important considerations when deciding to call. If a player raises to 600 and only has 500 left, it's just not worth trying to catch trips on the flop, since you'll only be able to win an additional 500.If, however, both you and your opponent have 30,000 in front of you, it makes more sense to see a flop for 600. If you're lucky enough to catch a set on the flop, you'll win a monster pot.The number of players needs to be a considered, too, especially in a structured, limit game. Small pairs fare fine against one opponent, but generally don't do well in three or four-handed pots. However, if there are five or more players, you'd be getting excellent value. Go ahead and try to hit your set.Small pairs want to see the flop as cheaply as possible. If someone just calls the big blind in front of you, then you can limp along for the minimum bet, hoping to capitalize after the flop. However, if the blinds are, say, 100-200, and an opponent raises the pot to 1,500, that's just too large a bet for you to stick around.Once you've actually gotten to a flop, how you proceed depends on the number of opponents in the pot. If there are several players remaining, you should only continue if you flop three of a kind.Against one or two opponents, though, you've got my green light to take one more shot at winning the pot. When choosing to do that, flop texture is of the utmost importance.Suppose you're in a three-way pot and the flop comes Qh-10d-9h. This is a horrible flop for your lowly pair of fives; if anyone bets, fold. Even if they don't bet, you shouldn't try a bluff here, since it's far too likely that one of your opponents has something to go with that flop, like J-10 or Q-K.A better texture would look something like Q-Q-3 or K-7-2.With these flops, you can go ahead and bet your small pairs. Your opponents will probably fold unless they have a queen or king. If you consider yourself an aggressive player, you might try raising with these hands on occasion.The best time to raise is when you're looking to steal the blinds. This strategy only works if no one has entered the pot before you. Also, being in late position increases the chances of the play being successful. If you raise from early position, there are too many hands to act behind you that might call.When you raise with a small pair in position, you must play it strong after the flop. If an opponent in the blind calls your raise, then you must bet on virtually any flop -- even a flop as ugly as A-K-Q! Because you raised pre-flop, he'll think that you improved your hand. If he has a hand like Q-9, you'll probably win the pot with an aggressive bet.Here's my rule of thumb: When playing small pairs, play them cheaply if you can, and only continue after the flop if you hit your trips. (If you enjoyed this piece, you can get similar stuff in your local newspaper. Send them a letter or an e-mail letting them know that you want Daniel Negreanu's Poker Column in your paper.)
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#2 Billy

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 04:48 PM

Good read, thanks.

#3 theresa113

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 06:02 PM

View PostDanielNegreanu, on Sunday, August 27th, 2006, 3:20 AM, said:

... (If you enjoyed this piece, you can get similar stuff in your local newspaper. Send them a letter or an e-mail letting them know that you want Daniel Negreanu's Poker Column in your paper.)
I don't even read my local newspaper. I read my news on the internet. I would seriously pay a monthly fee to have something like this delivered to my in box every day and or once a week. I paid $5 a week for the South Beach Diet for 6 months. This would be a no brainer. Oh... and great article as usual Daniel. :club:
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#4 darkrider88

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 12:28 PM

Thanks DN.These articles are extremely valuable, keep them up!
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#5 Bling--Bling--75

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 08:55 PM

Bling--Bling 75 hereI Agree w/ Daniel

#6 Fade2241

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:23 AM

View PostBling--Bling--75, on Thursday, September 7th, 2006, 9:55 PM, said:

Bling--Bling 75 hereI Agree w/ Daniel
LMAO really?!?

#7 trader1499

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Posted 05 November 2006 - 02:07 PM

Thanks Daniel. I actually learned this watching that show on fsn you were on with howard lederer. He explained about the same thing you said about playing the pairs. Its definately saved me in games, instead of "I have a pair, I'm all in"

#8 Nacho Libre

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Posted 05 November 2006 - 10:14 PM

Nacho think it wise to play small pair veerrryy carefully, but it is situational, no? Sometimes a small pair good enough, sometime no. Heh, heh- sometime no pair good enough. Nacho can trick you, like when he talk to referee while partner hit opponent with chair. Nacho is very tricky.

#9 bgumeny

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 03:13 AM

View PostDanielNegreanu, on Saturday, August 26th, 2006, 11:20 PM, said:

(If you enjoyed this piece, you can get similar stuff in your local newspaper. Send them a letter or an e-mail letting them know that you want Daniel Negreanu's Poker Column in your paper.)
I read your piece in the Newark Star Ledger every Friday and I really enjoy it, I hope you can continue writing for a long time.I enjoyed this piece as well, I constantly used to misplay small pairs and its good to keep myself reminded on the proper way to play them.
Bob Gumeny

#10 Aseldo

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 10:17 PM

Thanks alot for the advice Daniel :club:, but honestly I already play small pairs like you suggested before this thread so this didn't really help me.

