Middle Pairs

Many players make the mistake of raising with any pair.  They believe that a pair, even if it’s just middle one, is some type of monster hand on third street. The automatic thing to do?  Toss out another chip or two to raise the bet.  More often than not, this habit will cost you money in the long run, unless your cards are will live and you have an excellent kicker.

Kickers – The Bigger, The Better

There’s that word again: kicker.   I touched on it in the previous chapter, when I noted that a big pair is great, but it’s even better with a big kicker to boot.  With a medium pair, a big kicker is even more important, whether your pair is hidden or split.  Why?  The answer should become clear if you just take a moment to think about it.  Let’s say you have a pair of pocket 7s, with a king on the board, and you’re in middle position.  Looking around the board, you see on other 7s or kings.  Cool.

The action comes to you, and when you see nothing too threatening to your left, you raise.  Ideally, you are hoping to make trips by fifth street in this situation, but by having a good kicker, you have another way to get a solid Poker Two Pair.  Additionally, when you have a high kicker showing on the board in this situation, it can be especially beneficial when you pair the doord card, because by having raised on third street, you will cause many players to figure you for trip kings on fourth street.

Now that we’ve looked at this situation in which you have a pair, a good kicker, and all of your cards to improve your pair live, you should realize that you should raise in this situation if there aren’t too many scary cards out there left to bet.  Just call if you’re in a game where there is a lot of third street raising or if there are more than two visible bigger cards yet to bet.

Be Careful with Lousy Kickers

Here’s a different situation.  You are holding a split pair of 6s with a 3 (or “trey”) as your kicker.  Not cool.  Sure, you have a pair, but you can’t be too happy about it.  In this situation, if you decide to play at all, you will want just to limp in.  With a lousy kicker, you can get into a lot of trouble down the road if you stay in too long.  You’ll have 6s and treys, and nine times out of ten, unless you fill up, this hand won’t be winning you very much money.  So, with a middle pair and a lousy kicker, just limp in.

In my poker experience at the low limits, there often isn’t much raising going on at third street, so it’s worth a chip to see fourth.  But, all of your 6s in this situation must be live.  If there’s just one other 6 out there, mcks your cards.  If isn’t worth even a buck to see another card when only one card in the deck can improve a pair (which had a mediocre kicker and wasn’t even all that good to begin with.)

Note that while in most low-limit games there’s not a lot of raising going on in third street play, this is not true of all games.  I’ve played in games where people aren’t afraid to cap the betting at third street if they feel they have a good enough hand.  With a medium pair, even if you have a good kicker, if it is more than two bets back to you (e.g. you put in a dollar, it was raised to two, then to four, making it three dollars to call), definitely foold.  Yes, you spent a dollar.  Do you really want to spend three more in this situation to go in as probable underdog to a big pair or, worse yet, to rolled up trips?  I don’t think so.

Two final points that I’ve tried to hammer home throughout the book thus far:  remember the cards and always keep in mind your position. If, while you’re watching the race at Belmont on the TV monitor, you suddenly hear the dealer say, “The bet’s to you, Sir,” and you look down to see a split medium pair but have missed the two other guys who have folded, I hope you’d just fold.  In this situation, you have no §; us what cards have been mucked.

Before you go banging away with a medium pair, check to see who has yet to act.  If you see some big cards out there, limp in with your live pair that has a good kicker, and muck it if your kicker is lousy kicker with big cards in your opponents’ hands.  Save yourself the anxiety and the chips and wait for a better hand.