Mid to low pocket pairs in early position

Mid to low pocket pairs in early position

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Playing mid to low pocket pairs in early position can be sticky situation, especially when you’re playing 15 to 20 big blinds in the middle to late stages of a tournament. Here's Paul Zimbler on how to play them profitably.

Many players will limp in and call a raise and then go on to check-fold on flops they don’t connect with, in fear of going out. But set-mining is not viable when you are short stacked.

Let’s say you look down at 6-6 UTG with the blinds at 1000/2000 with a 200 ante, meaning there is approximately 5,000 in the middle at the start of every hand. Your stack is only 30,000. You will have a few options here, but before you decide how to play the hand you need to think about a few important factors.

Firstly, take into account the players at your table. Ask yourself how they have been playing and what their stack sizes are, especially the aggressive players, the players in late position and the big blind stack.
Then you need to know what your image is at the table. Have you been raise-folding a lot? Do the players at the table respect your bets and think you’re playing tight? All these things need to be considered in a fairly short period of time as you will be first to act and all eyes will be on you.

Note that I said that you need to decide whether to play the hand. Sometimes in this situation the best thing to do is fold hands like 6-6, 5-5, 4-4, 3-3 and 2-2 and change your tactics. By this I mean, rather than playing your hand in a bad position, you play position instead of your hand.

If your image is solid you can go for a raise pre- but you’re likely to get at least a caller and will have to play a flop. You may be raised and have to decide whether to get it all in or fold. If you make it 5,000 to play and get raised to 15,000, you would only have to call 10,000 more, but then you would have 50% of your stack in the pot just to see a flop, which a very big mistake unless you are planning a stop n’ go play, which in this situation may stand less chance of getting through because of your stack size.

If you’re the type of player who is happy to open-shove with small pocket pairs, then you must be a gambler as your chances of winning the pot will be short most the time. If you get called, I’d say 95% of the time you will be either against two overcards or an overpair versus your 6-6. Not a good spot to be in.

If you’re a loose player, then you will probably create a bigger pot, as more players may try to enter the pot against you, making 3- or 4-bets with all kinds of hands. That’s why knowing how the players at your table are playing is a big part of the decision making process.

If your table is tight, then a small raise will enable you to play the hand and also, more often than not, take it down pre flop. Always pay attention to the dynamics of the table and adapt your game accordingly. Know the players you can 3-bet shove on to steel more chips when they are on offer.

Trial and error is the best way to learn. If you don’t get it right all the time that’s OK. There will be times you get lucky and times when you get unlucky. Keep trying new plays to play your best and slowly you will see the things that work and those that don’t.
Never be afraid to make a big fold and never be afraid to get your chips in the middle.

To come to a TIPS seminar or learn more about your game register at www.theinternationalpokerschool.com or email me at

Tags: Paul Zimbler, The International Poker School, Strategy