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Small pocket pairs frequently cause a lot of pre-flop confusion for players. Pre-flop, players rarely think about folding these hands in their poker games, which causes them to incur large losses. For clarity, let us consider pocket pairings 22–77 as small pocket pairs. Either of these pairs will almost surely be dealt an overcard on the flop, putting them in danger if they don’t get better.

So, your objective should still be to hit a third of your pocket pair on the flop to hit that set. In light of this, let’s examine some tactics for maximizing the profits from these hands.

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Raising and Folding

When handed a small pocket pair, it can be tempting to see the flop. However, fold most small pocket pairs from the earliest positions, like Under the Gun (UTG) and UTG+1. You can attempt to raise with hands between 55 and 66, but anything less is impossible.

The truth is that when you raise from the earliest positions at a 9-handed poker table, you’ll encounter a 3-bet far too frequently. The chances that someone behind may wake up with a strong hand and put you in a difficult situation are considerably higher. These hands don’t block any cards your opponents will likely have in their 3-betting range.

Naturally, you can increase your range to cover more small pocket pairings as you get closer to the button. You should open all of your small pockets if you are the first to move in the cutoff or on the button for various reasons:

Playing Without Deep Stacks

As low pocket pairs’ worth is mainly derived from constructing sets, you must be sufficiently deep to realize this value when the opportunity arises. Your low pairs, for instance, are much less helpful with 30-50BB since there isn’t enough money behind to win. Put another way, even when you hit a set, you won’t win enough poker cash games to compensate for the missed times.

Low pocket pairs are again playable with a minimal stack of 20BB or less. However, at this depth, they work best as shoves. This is so that you can realize all of your equity and fold out hands with a lot of equity on you (any two over cards will have nearly 50% equity).

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Do Not 3-Bet

The greatest hands to consider while 3-betting light are those with the most chance of blocking. With bluffing hands, you want to make it less likely that your opponent will have several powerful poker cards. A5s is a prime example because it lessens the possibility that your opponent has an ace.

Low pocket pairs shouldn’t be 3-bet because of the uneven distribution of post-flop equity. For example, a hand like 22 makes a very strong hand on a relatively small number of boards, despite its potential being quite strong.

In contrast, connected hands like the 76s or ATs can create high-equity hands on various board textures. Profitable post-flop barrel situations are frequent with suited and connected hands due to their drawing potential. Still, with low pocket pairs, such spots are unusual since they typically only have 2 outs to improve.

You can consider 3-betting small pairs in the small blind. Even then, it should never be done while facing a raise from an early position but only ever against opens from later positions. From the small blind, your positional disadvantage is so great that you can try to counteract it by 3-betting to win the pot before the flop. Nonetheless, if you get called, you should approach the flop using your entire range rather than simply your hand.

Facing a 3-Bet

Your default move should be to fold when you open from an early position using a small pocket pair and are met with a 3-bet from another player. It’s not worth calling 3-bets unless you have a deep stack. Most of the time, you’ll have to fold, and even if you hit a set on the flop, there’s no guarantee you’ll win your opponent’s entire stack.

But, defending against blind 3-bets is appropriate if you are opening from cutoff or button. Since you have a position and your opponents have wider ranges, you can win some pots without hitting a set.

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What if You Don’t Flop a Set?

Adopting the passive stance and check-fold in multi-way pots is typically advisable without flopping a set. To increase your expected value in heads-up settings, however, you frequently have to put up more of a fight.

Use Range Advantage

Your range must determine your post-flop poker strategy, not simply the specific hand you hold. They rarely make a powerful hand, but you must be prepared to act as if you do when the situation calls for it.

Leveraging Blockers and Equity Denial

When you block the nuts and can realistically represent the nuts, you can also play your low pocket pairs aggressively.

For example:

You receive a 4h4c in the Big Blinds (BB).

3 players fold. Player B raises $15. You call.

Flop ($32) shows 7d 6s 3h.

You check. Player B bets $20. You raise to $72.

You can choose a lot of hands to bluff with for balance since you have a ton of value hands to check-raise on this board. In this situation, using 44 is a good option since you block the nuts, your hand gains a lot from equity denial, and you have good chances of making a straight.


Small pocket pairs are not necessarily strong starting hands. They are relatively poor hands but can pay off if you get the right flop, which doesn’t happen as frequently as you’d like.

Thus, vesting a lot of chips before the flop is not a good idea. When you have low pockets, you should strive to see a cheap flop, especially if you are opening or closing the action from the big blind, and if you are reasonably sure you are ahead, build the pot.

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