Receiving low pairs (between 22 and 66) as hole cards can be a double-edged sword for any poker player . So, depending on what happens to the community cards and the hands your opponents have, a starting hand with low pairs can become extremely strong or a throwaway hand .
The elements that influence our luck with low pairs to drift towards a positive or negative slope depend on different aspects , which should not be taken lightly even by those players who have been playing poker for a longer time.
Thus, in this note we are going to analyze the advantages and disadvantages that low pairs offer in a starting hand of poker . Also, on our specialized poker page we will offer you some tips and strategies on how to play low pairs and what to do to optimize your chances of winning when you find yourself with a starting hand like this, both at the tables and in tournaments.
Low pairs, marginal hands?
We would all love to receive a pair of aces or high suited connected cards every hand, since in that case it would be very easy to decide what to do. It’s also not bad to receive a very bad hand from time to time, because it makes reasoning easier: if it’s bad, we discard it and wait for the next one.
The most complicated to handle are, therefore, those known as marginal hands in poker , which we already told you about some time ago. And among them, today we are going to study the low pairs: 22, 33, 44, 55 and 66 . Interestingly, these hands have a very clear benefit and a very clear disadvantage: we already have a pair, of course, but we can quickly detect that our chances of getting a flush and, above all, a straight, are less than those of the rest.
As for the color, since it is a pair, logically you will have two different suits, so you will necessarily need four cards of the same suit to fall on the poker table. The same thing happens with the straight: you only have one rung (and it’s not even the same situation as a hand with separate values such as 3 and 10, because in that case there would be two possible straights to complete). So, you must maximize your benefits: the pair in hand and, of course, the possibility of speculating on the flop, turn or river . There is even the possibility of completing a full house or, with a lot of luck, a four of a kind.
As always, in poker you have to look at a lot of factors besides your own hand. The style of play of each opponent and the position at the table are essential. If you’re in the button position , you probably already know how many players are willing to see the flop. Instead, in earlier position, you may have to be the one to set the pace of the hand and force the rest of the table to leave the round. In this way, according to your style and all the variables mentioned , you could play more or less aggressively .
Playing low pairs aggressively
Imagine you are on the button and the player under the gun bet 2BB. If two or three players called, in case of calling you will be in a very unfavorable situation for the flop : as we said before, if we think of higher games like straights or flushes, our options are not the best. Similarly, even though we have a pair in hand, the probability of improving it to a set is not low, since only two cards of the 50 remaining in the deck are good for us, and we will only see five on the table. And on top of that, it is very likely that one of the players who sees the flop will hit a pair (which in most cases will be higher than ours).
If you’re going to play, you should play aggressively – there’s no point in walking into a crowded poker table where someone is bound to have a better hand than you. In these cases, the most sensible thing would be to increase the bet with a 3BET or to withdraw.
Another example where you should be aggressive is when you get heads up with an opponent on the flop and only one (or none) flopped card is high (assuming you don’t connect the set, of course). In this case, you’ll be able to semi-bluff where your opponent would ideally fold, but should he decide to call, you’ll still be beating a lot of his draws. Also, you will have a small chance to improve your game to get the nuts. Logically, special attention will have to be paid to the game and the characteristics of the opponent, because in case he has connected a pair higher than yours, it will be better to fold in time
Playing low pairs passively
For those who don’t feel comfortable taking too many risks, there is also a good way to play low pairs in poker: do it passively . In this way, you will probably not exploit the potential profits to the full, but you will manage the situation in a safe and convenient way.
As we already explained, the lower a pair is in poker, the more likely someone is to hit a top pair on the flop. So a way to take little risk would be to fold if you don’t flop a set . While the chance of hitting three of a kind is low, it’s such a strong hand that if you approach it correctly the few times you’re dealt you can win back everything you lost (and even add some extra winnings).
In addition to the strength that the set itself represents, it is a game that can still be improved. You can probably steal quite a few chips from a player who has top pair and thinks no one beats him. However, sometimes you will also come across other opponents who hit a straight or a flush that could leave you empty handed.
Except in cases where you manage to jump from a set to a full house , something that doesn’t sound so far-fetched: if you set on the flop, there will be six cards from the poker deck that give you a full house on the turn. If you don’t, there will be eight to give you the full house on the river. In this way, playing passively can reduce the winnings a little, but it also allows you to see the bigger picture and analyze all the possibilities of the game.
Low Pairs at Live Tables
When it comes to playing poker for real money or cash, we are not rushed by tournament levels, blinds, or the ambition to eliminate a rival. That being said, you may want to take a passive stance , as as a general rule, marginal hands are not ideal for live table play.
A good way to play these poker hands would be to build small pots , or even limp. Also, you have to be willing to fold your hand to a re-raise, since the pre-flop ranges in cash games are usually much narrower than in tournaments, and you may not be comfortable on the flop (unless you hit a set). Therefore, in no way should you be aggressive preflop.
On the other hand, by playing passively you will have a better chance of seeing the flop and, even if you don’t hit the set very often, when you do you will surprise the other poker players at the table. Also, the times you don’t get it, you won’t have committed too much money.
In late position, if the hand comes clean, it might be good to open with a similar intention to the semi-bluff: if you steal the blinds, all the better; but if it doesn’t happen you can take the pot with a cbet on the flop or even, in the best cases, hit a set to make the most of your winnings.
Low pairs in tournaments
When it comes to poker tournaments , the way you play will depend 100% on the situation you find yourself in . If you have low blinds, if you are close or far from securing a prize or if the tournament has a reward for eliminating rivals; These are some of the factors that will make you lean towards a more or less aggressive game.
For starters, you need to be absolutely aggressive in limit situations : if you have 10 blinds or less, a low pair is an excellent opportunity to go all-in and flip a coin (or else take the blinds and antes). Also, if it’s a bounty poker tournament and one opponent is very short, isolating yourself against them can be a good option, and if a third party gets involved, you’ll often have the upper hand against them as well.
If you’re not in either of those two situations, maybe it’s better to play passively . Keep in mind that, unlike in cash poker, if you lose a lot of chips in one hand in a tournament and there is no rebuy, you can be really committed for the rest of your participation.
Anyway, the rules in poker tournaments are the same for everyone and this means that there is much more caution and less tendency to pay with draws or to play a high percentage of the stack without being sure that you can win. . So with a low pair you will likely end up winning the hand many times without going to showdown.
As with most marginal hands, low pairs in poker can bring us a lot of joy and sadness. The best advice we can give you is to never fall in love with a pocket pair, and never fall in love with a set . You have to be prepared to abandon it when conditions are not ideal.
At the same time, the reality is that almost every time we hit a set we will have a dream hand, and especially when our opponents hit top pairs. In any case, it is not the same to play small pairs in a poker tournament than in a live table , and being aggressive or passive does not guarantee success in any way.
The most important thing is knowing how to read the game situation and adapt to what is most convenient : perhaps a mix between aggressiveness and passivity is the perfect recipe so that, in addition to being unpredictable, we play our low pairs in the best possible way.