Low Pairs

Play of small pairs (deuces through 5s) will be much the game as play of middle pairs.  The biggest difference that arises concerns the kicker, which is essential to consider if you’re thinking of playing small pair.  When playing the, it is very important that either you have a big kicker or that all of your cards needed to improve to trips are live.  Ideally, both of these will be the case.  If you have a dead kicker, you can limp in with your low pair anyway, but all of your needed cards for trips must be live.

It doesn’t take a professional to see what will happen if your kicker is low.  The odds favor your improving to Poker Two Pair before improving to trips, so having a lousy kicker can just get you into trouble should you improve to Poker Two Pair.  That said, can a medium or low Poker Two Pair ever be played?  Yes, in certain situations, which we’ll cover at fourth street.

Having your pair hidden is always better than having a split pair, but that’s especially true with small pairs.  As with middle pairs, if you should pair your visible big kicker, many players will believe you have trips.  For example, suppose you are in middle position and have a pair of treys in the hole with a king on the board.  You limp in for a dollar, and you pick up another king.  This gives you a great Poker Two Pair, and many of your opponents will fear that you have trips.  As a result, you can force them out by playing that Poker Two Pair hard.

When to Fold

Many players are tempted to play any pair – even a split pair of deuces with a 4 for a kicker and a dead deuce.  They have that mind set that any pair is better than nothing, and it’s hard to shake.  It’s especially tempting to play any pair when you’ve been dealt absolutely nothing for an hour.  In fact, during one session in which I had gone a long time without playing a hand, I once caught myself raising with a split pair of 6s and a 9 kicker!

Can a low pair with a mediocre kicker be played at all?  Yes, it can, but you must be certain of two things.  One is that there is next to zero chance you will be raised (and that’s highly unlikely).  Ideally, you will be in late position, so you’ll already know what the other players have done.  Second, you’ll want all of your needed cards for trips to be live unless your kicker is excellent – if even one is gone, then, unless you were the bring-in, you should be gone, too.

Quick Guide….
….To Middle Pairs on Third Street:

  • RAISE if you have an excellent kicker and all live cards, and if you’re confident doing so will Drive out other players.
  • CALL most of the time – particularly if your kicker is high.
  • FOLD if there is heavy action before it gets to you, or if you have a lousy kicker and one of your cards to improve to trips is dead.