Third Street

Playing Big Pairs

Besides rolled up trips, the other hand that you should just about always play is a pair of aces (even if both other aces are out). The only exception to playing a pair of aces is against several fast poker players if there is raise and many calls before the action gets to you, and your aces are dead.

As for kings or queens, you should almost always play them as well. The time to throw them away is when you are positive that you are against a bigger pair or when your cards are dead. However, you should throw away a pair of tens or jacks if there are several overcrds still to act behind you and if you kicker is weak.

Here is an example of the last concept. Suppose you have and there is a queen, a


king, and an ace behind you. Normally, the correct play is to foold (unless the antae is very high).

One time that you should throw away a big pair is when the pot has been raised and reraised, and both players have higher exposed cards than your pair. In fact, you often should throw your hand away with just a raise and a call from the upcards we just described.

Here’s an example. You have:


An ace raises and a queen calls. Unless you know these players very well (and know that there is a good chance that they do not have what they are representing), you probably should throw you hand away. In any case calling is extremely marginal.

An exception to this fold would be when you have a live overcard kicker (to go along with your live pair), higher than either of the upcards of the two active players. For example, instead of holding the J 6 J above, suppose your kicker was the A , there were no other aces out, a queen raised, and a king reraised. In this case you should usually play and may even want to reraige again. Your reraise would be correct if you feel that there is a god chance that the player with the queen will fold, and this frequently will be the case.

If the player with the queen doesn’t fold, this may require some creative play on your part to get him out of there. For example, it may be correct to check on fourth poker street (if they check to you the re-reraiser) and then to raise on fifth street, assuming the player with the king bets into you. This will almost always force an unimproved pair of queens to fold and will increase your chance of winning with jacks up.

If you have a big pair, but two or more unduplicated upcards higher than your pair are behind you, you probably should fold if your kicker is poor and you don’t have a two-flush. However, if your kicker is poor and you don’t have a two-flush. However, if your kicker is good-either a live overcard or a live straight fulsh card-and is one of your downcards, go ahead and raise. (If reraised you should usually call.)

If may not be right to fold even if your kicker is weak. Raising might be correct. This will depend mostly on your opponents and whether your kicker is suited or not. The better they play or the more aggressive they are, the more inclined you should be to fold. (If you do raise and are reraised, you should almost always fold.) If you kicker is your upcard and is the highest card on board, then you usually should raise in this spot. Notice that this is consistent with our ante stealing requirements.

Notice that the additional out of a two-flush makes more hands playable. If you have a two-straight as well as a two-flush, that is even better. (Having an additional out, no matter what the form of poker, is often enough to make your hand significantly more valuable.)

As far as when to fold your big pairs after third street, you usually should give up if one of your oppodents pairs his door card [See “Part Three: Miscellaneous Topics” – “Playing Against a Paired Dor Card (on the Early Rounds)” on pare 107.] or if by sixth street, one of your opponents has either a four-flush or a four-straight on board. Even though he may not have the stright or the flush, the chances that he already does have the hand – combined with the possibility that he will make the hand – make a fold on your part correct.

What you need to keep in mind Thus you usually should either raise or reraise and try to eliminate as many players as possible. And again keep in mind that your big pair is much more valuable if your hand is live.

Suppose you have a big pair, but there were several players in and your hand is dead. As we showed earlier it might be best to throw it away. And even if your hand was live, it would become correct to only call, not raise or reraise. Most experts don’t know this but it is true!

There are two reasons. The first is stratigc. If you don’t raise you will have a better chance of knocking people out on a later round. The pot is smaller and there is a good chance that someone else will bet. This might allow you to raise or check-raise on fourth poker street. Additionally, if you bet out on fourth street, since there is less money in the pot, your opponents will be more inclined to fold because they are not getting as good a price. If you raised this would not be true.

Here’s an example. Suppose you start with


and catch a live ace on fourth street which you believe that your opponents may fear. You should now bet right out instead of trying for a check-raise. Because you didn’t raise on third street they are more likely to incorrectly fold on fourth street, and you want them to do this.

