Small pairs are easy to beat, but they hold a surprise element if they are hidden. A vital condition for playing with a small pair (2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 6's) is your position at the betting round. If you are first to bet, it's advised for you to pass since you will not have the needed information to tell whether you can win the round or not, but if you're last in the betting session you can gain information which would help you to read your opponents' hands.
Notice that a good kicker is a vital condition for continuing to play. A low kicker would be easily outmatched at later stages of the round, and with the help of a high kicker as your doorcard you would fool your opponents, they would probably put you on a high pair or trip, according to your bets.
Another crucial element that should be put into your calculations is your small pair's condition: are they live or dead? If they are live then you can use the element of surprise, but if they are dead you should simply fold. If your cards are live then you have a fair shot for making a three-of-a-kind, a trip, but notice that if any player shows signs for a Flush, a Straight or a high pair then you should fold now.
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After receiving pocket cards, you are immediately faced with a choice: play your cards and either raise or call the blinds, or fold.Practice Matters Removing a lot of your opponent’s small pairs
Removing a lot of your opponent’s small pairs and marginal hands increases your equity with a high un-paired hand like AQo, but decreases it with a big pair. So really the argument should be that you should be 3-betting AQo more, and flatting JJ pre-flop more often. Of course poker isn't this simple. The flopability of your hand and how many streets of value you can get with a particular hand matter. Not to mention that 3-betting decreases your effective stack to pot ratio so that you can comfortably play a slightly bigger pot with a big pair, and reduces your opponent’s hands that can create big pots, like 87s.The point here though is that certain hands
The point here though is that certain hands actually gain equity when you 3-bet them versus lose equity. But there are other things to consider besides just equity. There's fold equity, decreasing the stack to pot ratio, and initiative. All of these will factor into whether 3-betting for value or calling is better.
Some of the most misplayed hands in no limit Texas Hold’em are small pairs, that is pairs of deuces up to pocket sixes. Although they do have the potential to win huge pots when they flop a set they are essentially a speculative hand, a speculative hand that many overestimate the strength of.
Small pairs are extremely vulnerable to almost any hand due to their value. Against a bigger pair they will always be at least an 80% underdog and even against suited connectors and higher unpaired hands they will only hold between 50 and 55% equity, meaning they will be essentially tossing a coin on whether they win or not. You may think that small pairs will not run into bigger pairs too often but you would be mistaken. A lowly pair of fours will be up against a higher pair around 22% of the time at a six-handed table and at least 33% of the time at a ten-handed table!
The real strength of these hands, whether used at the same time as Betfair promo codes or not, is their implied value from flopping sets against said higher pocket pairs or when one of your opponents flops top pair or two pair and cannot let go of their hand. But set mining, where players purposely play any pair with the hope of flopping a set, is not without its risks and is often misplayed too. In order to set mine profitably you should have at least 10-to-1 implied pot odds, which is rarely the case if a pot is three-bet and you are only 100 big blinds deep, plus many people see a flop reading 6d-2c-9h whilst holding a pair of fives and despite not flopping their set they seem to think their hand will be good and go one or two streets too far with a weak hand.
Those over at www.betfairpoker.com note that to play small pairs profitably you ideally want to have position on your opponents and be able to see the flop cheapily in order to maximise your potential returns. In a passive full ring game you could probably get away with limping from up front but if there have been raises preflop, especially those isolating limpers, then you should muck all small pairs from the early positions. In middle position you can start to limp in, even raising when first in against weak-passive opponents and all small pairs can and should be raised first in from the cutoff and button and you should be happy to win the blinds without a fight.
Treat small pairs exactly as that and you should not go too far wrong.
176 S MALL S TAKES N O -L IMIT H OLD ’ EM
The next two players fold, and the tricky, aggressive 25/23 button reraises to $22. Both blinds fold. What should you do?
Players often call here, thinking that the button’s range is fairly wide. They think their hand is too good to fold, and that they should at least call for set value. This is terrible thinking.
