Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Play Middle Pairs More Effectively

Our subject today is middle pairs (8-8, 9-9, 10-10, J-J).

These are powerful hands that are often misplayed, usually underplayed.

J-J and 10-10 are listed in the Top 10 best starting hands in Hold’Em, yet I frequently observe people, both live and online, playing them as if they were 2-2 or 3-3.

What I mean by that is very timidly. Limping and trying to flop a set and folding to any bet if they do not make their set.

This gets only the minimum value from these hands. Their value is greatest before the flop. Think about this, 57% of the time, at least one overcard will flop against your pocket Jacks. A whopping 70% of the time, your pocket 10s will face at least one overcard on the flop. It only gets worse. 9-9 will see at least one overcard 79% of the time and 8-8 a mind numbing 87%. How strong will you feel then? The thing to do is play them fast and only slow down in the face of considerable opposition pre-flop. You want to seize the initiative. Why? Well, you almost certainly have the best hand at the moment. If someone has Q-Q, K-K, or A-A, you will know it when they play back at your bet. If they do not have one of those hands, you are ahead right now. Furthermore, by betting (or raising if bet into) pre-flop, you are being the aggressor and can make a reasonable continuation bet on almost any flop if you choose to do so. Remember, your opponent doesn’t know you don’t have A-K or even Q-Q because you are going to play these strong middle pairs virtually the same way you would play A-K or Q-Q pre-flop. The key concept here is to make THEM have to make a hand that they think will beat what you are representing.

If in EP, depending on your table image and your opponents, you could either limp planning to raise or you could open bet 3-4xBB. I think you are surrendering way too much value if you just limp and check/fold the flop. If you would limp and then call a bet, why not just bet it yourself and increase your chances to win by giving your opponent an opportunity to fold? Even if you get a caller, you can almost always push out one caller on the flop with a pot sized C-bet. If you get multiple callers, slow down.

In MP, open bet if limped to and raise if bet into. You will often win the hand right there. Even when you take a flop, you are the aggressor and should remain so. An opponent usually needs to hit the flop hard to want to continue in the hand with you if you bet pre-flop and on the flop, too. If you raise and get called pre-flop, you must follow through with a C-bet on the flop - maybe an overbet depending on what you put your opponent on.

In LP, always open bet if limped to and always raise if bet into.

What you do not want to do is take these hands all the way to the river unimproved. You want to win pre-flop or on the flop. If you play these hands like I am suggesting and you are still getting action on the Turn, you are probably not in the lead.
These general guidelines have worked well for me. I even see some players (think Fuel 55) playing this style successfully with pairs as low as 5-5. You will have to decide what works best for you. As always, good luck at the tables.


SirFWALGMan said...

Excellent post thank you.

Fuel55 said...

JJ, 55, AA - they are all the same - its how you play you opponent's hand that matters.

HighOnPoker said...

Pretty nice to get pimped by Woffles. Nice job, Lucyfer.

StB said...

And if you face a re-raise before the flop, are you advocating folding?

Lucypher said...

stb, usually no. It depends on my position, the size of the raise, and the villain. If I am in position, I am probably re-raising. If I am out of position, and my read is villain would only raise me with A-A or K-K, I fold. If I think villain might raise me with A-K or A-Q, I call. Then, if no A or K hits on flop, I move in. Thanks for stopping by.

Fuel55 said...

Lets not forget that if the price is right and your opponent only 3-bets aces you still need to call with 22. http://fuel55.blogspot.com/2007/02/set-mining.html

PS there is no such opponent that only RRs AA or KK ...