Five Quick Tips—How to Play a Pair

GLOBAL POKER’S
FIVE QUICK TIPS

HOW TO PLAY A PAIR IN POKER

A lovely pair in your hand is one of the most versatile lower ranked hands in poker. It can create a whole range of higher ranked combinations, from three of a kind and a full house to straights and flushes. However, most of the time, you will be left staring at only a pair, and although you can win rounds, it requires careful planning and no small amount of caution. Here are five quick tips for playing a pair in poker.

1. DO NOT SLOW PLAY

Limping in or slow playing can help keep your opponent’s guessing and offer the chance to chip up significantly, but it also carries a severe risk of another player getting better cards. It might be tempting to slow play with a high ranked pocket pair, but remember that a pair is the second-lowest poker hand; many other combinations can beat it. The longer the round continues, the greater the odds someone else will get a better hand.

2. REMEMBER A POCKET PAIR IS NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE (EVEN POCKET ACES)

In Texas Hold'em, a solid pair of pockets, jacks or higher, is one of the best starting hands to get. However, they are not indestructible; they might be the best pre-flop, but they can easily be beaten. Don't be caught in the trap of thinking your pocket pair is unbeatable.

3. THE FEWER PEOPLE IN THE HAND THE BETTER

A pair is best played against only one or two other people. Ideally, you want to be heads-up with only one other person by the flop, which requires a lot of aggression. Make a large bet, six times the big blind, plus an extra blind for every other player already in the hand, don’t be afraid to re-raise. If you are planning to play a pair, you don't want multiple opponents in the pot.

4. DON’T GET ATTACHED TO YOUR CARDS

A pocket pair, especially aces or kings, can be tough to fold; it's very easy to get attached to the idea that a top pair should win you the hand. Unfortunately, the truth is, even pocket aces can lose and result in heavy losses. If you reach the turn, and there are still multiple opponents in the hand, and the betting is reaching eye-watering levels, it might be time to fold. A pair is a good hand, and can help you win a lot of chips, but you also need to be aware when you've lost and lay down your cards to save your stack, even if it’s heartbreaking to wave goodbye to your lovely pair of kings.

5. PLAY POSITION

Playing position is always a good idea. If you are first or last to act, then you have a valuable opportunity; this is where you should play most of your pairs in Texas Hold'em. If you’re first to act, make a big bet and set an aggressive tone, you might get lucky and make everyone fold. Being last to act is always the best position to play because ultimately you have the final say on how big the pot will be pre-flop. Strategies can include making a substantial wager if the betting is low, trying to steal the pot, or folding with no risk if the betting is too high. Either way, you want to play position when you have a pair.