Texas Hold’em Strategy: Playing Pairs on the Flop

One common mistake that beginning poker players make is to push all-in with a lonely pair. Granted, this might not be a bad move when you’re short-stacked and running out of options but listen closely: The average winning hand in Texas Hold’em is two pair. I repeat: The average winning hand in Texas Hold’em is two pair. This is why it is really important for new poker players to hone their skills with Judi online before they take on the pros. This way they would be able to compete with them and have a chance of winning as well. 

Here is an example of a situation that occurs frequently. I will discuss how I play when a specific situation arises, and offer some advice on how to approach similar situations. Mind you, there is more than one way to play this game and I suggest you seek out advice from as many sources as possible.

Ok, so It’s the middle of a 100-person tournament and the blinds are up to $500-$1000. Forty players are left and no one is even close to cashing in at this point. I’m in late position and am dealt with Kh 9d. I typically raise when I’m the first to enter a pot, but since six players have called in front of me, I decided to just call as well. K 9 off suit is not a tremendous hand, but a good flop could always hit. The flop comes Ks Js 4d. I have a pair of Kings and don’t feel that badly about my hand. The small blind checks, and the big blind bets $3000 into a $6000 pot. The player under the gun folds, as do the rest of the players to my right. So, to recap, the big blind bet half the pot and everyone folded to me. Beginners make a fatal mistake here. Occasionally they get away with it, but very often it puts them in really bad shape. A beginner looks at a half pot bet and says, “I have a decent hand, I might as well call and see what happens.” The intermediate to advanced player thinks out the hand and tries to determine the best course of action based on the circumstances. This is my thought process:

There are two spades on board. The big blind could have Ace deuce suited or any two suited cards. There is an 8-1 chance they’ll hit their flush, so shouldn’t they have just checked and tried to get a free card?

If they are skilled, maybe they are using this as a blocking bet, hoping to entice someone with top pair to simply call. They know if they check, someone with a King will bet out and destroy their pot odds. forcing them to fold their flush draw.

Maybe they already caught two pair? After all, they were in the big blind. They could have K4, J4… They could have K 10 or K J and just be playing conservatively as well.

What about pocket fours or pocket jacks? My kings could be crushed.

Now, I think about all of these things, and I consider what I know about the player making the raise. Did I pick up any tells off of them? Did they stare at the flop for a while before deciding what to do? Did they glance at their chips when the flop fell, then look away as if they weren’t interested in the action? Are they fish, are the sharks, are they somewhere in between? This entire thought process takes approximately five to ten seconds. If I can’t determine what my opponent is doing with any confidence and I have a large stack, I’m raising. I need to cut off the pot odds here and to do that, I need to raise. There is $9,000 in the pot, now that my opponent made a $3,000 raise. If you think your opponent is on a flush draw, your raise has to be at least the size of the pot. If you have a large stack, consider throwing exactly $9,000 out there. In order to call this bet appropriately, your opponent needs 9 outs with two cards to come. Now, poker pro-Chris Ferguson has won hundreds of tournaments, and he is famous for being able to make some pretty tough laydowns. If you bet $9,000 and your opponent raises another $9,000, you are faced with a tough choice. Ferguson assumes that his opponents are rational players. You should too unless you have reason to believe otherwise. If someone is willing to make such a large re-raise, you might as well lay down this hand. You may be thinking, “He’s bluffing!” and you may be right. The thing is, you have a pair of Kings. You don’t want to put your tournament life on the line with one pair unless you have to. Swallow your pride, fold the hand, and wait for a premium starting hand before attempting to get your lost chips back. I have been in this situation over and over again. If you simply call an opponent down when there is a flush draw out against you, you are asking for trouble. Raise and try to take the pot down immediately. If you get significant resistance, give your opponent credit for a better hand and lay it down unless you have reason to believe they are weak. Maniac players who re-raise that much with flush draws get caught eventually. They have a negative expectation in tournaments because they put too much at risk. Be the player that knocks the maniac out, not the one who flips a coin against them and loses. Now, if you’re saying to yourself, “I’m short stacked and can’t raise $9,000.00 without putting my tournament life on the line,” I can only say this: If you’re that bad off that you can’t risk being drawn out on, you need to push all-in before the flop. If you’ve made the decision that this hand is the best you’ll probably get before your next turn to pay the blinds, push all-in with it, or fold it.

Being aggressive means betting and raising when you feel you have the best hand, or slow-playing an unbeatable hand for value. Aggressiveness also entails folding, when you have reliable evidence that you’re beaten. A stubborn player is always a losing player. Regroup yourself after you lay down a hand, and try again later with cards that hit the flop a bit harder. Play your pairs aggressively and don’t hesitate to fold when a good opponent comes over the top of you. You will have time to get your chips back through solid play…don’t despair over one minor setback.