If the button’s range is fairly wide, and he plays well postflop, you don’t have good implied odds. You won’t flop many sets, and when you do he’ll often have a weak hand that won’t pay you off. The rest of the time, when you don’t flop a set, he will put you to a tough decision. You will quickly find yourself in a big pot playing for stacks with a marginal hand. Calling for set value is not profitable here.
Don’t call unless you plan to sometimes win the pot without a set. The problem with trying to outplay your opponent postflop in this spot is that you’re out of position. Even if you are just as good a player as your opponent, his position and initiative give him a big edge. Also, while the button is aggressive, he’s not stupid. He saw that you raised under the gun, so his 3-bet is more likely to be a real hand.
Folding is the best play. Don’t try and take a stand every time an opponent plays back at you. It might turn out that you’re overestimating your opponent’s bluffing frequency. All you have is a pair of sevens, and it’s common for him to have a range that does well against you. You’re playing a strong range under the gun, so if your opponent truly is getting out of control with his 3-betting, you’ll easily trap him in the future.
Pocket Fives On The Button
Stacks are $200. The first two players fold, and the 24/21 cutoff opens for $7. He is a solid player capable of opening a wide range here. However, he isn’t too tough postflop, and you feel comfortable playing against him. The blinds both are weak-tight players. You are on the button with 5 ♠ 5 ♣ . What should you do?
Calling and 3-betting are both decent options. Your opponent likely has a weak hand since he is opening in late position, suggesting
S PECIFIC P REFLOP D ECISIONS
a reraise. And mixing in a 3-bet now and again with a small pair is good for range balance. However, you have position, and the blinds are unlikely to enter the pot or squeeze, suggesting a call.
All in all, you opt to call because you think it is the most profitable. When you play as well or better than your opponents postflop, look to play hands where you have position in a small or medium sized preflop pot.
You call the $7, and the blinds fold. The flop comes A ♠ Q ♦ 7 ♠. The cutoff bets $11. You plan to implement the classic float play. You call the $11.
The turn is the 6 ♠. Your opponent checks. You bet $30, and he folds.
Deuces In The Big Blind
Stacks remain $200. Everyone folds to the 20/18 button, who opens for $7. He is a solid player who opens looser in late position than in early position. The small blind folds, and you have 2 ♣ 2 ♠ in the big blind. What should you do?
Your default should be to fold. You don’t have implied odds to play for set value alone. The button has a fairly wide opening range, and he won’t have a strong hand on most flops. If and when you flop a set, you won’t often get paid off.
Since you can’t profitably play for set value alone, for these deuces to be profitable you’d need to win many times that you don’t flop a set. You might do that by introducing a randomized bluffing strategy like checkraising him on certain flops, or by trying to win a showdown by checkcalling him down on certain boards. However, 2 ♣ 2 ♠ is a poor hand for implementing either of these strategies. It’s hard to make a stand with deuces unimproved, and you will rarely have more than two outs postflop, leaving you few semibluff opportunities.
You can also sometimes reraise preflop. This works best against opponents who tighten up to a 3-bet. Against an aggressive raiser who does not fold to 3-bets, it’s better to fold the deuces.
178 S MALL S TAKES N O -L IMIT H OLD ’ EM
If you must call heads-up out of the blinds to keep a loose button raiser in check, do it with a hand that plays better postflop than pocket deuces.
Pocket Tens In The Small Blind
In a $1–$2 game with $200 effective stacks, the cutoff opens for $7, and the button folds. You are in the small blind with pocket tens. What should you do?
The short answer is “it depends.” But let’s elaborate.
Three-betting should be your default play in this situation. Your hand does well against a typical cutoff opening range, and a 3-bet here will usually isolate the opening raiser. Often the raiser will just fold, and you’ll win the pot outright. That’s a good result. When he doesn’t fold, he’ll frequently play suboptimally against your 3-bet. That’s also a good result.
Many opponents make the typical mistake of calling your 3-bet to play fit-or-fold. They’ll call your 3-bet with big cards and small pairs. Then they’ll fold on the flop unless they flop top pair or a set. They won’t steal enough, and they won’t put you to tough postflop decisions. When they 4-bet, they’ll always have a premium hand. Against these opponents, you should 3-bet just about every time with pocket tens and play a standard aggressive postflop strategy. Be careful when you face aggression. You should usually fold to a preflop 4-bet.
