Know your pocket pairs


Pocket pairs bring out a twinkle in every poker player’s eye. It certainly is a powerful category of cards to be dealt, however, it can be a double-edged sword depending on how they are played. Let’s begin with its definition if you are new to poker and move onto strategies on how to play them.

In a game of poker, if you’ve been dealt two cards of the same ranking say J-J, you’ve been dealt pocket pairs. However the values of these cards differ, but they all come under the category of pocket pairs.

The categorization is fairly simple, poker theory recognizes three major subgroups of pocket pairs, namely:

Premium pocket pairsRange from JJ to AA

Medium pocketsRange from 77 to TT

Small pocket pairsRange from 66 to 22

 Let’s now take a look at the odds of being delts poker pairs. So on an average, a player stands the possibility of being dealt pocket pairs every 17 hands in a game of poker that makes it 5.9% chance of hitting pocket pairs. Here’s the breakup:

Odds of getting pocket Aces (or any other pocket pair): 0.45% (220 in 1)

Odds of getting dealt a premium pair (JJ+): 1.8% (54 to 1)

Odds of being dealt 88 or better: 3.2% (31 to 1)

Odds of receiving any pocket pair (22+): 5.9% (17 to 1)

Now, we’ll look into each of these separately to identify their value and the best approach to playing it.

Premium Pocket Pairs

 These are some of the best preflop holdings you can have in a game of Hold’em. While pocket Jacks could be considered as sitting on the fence, and somewhat marginal, the rest of the pairs in this category are extremely strong. As the number of players in a hand decreases, the value of premium pocket pairs increases significantly, as you’re far less likely to get out-flopped by a single player.

In most situations, with these pocket pairs, one must get as much money before the flop. Of course, poker is a game of multiple outcomes and things may not go as planned, your raises might face callers. There are two things to keep in mind in these kinds of situation:

  • You still have a very strong hand if there is no over-card on the board
  • Don’t get married to your pocket pair in multi-way pots


Medium Pocket Pairs

It is hard to come up with a strategy for medium pocket pairs because they fall into this in-between category. The best piece of advice is to try and get heads-up going to the flop. When playing against a single opponent, these hands can easily win pots even without flopping a set. However, if you see a flop with several players, you will need to hit a set to take home the pot and will be folding if otherwise.

Small Pocket Pairs

Small pocket pairs are probably some of the hardest hands to play. They seem to have the potential if you hit the right flop but, at the same time, that flop doesn’t come very often!

Our general plan with small pocket pairs is very simple, see the flop as cheaply as possible, flop a set, and get our opponent’s stack when they have an over pair or flop a hand like top pair.