Keep It Simple Part II

Pot Odds and Pocket Pairs

One of the most common and most expensive mistakes many players of all skill levels make is drawing after the flop when they hold a middle or low pocket pair.

For example, you are dealt

You Hold:   And The Flop Is:
Nine of Clubs Nine of Diamonds
Hole Cards
King of Hearts Queen of Spades Five of Diamonds

and there is action on the flop you should almost always fold.  Yes it's true that sometimes you'll have the best hand but far more often you don't and will need to hit one of only two remaining 9's in the deck which is more than 20 to 1 against for each card you draw.

What's more, in this example you could not only be up against someone holding a King, a Queen, or better (two pair or a set) but you could also be up against someone holding Jack Ten and someone holding a King or Queen which means you can be drawing entirely dead.

Besides the above example which, while it seems like an obviously bad draw, is a draw that the vast majority of poker players will make, comes more marginal examples like the following:


You Hold:   And The Flop Is:
King of Diamonds King of Clubs
Hole Cards
Ace of Hearts Seven of Clubs Eight of Spades

and you have decent action before the flop with more than one person you should let go of your hand. Somehow folding a big pair like JJ, QQ or KK seems almost impossible to do, but look at it another way.  If you had

Ace of Diamonds Three of Diamonds
Hole Cards

and got a lot of action on that flop you should also fold and clearly this hand beats a pair of kings so if you can throw this away why not the pocket pair?  In fact it's even worse than that because not only is the A3 above a better hand that KK on this flop but it has more outs to improve against a hand like AT or AJ (three additional 3's in the deck vs. only two Kings).  Still A3 is a losing hand with this flop against a lot of opponents and so is KK so one thing you can do right now to start saving money (which directly translates to making more money) is being able to let go of pocket pairs on the flop when there are overcards and the pot is multiway.

Flop the Set or Get Out!

Usually in a multiway game your goal with pocket pairs as high as JJ or QQ is to flop a set or get out of the pot.  You should be always keeping this in mind when you play pocket pairs and proceed carefully when you do not hit a set because your chances of improving to a set are very very slim (and also quite expensive) after the flop.

Keep in mind you must use some human intelligence as well.  Sometimes you will have to call with a pair of jacks when a queen or king flops if you are up against only one or two other people and you feel that there's a good chance that they are on a draw.  Likewise if you have a middle pair like 88 and a 9 flops you may also have the best hand at the moment and if you can narrow the field down to one or two callers by raising then you should do so.  When people are willing to reraise you and call other player's reraises then you have to get out.

The bottom line is this: If you feel as if your hand is beaten on the flop unless it improves then throw it away.

Side note

One critical concept is that it's a much different situation when you are contesting a pot heads up.  You cannot automatically assume that your sole opponent has an ace when an ace comes on the flop and you hold KK.  In this circumstance you can often maximize your income by checking and calling.  A passive play can make it seem to your opponent that you are on a draw and many times they will attempt a multiple round bluff against you where you may not make any additional money if you are too aggressive with your hand and may lose a lot if your opponent has you beat.

In the kinds of games you're likely to encounter at brick and mortar low limit games, though, you will definitely improve your results by laying down pocket pairs when overcards flop (and charging your opponents a maximum premium when overcards do not flop!)