The second reason is this: Let’s say you are in a $ 30-$60 game and three players limp in for $ 10 each. You are getting $ 80- to –$ 10 or 8-to-1 on your call. If you raise you will be getting $ 140-to-$ 30 or only 4?-to-1 assuming all active players call (which will almost always be the case). Even if there was no more poker betting after third street, it would be right to only call, rather than raise with some of these hands such as a big pair with a dead pair card. Your hand could easily have less than a one-in-five chance of winning, but still more than one-in-nine. Thus, calling would be correct while raising would theoretically cost you money.

If many players have limped in you should often just call with a big pair and be ready to throw it away on fourth street. For example, suppose after several people have limped in you also limp with a big pair. On fourth street someone pairs his door card and checks, but before the action gets to you someone else with a non-threatening board makes a full double size bet. You should probably throw your hand away. There is a good chance that you are beaten, maybe badly beaten, and there is not much money in the pot.

It can also be correct to “limp” with a big pair from an early position, but for completely different reasons. You might do this if most of the following is true:
1. By limping, you will convince most of your opponents that you do not have a big pair.
2. Because of the cards that are showing, your big pair is even stronger than normal.
3. You have a two-flush, and all your cards are live.
4. A player in late position is very aggressive, and he shows a high card.
5. Your limping in doesn’t necessarily look like you are slowplaying a big hand.

An example of the second condition would be when you have an ace up (with an ace in the hole), there are just three players left behind you, and they all have a six up. An example of the fourth condition is when you have an ace up (with an ace in the hole), and a very aggressive player in late position has a queen up. Notice that if he plays you might be able to either reraise on third street or perhaps check-raise on fourth or fifth street.

There are two times when you may want to play big pairs deceptively because you don’t want to give your hand away. (This is not the same as a slowplay or a limp.)

Here’s an example. A king raised, a queen called, and you have:


Since your aces are in the hole, you may only want to call in this spot. On the other hand, if you have been double raising a lot with playing three-flushes and have been noticed, then it would be correct to go ahead and reraise. On time when you definitely would reraise with this hand is if you think there is a possibility that you can get the initial raiser to throw his hand away. Suppose in the example just given, the order of the hands already in the pot was reversed; that is, the queen raised and the king called. Further, let’s suppose that the person holding the queen is a very conservative player who might throw his hand away if you reraise. He will be afraid that if you don’t have him beat, then the person holding the king just might. If the queen folds, you will be able to play heads-up against the king, who may not have a pair and probably has the third best hand. If the play doesn’t work, that’s okay. You still get more money in with the best hand. Another time your reraise is a must with a hand like buried aces in a three way pot would be when you think the initial raiser will reraise you to knock the third player out.

Here’s another example of deceptive play. You are the low card with two aces in the hole, and a king-someone not in a steal position-brings it in for a raise, and no one else is in the pot. You probably should just call and hope to get a raise in later. If he is in a steal position be inclined to raise. He may automatically reraise thinking that you are just defending against his possible steal. Now just call and look to raise again on a later poker street, probably fifth street.

One undesirable situation that sometimes develops is that you will raise with a split big pair and a higher card behind you will reraise. If your kicker is higher than his upcard, you should call and be prepared to go to the river.

You can also call the raise if your kicker is a live straight flush card. (However, if you catch blanks on fourth and fifth street you should probably give it up.) without a quality kicker, fold immediately if it is unlikely that this person would raise you with anything but a higher pair. Otherwise call.

Here’s an example. You have:


You raise, a person holding a queen reraises, and this is the kind of person who has to have at least two queens to make this play. You should now fold. If you call in this spot, it can be a very costly mistake, especially if it compounds itself on the later streets. (However, if your kicker was a live ace or king you must call his reraise and in fact call all the way up to sixth street in most cases as long as your opponent shows no improvement. If your kicker was a live, suited nine or ten, you should still call and then make a decision on fifth street as to whether it is correct to continue.)