Thursday, March 6, 2008

Turning Small Change into Cash – Small Pocket Pairs

“Our aim, in philosophy, is to show the fly the way out of the fly bottle” - Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I have been looking for opportunities to get more value from my game (full ring NLHE) and decided to review how I am doing with small pairs. I will define those as 22 – 77. Why, you ask?
Well, because you are going to see an overcard to pocket 7s on the flop 92% of the time (and even more often for smaller pairs). That means you basically have to flop a set to want to continue with confidence. Let me say that again, greater than 92% of the time you see a flop with a small pocket pair, there will be overcards to your pair.

I have 82K hands in my database. (Digression: If any of my readers play online and
do not have Poker Tracker, why not? For a ridiculously low price, you can analyze and review your play. If you are at all serious about winning at online poker, you have got
to have it.) All pocket pairs but 2-2 are profitable winners but some are more profitable than others. For me, J-J and 10-10 win 68% of the time, 9-9 only wins 43% and 8-8 only 33%. Once you get to 7-7 and 6-6, the Win% is only 24%, 5-5 = 20%, 3-3 = 12% and ends at a paltry 9% for deuces. Thus, the Win% drops precipitously as we go down the list and is generally low for most small pairs.

Interestingly, for me, 6-6 is the most profitable pair lower than 10-10. No other small pair comes close (and I have flopped approximately the same percentage of sets with other small pairs so the difference is not due to flopping more sets with 6-6). I have also won more with 6-6 than I have with any of the following starting hands: A-Ks, A-Ko, A-Qs, and A-Qo. No other pair below 10-10 has won more than these hands. 4-4 and 3-3 are the next best two (in that order) and I have won more with them than I have with 5-5, 7-7, 8-8, and 9-9 combined. I have lost more with 2-2 than any other pocket pair.

If you add up all the money I have won with 2-2 all the way up to 9-9, it still does not equal what I have won with 10-10 alone (or any other higher pair).

What can we learn from this? Well, most small pairs are profitable but (usually) only if you can see the flop inexpensively and flop a set. Betting/stealing from the Hi-Jack, Cut-Off and/or button is OK, too, if you are willing to C-bet any flop that is checked to you and fold to a check raise unless you flopped a set. Cold calling bets/raises with them is only recommended if: 1) you are getting the right pot odds to set mine, or 2) you are planning to bluff/semi-bluff and steal the pot on a later street.

Remember: money saved is money earned and bets not wasted are just as valuable as bets that are won. So, until next time, good luck at the tables.

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