Middle and Small Pairs

When you make a small or middle pair, most of the time, unless you’ve improved it at street, you will be folding.  There are a few times, though, when you will play to see fifth street.  I’ll mentioned those now, so you don’t automatically fld when your middle pair does not improve.

Low-limit stud tends to be very passive at times, so you will often get to see fifth street cheaply.  You can therefore play a medium or small pair more often at the low limits. But even if you can play the hand for one small bet, proceed with caution.  Let’s look at an example.

Say you have pocket 5s, with a jack and king on the board.  It’s one small bet to you, and you do not see anything to be too concerned about on the board.  Unless your two other 5s are gone, or a 5 and one of your kickers are gone, you can call here.  In the same situation, if there are some hands yet to act that look threatening – such as an open big pair – fold, unless you know that poker player yet to act is so passive that he won’t be raising with his big pair.

Another time you should call with a medium or little pair is when you hold three to a flush or straight.  The odds are against your making either of these hands, but if no more than two of your cards to improve a pair are dead, call a minimum bet.

Kickers & Live Cards

I’ve said it time and time again, but I’ll say it here, too.  You must remember that one of the most important things to keep in mind before calling with a small or medium pair is the status of your live cards kickers.

In that last example (5 5 J K), you have a decent hand because your kickers are good.  If you had 5 5 8 2, that’s a much more mediocre hand.  You have to think long and hard about calling.  I would call a minimum bet with the good kickers.  If three of the cards were of the same suit and no more than two of the cards needed to improve the hand were dead, I’d even call up to one big bet.  With the lousy kickers, it’s best to fold (unless, of course, you can see fifth for free).

Quick Guide….
…. to Middle and Small Pair on Fourth Street:

  • CALL a minimum bet if you have three-to-a flush, three-to-a-straigt, or a pair with good kickers and no more than two cards needed to improve dead.
  • FOLD if it is a big bet or more back to you.

Flush and Straight Draws

Knowing when you should stay in with flush and straight draws comes down to being aware of live cards and the quality of your hand.  In this section, we’ll look at how to play for to a flussh or straight.  We’ll also discuss when it’s justifiable to stay in with three to a flush or straight.

Three Flushes

With three to a flush, you’re looking to stay in as cheaply as possible.  In a perfect world, you would get a free chard.  In reality, most of the time you’ll have to call at least one bet.  If it is a big bet, fold the hand unless you have a good pair to go with your drawing hand.  You can call a small bet, but only when you have a lot of live cards and good over cards.

Suppose that you hold J © K © A ¨ 8©.  Three of your cards here are of the same suit, and it’s one small bet back to you.  Now, the odds are not too good that you’ll hit a flush by the river – they’re about 8.5 to 1.  You can stick around, though, because you have some very good big cards that could improve on fifth street.

When you’re deciding whether to call the bet, you’ll want to look at who is yet to act.  If you see an open pair of 9s or better, you must fold.  Yes, it is only one small bet, but you have to be thinking that the holder of that pair very well may raise.  If you don’t see any other pairs on the board and nothing else looks too threatening (such as A-K suited) it’s okay to call.

Note that if you call, you’ll want to have a lot of live cards – kickers and cards of your suit.  Because the odds are stacked against your making a flush, no more than two of the cards of your suit should be gone, and no more than two of the cards that would make your high kickers into pairs should be gone.  Let’s illustrate this using the above example.  You have three to a heart flush and two high kickers.  If two hearts are gone and all the aces and jacks are live, call.  If a jack is gone and only one heart is gone, call.  If four clubs and an ace are all gone, you must be gone, too.  It’s simply not worth the risk- save your chips for when you do have something that can make people pay.