#11 aasurfer

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 01:14 PM

Daniel,Do you suggest playing small pairs differently at different stakes? I definitely agree with the advice you gave for games 10/20 and higher, but i believe a slightly different strategy should be used at lower stakes (ideally 1/2 and 2/5). The live games I play at school are very loose 1/2s and when i go to the casino i usually play 2/5 which plays just as loose as the home games for the most part. At both of these games I find that raises of 5-10xbb are "normal" and usually induce at least a couple calls. My thinking is that if i pick up a "small pair" which i define as 2s-Js under the gun or early position, i'll raise to $11 (1/2) or $25 (2/5) and will likely get 3 or 4 callers. The odds against hitting your set are approximately 7/1 so with 3 or 4 callers you're half way to your odds preflop. Also in these games the stacks tend to be fairly deep (3-500xbb about the norm) so when the villian spikes his ace with a good kicker and i hit my set i'm golden.If I pick up one of these hands in late position I play it about the same. My goal is to build a big pot that weak players can't get away from with a hand like top pair/good kicker when i make a set. Only in the rare event that there is a lone limper or just the blinds left will i raise slightly more to try to take it down right there, and if somebody does get stubborn i have the chance to improve as well as position and the option to continuation bet. Sorry if this was long winded, my question is basically if my reasoning is sound regarding my small pair play. I feel that it is the best strategy in these loose small stakes games in which a small investment (5-10bb) will yeild a huge return when i hit, and when i miss i have invested relatively little.Thanks!Phil :club:

#12 Bellerophon

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 07:49 AM

View PostAseldo, on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006, 1:17 AM, said:

Thanks alot for the advice Daniel :D, but honestly I already play small pairs like you suggested before this thread so this didn't really help me.
Oh, your such a good player. You know it all don't you. J/K.... someone had to f$@k with ya. :club:

#13 seemorenuts

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 02:12 PM

There's one other situation which may pertain more to medium pairs than small ones. Daniel, can you comment on this?If only one player limps in (early to middle position) and you are in the cutoff or button then you should make a small raise most of the time to encourage the blinds to fold and get the hand heads up in position.(BTW, Sklansky mentioned this in one of his dvds, and said that not to raise is a huge error, perhaps with medium pairs only, I can't recall. Also, he may have mentioned folding is okay, just that calling is so much worse than raising.)Maybe this is on the aggressive side. Yes, I know, Sklansky is not perfect, lol.
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#14 conor_mw

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 04:39 PM

View PostBellerophon, on Monday, February 12th, 2007, 8:49 AM, said:

Oh, your such a good player. You know it all don't you. J/K.... someone had to f$@k with ya. :club:
hahahaha someone did have to **** with him lol , good call

#15 farmist

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Posted 19 April 2007 - 08:11 AM

View PostAseldo, on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006, 12:17 AM, said:

Thanks alot for the advice Daniel :club:, but honestly I already play small pairs like you suggested before this thread so this didn't really help me.
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#16 Pocket_2ss

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 09:16 PM

:club: Hey there Daniel, First time posting in your blogs. Very nice read. I agree 100% small pocket pr should be played very carefully. Some people see a pr and wohhoo and get crazzzy.. Well hope you do well in the upcoming WPT events. God bless you and you family Daniel. Congrats on the move and remember happy wife happy life :D Take care Brent Pontius

#17 acesinhole7

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:53 AM

Great advice. Thanks for keeping us educated.

#18 razvan1984

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 01:10 AM

nice article...thanks!

#19 riverme_now

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 01:12 PM

Nice one D. As long as you keep posting I will keep reading. Thanks again.

#20 DCJ001

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 01:17 PM

View Posttheresa113, on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006, 10:02 PM, said:

I don't even read my local newspaper. I read my news on the internet. I would seriously pay a monthly fee to have something like this delivered to my in box every day and or once a week. I paid $5 a week for the South Beach Diet for 6 months. This would be a no brainer. Oh... and great article as usual Daniel. :club:
If you're paying, I'll send you a link to a DN article weekly. Or, you can go to the below link weekly and see DN's articles and other news about him:http://news.google.c.....iel Negreanu"




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