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When to call with small pairs

Article By: RuffPoker.com

Playing small pairs and particularly calling small pairs in poker requires a similar approach to middle pairs – you must be cautious and fold at any sign of trouble. Of course as with any hand, your choice of calling depends greatly on your position at the table. With small pairs position really is everything because you have nothing to shout about but you could end up with a monster and a very well hidden monster at that.

For example, in early to middle position a small pocket pair is a very weak hand. There are just too many players left to act after you. Not only is it beaten by almost anything once the flop is revealed but from such a position you can’t make an aggressive play or work out what others may have from their own actions. As such you must simply call and hope there is no raise pre flop. If there is and it is substantial then you should really fold. If you do get to the flop then you need to hit trips otherwise your hand is probably beaten (the odds of which go up the more players are in on the hand). With a small pocket pair in early position just try and get to the flop as cheaply as possible. Don’t commit chips to a pot with such a hand from such a position, you only have two outs, so the odds of hitting one of the only other two cards in the deck that make your hand are remote.

From late position however you have considerably more options. First and foremost you can see if there is further raising pre flop, and act accordingly, i.e. a lot of raise/re-raising and its best to fold, whereas a 1x or 2x raise and it may be worth seeing the flop if the pot odds are worthwhile. If there is no raising, from late position you can limp into the flop knowing you are last to act, so to see a further three cards is not going to cost you any more chips.

What is more, in this instance if you do hit one of your two possible outs your trips are very well hidden, making the potential returns greater. For example, you are in late position with 4/4. If there is a considerable amount of raising you can safely assume your opponents have high pocket pairs or suited picture card combinations. That’s OK, as you are in late position you now have a decision to make. Don’t waste any more chips or hope to hit a 4? This is a tough decision because the chances of hitting an out are remote but the rewards are great. So consider this before you simply call anything or fold. Consider the level of the pot and the amount of players still in the pot. Any more than two opponents and there are strong possibilities somebody beats you on the flop.

If you do get to the flop, and it comes up 7/4/A… bingo! You’ve hit trips, nobody knows it, and all those players holding an A will stay in thinking they are ahead. Here even if another A shows up your opponents with 3 aces will think they are up, whereas you are sat with a full house. This is a very powerful position, from such an opening of weakness. Your opponent had over cards on you, and still thinks he/she is ahead. i.e. that 4 and 7 on the board aren’t going to scare anybody.

In such situations it is worth making a bet of around 2x the pot, to flush out any stragglers that might hit a miracle if you let them hang around. What is more you will take enough chips from those who won’t fold because they are holding an A and since you are in late position you get to see how they act before you. You might even be able to slow play to the turn if the board is ragged in terms of suit.

More than anything else, with small pairs remember that you hold a weak hand with only two outs. As such you are beat by many, many cards as soon as the community is shown. If you can limp along to see a flop, great, if not then it’s best to fold. If you do however get to the flop/turn and hit trips, maximize your hand with aggressive betting, particularly from late position.