Against aggressive opponents who 4-bet more liberally or who call to try and take pots away postflop, adjust your strategy. Be more willing to get all-in preflop, and check more often postflop to induce bluffs.
When To Flat Call
Under the following circumstances, flat calling the original bet can be superior to 3-betting.
S PECIFIC P REFLOP D ECISIONS
The big blind likes to squeeze.
If you know the big blind to be aggressive and squeeze-happy, call the original raise with the intention of 4-betting (or pushing all-in) over the big blind’s 3-bet.
The opening raiser has a tight range and plays it well.
Say the cutoff is a 12/10 and plays well against a 3-bet by flatcall trapping and 4-betting with a balanced range. You are better off calling the original raise and playing carefully after the flop.
The big blind is an exceptionally weak player and will often call $5.
If the big blind is, for example, a 52/3, you prefer to play many hands with him. Flat calling keeps him in the pot. Postflop, you need to adjust to the fact that you’re in a multiway pot with a bad player. Play fairly straightforwardly and don’t get too tricky.
This situation confuses many players. They don’t know which factors are most important when they decide between calling and 3- betting. Further, no matter whether you call or 3-bet, if the stacks aren’t short then playing pocket tens from out of position sets up tricky postflop decisions. Often people will remember the last time they got stacked with the hand, blame the bad result on their preflop play, and vow to do the opposite next time.
We suggest you approach the decision consistently. Pocket tens is a strong hand, and reraising it for value is generally a safe play. It’s not safe in the “you can avoid tough postflop decisions” sense, but it’s safe in the sense that if you were to reraise the hand every time, over the long haul, even if you messed up some of the tricky hands here and there, you would almost certainly show a solid profit. So, unless you can think of a good reason to call like the ones we listed above, reraise for value.
180 S MALL S TAKES N O -L IMIT H OLD ’ EM
Flat Calling With Position
Stacks are $200. The first two players fold, and the cutoff opens for $7. You are on the button with A ♥ J ♠. The blinds both are weaktight. Should you fold, call, or reraise?
If the cutoff is a super tight player, folding is a decent option. Your hand doesn’t have much pot equity against a tight range. Position makes it easier to steal, but probably not easy enough. Your opponent’s strong range means that he will often have a decent hand on the flop. If he is at all aggressive, he’s not a good target to try and push around postflop.
But let’s say he’s not very tight. He opens about a quarter of his hands in the cutoff. A ♥ J ♠ is strong against that range, and you’ll have position. So you aren’t folding. Should you reraise or call?
Pros to reraising are that you can win the pot outright, you discourage the blinds from entering the pot, and you have initiative on the flop if called. Cons are that you put more money at risk, you create a big preflop pot with a somewhat marginal hand, you give yourself less wiggle room postflop due to the smaller SPR, and you eliminate a lot of the weak hands in your opponent’s range.
Pros to calling are that you keep the preflop pot smaller, you give yourself more stack room postflop to take advantage of position, you keep your opponent in the pot with dominated hands, and you don’t need to worry much about the blinds since they’re weak-tight. Cons are that you cannot win the pot outright, you let your opponent keep initiative, and you don’t put pressure on the blinds to fold.
All in all, calling is a good option in this spot. The pot is likely to be heads-up due to the tendencies of the players in the blinds. You may as well take advantage of your position by keeping the preflop pot smaller. Higher SPRs benefit position and good postflop play.
Calling works well for big card hands. With a marginal big card hand, you may not always want to commit with top pair, particularly against a decent opponent. But if you reraise preflop and create a big pot, it will be difficult to get away from top pair. To boot, your odds of running into a better hand postflop increase in a 3-bet pot, since your opponent will fold many of his weaker hands to your 3-bet.
S PECIFIC P REFLOP D ECISIONS
Calling gives you more options. If you hit top pair, you can obtain more information before having to make a commitment decision. And you can still steal as well. In fact, even if you bluff raise the flop and get thwarted, you don’t lose much more than if you 3-bet preflop.
