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Winning With Pocket Pairs in Poker

2-2 Through 6-6 (Low Pocket Pairs) It's early in the game and you have the pleasure of looking down at a low pocket pair.Small wired pairs offer the dream of nailing trips on the flop and beating the all-too-common overcard players who dominate cash games and no-limit tournaments these days.

Just consider this: In a four-player game, pocket 2s have only a 20 percent chance of beating Ace-King suited, a common situation that most players have seen. Do you really want to put your money on a 1-in-5 chance? Don't underestimate the power of overcards.

Example Situation: Short stack/late position, with only the blinds to beat. Lots of folds in front of you? Good time to make a move, especially since you're close to being blinded out. In this situation, you should try to get your cards in, as it's more than likely that they're the best cards at this point in the hand.

Bottom Line: Tread lightly, nothing hurts more than busting out in the first five minutes with a low pair because of a loose, Ace-rag-type player. Remember, particularly in No Limit games, you're really hoping for a cheap chance to hit your set on the flop and dominate from there. Any other situation means you're likely chasing, so get away from a hand that you know is beat.

7-7 Through T-T (Middle-To-High Pocket Pairs) You could argue that all pairs below Aces are vulnerable in the pre-flop situation. With these cards your odds of being valnerable to overcards and suited connectors increases, it's easy to be attached to 9-9, but not confident enough to push out drawing hands. One advantage, at least, is that you're a 4:1 favorite over any pocket pair smaller than yours.

Example Situation: When you're playing these cards, knowing your opponents is extremely important. That doesn't mean you can't adapt to different playing styles and different situational play; but you'll need to identify bluffers, loose aggressive players, and tight-aggressive players. The tight-aggressive type are most dangerous to your cards. Some folks are so tight that they play only the most premium cards, so if they're in any hand, especially one where you're holding a playable pair, be prepared to fold. These pocket pairs do allow you to be aggressive if you sense weakness, and if the board flops rags below your pair. In that situation, make aggressive moves so that the cost is high for anyone chasing overcards.

Bottom Line: These pairs are some of the hardest cards to play because of the high risks involved in the unknown post-flop action. If you improve your hand on the flop, you should push a big bet if your opponent checks or leads out with a bet. If your opponent's bet doesn't leave you with proper pot odds to support a call, then let the hand go.

J-J Through A-A (Premium Pocket Pairs) These home run-hitting cards are the Babe Ruths of poker. So as this legend once said, "Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back."

Note: Remember, these monsters can still lose. Be wary of slowplaying them, draw-outs and river-chasing players can beat you if you give them the chance. And while A-A, K-K, and Q-Q are undeniably premium hands, J-J can be a killer, as hands like A-Q and K-Q can still do serious damage if you're married to your Jacks.

Bottom Line: Use wisely. Making a large early bet to clear the table may seem wasteful, but it beats giving an opponent a possible draw.

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