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Playing Small Pairs in No-Limit Hold’em

Playing small pairs in NL can actually be easier than playing big or medium pairs. The reason for this is that can get you into less trouble with these hands.

By small pairs we are talking about 66-22. In a full ring game you are looking to flop a set with these hands but the fact that this will happen only one in every 7.5 times means that you should be getting in as cheaply as possible with these hands pre-flop.

If you are in a cash game or a tournament where a lot of the pots are being raised pre-flop, it’s usually best to fold these hands in early position. You don't want to have to call a raise and play a pot heads-up because you will have no idea where you are at after the flop. With the small pairs there is a good chance all the cards that flop will be overcards to your pair.

Another problem with the small pairs lies in that if the flop comes paired with a pair higher than yours, the next card up can kill your hand, forcing you to play the board. For instance if you hold pocket threes in the flop comes 9-9-7, a person with Ace-King now has more than just six outs against you, because as seven would kill your hand.

From middle to late position is usually good to limp with these hands unless you are first to act. In late position if you are first act you should usually come in raising. There is a chance that your pair is the best hand before the flop, and it is definitely better than a random blind hand. Many times the blinds will just fold, but if they do call, they have no way of knowing that you only hold a small pair.

Once the flop comes out you can evaluate whether you want to fire a continuation bet out there to try and win the pot, even if you don't flop your set. As stated before, the person who called you has no way of knowing that you don't have a very strong hand, and a bet will generally pick up the pot right there.

When evaluating whether to bet the flop or not, you should take into account the flop texture. If it is a very coordinated board you may want to just check, as you don't want to be check-raised and have to give up the hand when the turn could have made your set had you checked

When you are in position on an opponent, and the stacks are deep, you may want to call a small raise with your baby pair, looking to hit a set. Even if you know an opponent has AA because he is a very tight player and raising from under the gun; if the stacks are deep enough, you will usually want to call even though you aren't getting correct odds. The reason for this is that you stand a good chance to bust him if you do hit your set. The implied odds will be in your favor, because you stand to win a very large pot if you do hit your hand.

While big pairs and medium pairs can sometimes put you in mediocre situations, small pairs are much easier to play. The main idea is to get in cheaply and hope to flop a set. The set is pretty much unreadable in NL because they are always out there. Unlike a flush or a straight, you can't see if someone has a set because it is always possible when the community cards are out. This makes them very profitable hands when you are up against an opponent who is willing to get broke with one pair. If you don’t flop a set with your small pair there is no reason to continue. Throw it away and look for another profitable situation.