If you had a different type of hand, you might not want to call preflop. Say you had 6 ♣ 4 ♣ . You won’t flop a good hand often, so the value of winning the pot outright increases. This encourages you to 3-bet or fold instead of call. Although you’ll occasionally flop a strong hand with 6 ♣ 4 ♣ , the implied value of making these strong hands is usually less than the value of winning the pot preflop.
Calling a preflop raise with position can be a good option. It works particularly well when the raiser is not very tight, you expect the pot to be heads up, you prefer the preflop pot to be smaller, and you are comfortable playing against your opponent postflop.
Calling When Out Of Position
Many of the same principles apply when you are out of position. If you have a hand that prefers a smaller preflop pot, and you are comfortable playing against your opponent postflop, calling can be a better option than 3-betting. That might be the case when you have a hand like AJo.
If you 3-bet with AJ, you may find yourself in a quandary if you hit top pair. The pot will be big, so you will immediately be put to a commitment decision. If you are comfortable committing because your opponent has a very loose range, then 3-betting is fine. If you are uncomfortable with that, consider calling preflop.
Keeping the pot small is more difficult out of position. You have to act first on each of the remaining streets, and your checks may encourage your opponent to bet. It’s easier to keep the pot small when you call preflop rather than 3-bet. And calling preflop gives you the benefit of being up against a weaker range.
182 S MALL S TAKES N O -L IMIT H OLD ’ EM
Calling A Preflop 3-Bet With Pocket Aces
A weak player with $80 limps from up front. Everyone else has $200. The next player to act makes a pot-sized raise to $9. The cutoff reraises to $26. Hero is in the small blind with A ♠ A ♥ and flat calls. The big blind folds, the limper calls, and the original raiser folds. The pot is 3-handed and contains $89.
The flop comes 9 ♦ 4 ♥ 3 ♦ . Everyone checks to the preflop reraiser who bets $56, a little less than two-thirds of the pot. Hero checkraises all-in for $118 more. Both players call. The limper shows 8 ♥ 8 ♦ and the reraiser shows Q ♠ Q ♦ . Two threes come on the turn and river, and the aces hold up.
When you hold pocket aces, flat calling a preflop 3-bet can greatly increase your chance to stack your opponent. Think about what hands you would 4-bet from the small blind after a raise and a roughly potsized 3-bet. Presumably that range is narrow. For many $1–$2 players, it is only pocket aces and kings.
Your opponents know this, and any 3-bettor will be alerted if one of the blinds makes a big 4-bet. Even some otherwise loose players will fold hands like pocket jacks, ace-king, and occasionally pocket queens in this situation.
With pocket aces, your goal is to stack opponents who flop top pair or an overpair. If you simply shove preflop, usually you’ll get called by kings, but queens or jacks may fold. You may also fold out players with ace-king and ace-queen. If you wait for the flop to make your move, your targets will often make one more bet, which is great for you if they miss the flop and may be enough to pot commit them if they hit top pair or an overpair.
For instance, if Hero had 4-bet all-in preflop, there’s a good chance everyone would have folded, and Hero would have won the $40 in the pot. By calling and checking the flop, Hero induced an extra $56 bet from the player with pocket queens—a bet that also pot committed him to playing for stacks.
S PECIFIC P REFLOP D ECISIONS
Naturally, waiting for the flop can hurt you too. Most obviously, your opponent could outflop you by hitting a set or better. That will happen about 11 percent of the time. * An overcard could also come that would deter your opponent from getting all-in. If your opponent has queens, an overcard will flop about a third of the time, and if he has jacks, an overcard will flop about half the time.
But the rest of the time, you stand a good chance to stack him. Big pairs will flop an overpair far more often than they’ll flop a set. So, as long as he will get all-in with either hand, you’re a big favorite when all the money goes in. And if he has ace-king or ace-queen, waiting for the flop gives him little chance to outflop you, but gives you a good chance to stack him the roughly 22 percent of the time that he flops a pair.
