How to Play Small Pocket Pairs: Late Position
We have gone over how to play poker with this very tricky hand in the two most dangerous positions, early and middle, and now it is time to go over how to play them from the catbird seat. Regardless of their size, small pocket pairs in late position can be very effective if you vary your play and take advantage of weak players at the table.
When you are in the cutoff or button position and you look down at two matching cards, you have a huge advantage. Unlike early position, you don’t stand to throw money in the put on a lot of occasions and have someone else come right over you. If they do, it is probably because they were slow playing a big pocket pair and were waiting for someone else to make a raise. In most cases, it will be a sizeable raise and tossing your hand to the muck is a no brainer.
However, that is usually the exception to the online poker rule and if player are only showing moderate strength in front of you or limping in, you can steal a ton of pots by playing this hand properly. Once again, let’s assume that we are looking down at 99, except this time we are sitting on the button.
First scenario has everyone folding to you. You have only the blinds to beat and if you are playing aggressively all day, this move may get you a hit back from the BB. If not, unless he is sitting on a hand, he will more than likely fold. Made it a big enough raise that he has to really think about protecting his blind. Usually a 4 or 5x blind will get it. However, if you have been stealing, expect him to fight back and possibly come back over the top. In most cases, you can come right back at him and take down the hand. This is where your knowledge of the players comes in and will dictate to raise or fold. Just calling is not an option here.
The next scenario is when you have several limpers and the betting gets back to you. I am a strong believer in that if you are playing any cards other than small suited connectors, this situation warrants a decent raise. This way, the blinds are not getting odds to call and if it gets back around to the limpers, they are going to have to think twice about throwing more money in with their KJo. A big raise here is a cause for concern and calling will be dictated by odds. You are not really worried about callers, be more worried about how that board comes out.
If you get a board that is stacked with over cards and you have multiple callers, you are dead in the water. Your best bet is to hope it gets checked to you and then possibly hit the turn. Throwing a bet to three over cards is asking for trouble and a loss. Now if the board only shows one over and you have limited callers, meaning two or less, you can put out a continuation bet of at least half the pot to see where you stand. You may be able to take it down right there. If you get a caller and there is no draw, be very careful on the turn as you may have someone who hit with a weak kicker. This is a dangerous spot to be in. All under cards is a no brainer pot sized or better wager.
Best case scenario is that the board hits and the set hits the board. You are going to be in great shape to make a huge hit here, especially if you have multiple callers. With an aggressive raise, the table will probably check around to you. Even if they don’t, your philosophy on betting is going to be the same. Your bet should be about ¾ of the pot. It is slightly more than a normal continuation bet and just enough that if you manage to get one caller, you may just get others to follow.
The dream situation is that there is one over card and someone has managed to hit it. You see a board of 29J and after you make your bet, your doomed opponent that is looking down at his AJ thinks he is about to crush you and comes right back over the top. Depending upon your stack, you have a couple of options here. If he has a lot of money and you are similarly armed, you may just want to smooth call and let him fire on the turn. This will allow him to think he is the best and then when he makes a bet on the turn, you can push. Odds may dictate that he has to call and you get to felt him and take down a huge hand.
If either you or your opponent is looking at a stack that is right around the pot, the flop bet is the time to get the money in the pot. Say the pot is about $500 and you have $350 left and your opponent is sitting close to that. He fires a $225 bet at the pot, there is no need to waste anymore time here. Push your stack in and he has not choice to call. With there being $1050 in the middle at this point, his last $125 gives him better than 8:1 and he would have to be a moron to let the hand go.
Small pairs in late position are absolute dreams. They have a nice chance to create a big pot, scoop a lot of blinds and allow you to get out cheap when the hand goes bad. You may take a hit every now and again with them, but if you play this way, you will come out way ahead of the game at the end of the year.