Small pocket pairs have different value in different
situations. Unlike a big pocket pair, these hands could be
relatively useless pre-flop given the right situation. Again
unlike pocket pairs, they could be completely deceptive and
worth a fortune in post-flop play. How you play a small pair is
going to make the majority of the difference in how it turns
out. If you are reckless and can’t fold, a small pair is going
to be detrimental to your game. If you know how to play small
pairs with well-timed aggression, however, you could walk away a
In the majority of situations, small pocket pairs will have
their fate determined by the time that the flop is dealt. If you
can’t manage to flop a set, the chances are that you are going
to be playing for a cheap showdown. There’s little to no value
in betting out with these types of hands when they are
unimproved. In addition, small pairs are going to turn into
bluff catchers more than anything else. It isn’t all that likely
that you’ll be calling down three streets against anything
other than total air. For this reason, you’ll need to be
careful that you aren’t overvaluing your hands. A lot of
players get caught up in the pre-flop action, and they tend to
disregard the fact that circumstances do greatly change from
street to street.
When you are initially dealt a small
pocket pair, you should first consider how much value it has
at showdown. Though they are both small, pocket sixes are going
to be worth a fair amount more in the long run than pocket twos.
You have to think about all of those times where someone in the
blinds catches a small pair. These are the hands that you’ll
lose to with pocket twos but will be able to beat with pocket
sixes. While this isn’t going to largely change how you play
the hand pre-flop, it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind.
The number one goal of small pocket pairs is to hit a set.
With a big pair you’ll also be looking to land sets, but you
also want to dodge over cards. In this case, you actually want
over cards to come, but only when you are able to make three of
a kind. Playing for a set will imply that you have a decent
chance of stacking your opponent(s). If you hit a set in an
unraised pot, there’s much less of a chance that anyone is
going to pay you off. Beyond this, you’ll need to be worried
about even bigger hands like straights and flushes. For this
reason, pre-flop play is going to determine what playability
your small pair truly has.
Set mining is a common term in poker. It means that a player
is looking to play their hand with the goal of only hitting
their set. In a raised pot, your objective is to calculate your
odds of hitting your two outer and stacking your opponent
against the price to get involved. If you’ll need to call $40
and have a chance to win only $200, the play will make no sense.
If, however, you have a chance to call $40 and win $1,000, the
play makes a lot more sense. The math isn’t very complicated,
but it will involve a bit of guess work on your part. You know
the odds of hitting the set itself, so you’ll need to estimate
the chances of getting paid off to the best of your abilities.
If you are forced to pay too much to see the flop, just move on.
Small pairs do not lend themselves well to expensive pots.
Post-flop is both more straightforward and more complicated
than pre-flop play at the same time. On one hand, you’ll know
that you are going to usually give up when you miss the board.
On the other hand, you will need to figure out how to extract
maximum value in those situations where you do manage to hit a
set. Needless to say, neither of these problems are particularly
annoying issues to have.
When you make nothing of your small pocket pair, your best
bet is to play as passively as possible in an attempt to keep
the pot as small as you can. You don’t want to try and be a hero
by betting out, because this is only going to cost you money in
the end. Think about what will happen if you lead out on a flop
of 8 6 2 with pocket fives. If you manage to get a fold, it
almost certainly means that you already had the best hand and
were unnecessarily risking money. If you get called, it means
that you are beat and have sacrificed whatever you put into the
pot. Though not always ideal, calling down will generally make
more sense with small pairs than actually taking the initiative
Minimizing risks needs to be one of your focuses when you are
set mining. It’s easy to get trapped into playing a pot through
to the river after you make a moderate investment pre-flop. The
difference between a well-played small pocket pair and a poorly
played pair is largely found in how the player reacts when they
How you actually make the most money from your sets is up to
you. The post-flop strategy should be most dependent on what
happened pre-flop. If you are up against a raiser and are first
to act, it doesn’t make much sense to lead out into the pot.
Instead, you should check to the pre-flop aggressor in an
attempt to let them take control of the action. From there, you’ll have the option to check raise or call, either of which
will assure that you have at least made a bit of money from your
hand even if you fail to make any more.
The struggle with sets and slow playing is that they are
hardly invincible hands. Unlike
flushes or even straights, there are many hands that can
beat a set without too much trouble. You’ll often times flop a
set and still not even have the second or third nuts. You should
gauge how slow you play your hand not only based on your
opponent, but also on how likely it is that it will wind up a
loser if too many more cards come out. Sets are right on the
border when it comes to hands truly worthy of slow playing. You
can use a passive approach to lure aggressive players into
losing their stack, but you need to be careful that you don’t
back your set into a corner against better hands.
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