Big Pairs

In many instances, you will have stayed in to see fourth street with a big pair that did not improve on the fourth card.  Most of these times, unless more than one of your cards are gone and there’s a lot of action (indicating that bigger hands have been made by the time it gets to you), you will want to stick around to see fifth street.  In this section, we’ll look at how to play big pairs on fourth street.  I’ll show you when to play them aggressively, when to limp in, and when to mucky them.

Quick Guide….
….To Poker Two Pair on Fourth Street:

  • RAISE when you have a big Poker Two Pair higher than anything that you can see on the board, unless it is two big bets back to you. 
  • CALL when you believe that a raise will not force out other players or if your instinct tells you a player may have something big.
  • FOLD when you have a weak Poker Two Pair that’s vulnerable to a higher pair on the board, unless your cards are all live.  Folding is also best when more than two cards that would improve the hand to a boat are dead

Banging Away

Though a big pair may not sound like much on fourth street, frequently you must raise with it.  If I do not see any pairs on the board, I will usually raise, especially if my pair is hidden and has live cards.  As I have said again and again: make the drawing hands pay! A big pair is a great hand on third street, and it’s still a good hand on fourth   street. Those drawing hands are dangerous.  With a big pair you want the field as narrow as it can be.

Any pair on the board on fourth street will have the option of betting the maximum amount if no one has yet bet.  If you are highest hand, have to bring it in, and have big pair on the board with live cards, never bet just the minimum.  This was a mistake I would make frequently, as I would want to wait to improve to trips or Poker Two Pair before I began to play aggressively.

Waiting will cost you money in the long run.  Players with marginal hands are likely to call a minimum bet.  With a big bet from a big pair on the board, though, they will think twice about staying around.  They’ll fear that you have Poker Two Pair or trips, and they’ll toss in their drawing hands.  A hidden big pair with a couple of weak cards on the board is a great situation as well – should you make trips, your opponents won’t be able to see them until you surprise them on the showdown.  You probably won’t bring it in with two weak cards on the board, but raise once the action comes to you it you feel you have the best hand.

It can be very tempting to bet small with a big pair at fourth street, even when you think you might have the best hand at that time.  Of course, you want to stay in, but without a great hand, it’s tempting just to limp in until you improve.  It may look like you’re saving money if you don’t improve your hand, but betting small is costing you in the long-run because other players aren’t having to spend much.  They’re staying in cheaply and probably outdrawing you more times than not.

When to Limp In

Betting big with a pair on the board is desirable, but there are also times when just calling is best.  One such situation is when it is a big bet back to you.  If it is just the minimum to you, and there’s no pair on the board, you will want to raise.  But if it is brought in for two dollars and raised to four, don’t re-raise – the raise is probably an indication of a Poker Two Pair or even bigger hand.  As long as most of your cards are live, just call and hope to improve on fifth street.

Another situation in which to call is if there is a pair on the board.  With Poker Two Pair, if you do not see any pair bigger than yours exposed, you want to bang away.  With just one pair, even if it’s bigger than anything on the board, you can’t be certain that poker player with a pair on the board hasn’t made Poker Two Pair.  If you feel that you have a good read on your oppoent, perhaps you know him to be the kind of player who will only bet the maximum if he has Poker Two Pair or better.   In that case, if he limps in, raise to the maximum with your bigger pair to force out weaker hands.  Most of the time, though, if there is a pair on the board, just call to see fifth street cheaply.

Mucking the Hand

With Poker Two Pair, if you saw a bigger pair on the board, folding was the best decision unless every one of your cards was live.  With just one pair, even if it is big, get out of there if you see that someone has made a bigger pair.  For example, let’s say you have a pair of jacks, and at this point you’re clearly beaten by a player who has made a pair of aces.  Unless you know that his other two aces are dead, fld.  Going up against a bigger pair that clearly has you beaten here will just cost you money in the long run.

The only time you can consider calling is if your pair is hidden.  Earlier in this section, I touched on the value that a hidden pair can have for you when you get to the show-down: a player won’t see trips- or, better yet, a full house  - coming. With a hidden pair in the same situation, you can call up to one big bet if most of your cards are live.

Quick Guide….
….To Big Pair on Fourth Street:

  • RAISE with a big pair (especially if it’s hidden) when you see no other pairs on the board and when you are confident that you have the best hand.
  • CALL if it has been raised to you or if you see another pair on the board, unless you believe that your opponent is just trying to scare people off.
  • FOLD when you see that a bigger pair has been made.

Don’t Forget Those Kickers

During the discussion of third street play, I mentioned that the importance of a good kicker can never be underestimated.  The same holds true here at fourth street, and the size of your kickers will play a large part in determining whether you call or fold.  Let’s look at an example to illustrate this point.  Suppose you have pocket jacks.  With no pair on the board, you’ll be raising if it’s one small bet to you.  With a pair on the board, you’ll be calling.  What if someone holds a pair of queens to your right, and he just brought it in for the maximum?  Certainly, you’re gone if more than one of the cards you need to improve are gone.  But before you reach for your chips or start to fold up your cards to muck them, look at your kickers.

Suppose you are holding a split pair of jacks, with a 10 for your other hole card and a king dealt to you on fourth street.  In that case, assuming you haven’t seen more than two dead cards, go ahead and call to see fifth street.  You have possibilities for what could improve to trips, Poker Two Pair, or even an open-ended straight draw.  Now suppose you have the same split pair with lousy kickers.  In that case, fold.  Sure, the jacks look good, but you can already see that you are beat by a pair of queens.  Never start out having to improve if you don’t have to