Small double packs are a problem. They are very hard to throw when you make a pair, and they certainly don’t make strong hands in no-limit hold’em. It’s true, however, that they’re often cheap to play. A pocket pair is generally considered to be any pair between 2 and 6, and most of the time they play similarly. Low pairs can be made very profitable with some relatively simple strategies that we will show here, as long as you follow a few key concepts.
Setting Up Small Pair Mining
The point here is to put in as little money as possible pre-flop when you have a small pair and hope to flop a set. Then, if you have a set, bet big post-flop to maximize your returns. In the early stages of a typical cash game or tournament, when the stacks are large (100BBs or more), most of the value provided by low pairs comes from their ability to flop.
In general, when starting a game with short pairs for the first time, there are two schools of thought. The first is to open the limp, where the first player to hit the flop pays the blinds instead of raising, hoping to encourage other players to limp with marginal bets. This keeps your pre-flop investment to a minimum and encourages multiple action. Therefore, if you flop a set, the chances of action are greater. The second (preferred) strategy is to raise from middle or late position and fold from early position. By raising instead of folding, you maintain a “no limit” range (the same way you play your best starting hands) and take the initiative. When you get paid, the pot is bigger than when you fold, making it easier to build a big pot postflop when you flop a set. Winning the blinds is never a bad thing when everyone folds! However, a clean strategy can yield the best results when your opponents are inexperienced, have played too many hands, and/or are distracted.
When faced with small pair raises, your strategy should depend on the size of the raiser’s stack. As a general rule, you should not call a raise with small pairs unless you and the raiser are at least 10 times behind. For example, if you are facing a $10 raise in a $1/$2 cash game, you want your opponent to have at least $100 in chips. This way you can make sure that when your opponent makes a 3-pointer, you can profit enough from your opponent to make up that he doesn’t and is forced to fold. The odds of landing a three on the flop are 7.5 to 1, so it’s important to get paid handsomely when you spot that elusive three.
If one or more players ahead of you have already limped, you should limp with them. Isolating a limper by getting underpairs when you don’t flop a set can create tricky situations postflop. This aggressive approach also prevents what could become a cheap multi-way pot if you limp.
Better short stacks
When stack sizes are moderate (between 30 and 40 big blinds), small pairs are much less valuable as they usually don’t make sets profitably, and on the flop Hard to play after. However, when stacks get smaller (20BBs or less), low pairs regain value as they can fold under pressure or force other players to fold. In these situations, small pairs can get the most equity by getting all-in pre-flop.
When the chips are low, you can Profitably push all-in with low pairs, which makes it simple and easy to play. With 20 big blinds in the open pot, any small hand can profitably bet from the button or the small blind. When your stack gets smaller, you need less position. For example, a pocket 2-2 player can profit by pushing 10BBs from a hijack position or later.
Small pocket pairs can also be profitable against all-in players who open and expect a wide range, such as those who raise from late position. By betting a small amount on a raise instead of paying it out, you can maximize fold equity and achieve equity in your hand when calling. Picture this scenario: The button raises and you call from the big blind with 2-2 and 20 big blinds. The flop is K-9-5; you check; your opponent bets and you fold. The problem with this situation is that on the flop you just have to guess when to hit the flop. In this case, your opponent will most likely have a worse hand like JT or 6-7. Both hands would likely fold if you were all-in pre-flop. Even if you get called, you can’t bluff post-flop because all your chips are already in the pot.
Source: GGPoker Blog