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Playing pocket middle pairs in early position

Article By: RuffPoker.com

When you are dealt a middle pair in early position this is one of those very difficult situations that requires a feel for the table and how the betting has gone over the previous hands. Middle pocket pairs are always tough to call, and are especially so when you are in early position because you aren’t in any great shape to dictate the betting, unless you are brave enough to take up the running with an initial ‘feeler’ bet, and you aren’t going to do that if you see an over card or two on the flop. Indeed, the statistics of holding a mid pocket pair suggest that you are a 3:1 underdog to win in any normal circumstances, although this can change with every player that drops out pre flop. But in general mid pocket pairs in early position are a very dangerous hand to be dealt. It can be good or bad but the likelihood is that it will lose, even though in some instances it can be very advantageous.

To explain, on first glance looking down at your pocket cards, you reveal a pair of 7’s, 8’s, 9’s. This makes one think, ‘wow, a pocket pair, I’ve already made something’. But chances are it stands a good chance of being beaten on the flop. That probability rises on the turn and becomes most likely at the river. That is because a middle pair is a marginal opening hand, any 10, J, Q, K or A tops you as soon as one appears. At that point you aren’t exactly drawing dead, but you do need some serious help from the turn or river, if you are brave enough to call all the way. Take for example you are sat with pocket 8’s. The flop comes A-Q-7. What do you do? any bet could be suicide but you don’t want to show weakness. In truth you have to simply call and see what transpires after you. If there are any more than 2 or 3 people in the pot, chances are right now you aren’t in a good position. You have a pair but any bet, certainly if there are two or more bets and you can safely say somebody is holding an A or a Q.

At this stage you are a 16:1 underdog. If the pot odds make it worth a call then maybe see another card but is it really worth it? You have two outs, the other two 8’s in the deck, the chances of seeing one are remote. Any further A, Q or maybe even a 7 and it really is goodnight. Yes the middle pocket pair provides a decent opening salvo. But you need to bet fast or hope for help early in the hope nobody catches anything in the later rounds, and even then you may well be throwing money away to some brave soul that catches a rogue 10 and beats you with 10’s over 8’s.

Having said all that, the middle pair can in some instances really be a hidden gem. With the flop as mentioned earlier (A-Q-7) you are in trouble, but what if it were A-Q-8…bingo! you have the lowest card but it gives you trips. Nobody will see that. Their A or Q will look real good right now and you will get action because anybody with an A, and maybe even those with a Q and a good kicker will fancy their chances. Now remember you are in early position so you don’t want to jump in with a big bet. That would scare away anybody with a Q, maybe even those with an A and a weak kicker. Here you can play it slowly. If you know a bet is coming in behind you (an aggressive player sits to your left), simply check and wait to call, then raise it on the turn/river. If it is a more passive table, make a gentle bet to keep people interested. OK so you are hoping you don’t see another A or Q, that really would be curtains, but when you flop trips, especially back door trips to somebody else’s power pair you really can cash in.

Don’t be too confident, mid pocket pairs usually will need to be folded at some stage in the hand, but keep in mind if you do hit trips, then you stand to beat most things and from a very well hidden position too.