You shouldn’t automatically reject a 4-bet preflop every time you have aces. But sometimes waiting for the flop to pull the trigger can significantly increase your earn.
Lessons for this hand:
Mix up your preflop play with pocket aces. In particular, consider flat calling a 3-bet if 4-betting would essentially turn your hand face up.
Calling 3-bets with aces is especially worthwhile if the stack sizes are such that the preflop betting isn’t enough to commit your opponents to their hands, but one more flop bet will do the trick.
Pocket Aces With Deep Stacks
You are in the small blind with a $450 stack. The 25/22 button opens for $7, and he has you covered. The 27/25 big blind has $200. Both
* Anyone with a pocket pair has a 1 in 7.5 chance of flopping a set or better. If he flops a set, your aces will also flop a set just under 9 percent of the time. So overall the smaller pair outflops the aces about 11 percent of the time.
184 S MALL S TAKES N O -L IMIT H OLD ’ EM
opponents are smart, aggressive players capable of making tricky moves. You have A ♦ A ♥ . What should you do?
A pot-sized reraise to $23 would likely push the big blind out of the hand and get it heads-up with the button. The problem is, unless you habitually 3-bet out of the blinds, the button may peg you for having a big hand. And with an SPR of about 9, he could make life difficult for you postflop. He can call for implied odds, plus he has position and plenty of steal equity.
You could make a big overbet reraise, as that would kill the button’s implied odds and steal equity, thereby negating the cost of giving your hand away. The problem is that he will fold a very high percentage of the time.
If you don’t 3-bet much out of the blinds, this is a decent spot for a flat call. Calling encourages the big blind to squeeze, and because no one will put you on aces, you may get a lot of preflop action. For example, if the big blind squeezes, the button may suspect him for just that and re-squeeze (4-bet). Or, if either player has a hand like JJ, TT, or AQs, they may overvalue it due to your flat call. They’ll think they have more equity than they do and may stack off where they would not had you 3-bet.
If the big blind doesn’t squeeze, you are still in good shape because your hand is disguised and the pot is small. For example:
You call the $7, and the big blind folds. You are heads up out of position against the button, but your range is wide in his eyes, and the SPR is about 28. The flop comes Q ♠ J ♥ 7 ♣ . You check, and he bets $11 into the $16 pot. You call.
The turn is the 3 ♣ . With a $38 pot, $432 behind, and only one more street to come, you have a few good options. You can lead big on the turn and fold to a raise. You can checkcall the turn and then either lead the river or checkcall the river. Or you can use the freeze play and check-minraise the turn. Which option you choose depends on how likely you think the button is to bluff missed draws, bet worse made hands, or call with worse made hands. But all the options can work because it is hard for the button to put you on aces.
S PECIFIC P REFLOP D ECISIONS
Leveraging Stack Sizes To Get Action With Pocket
The hijack player limps in. He started the hand with only $36. The cutoff raises to $12. He has $232 total. Everyone folds to the big blind who has A ♥ A ♦ and has the table covered. He merely calls.
The hijack player now goes all-in for his $36. The cutoff reraises to $90 total. The big blind springs to life and moves all-in, and the cutoff calls.
The hijack shows pocket fives, and the cutoff shows pocket jacks. In this hand, the player with pocket aces leveraged the short stack
to try to escalate the preflop betting far beyond what he could normally expect. The short stack limps in, and then a fairly big raise comes behind him. When the action gets back to the short stack, he’ll usually either fold or push all-in.
The big blind takes advantage of this fact by just calling the preflop raise. If the limper pushes, then the cutoff will be squeezed between the all-in player and the big blind.
Indeed, from the big blind’s perspective, since the cutoff made a larger-than-average-sized preflop raise, he may have a better-than- average hand and he might make a big reraise. Little does he know that the big blind holds pocket aces.
Consider what might have happened if the big blind had reraised instead.
The hijack player limps, and the cutoff raises to $12. The big blind now makes a pot-sized raise to $39. The hijack either calls or folds (if he’s smart he’ll fold), and the cutoff calls. In this scenario, only $39 enters the pot from each player preflop.
Another option is to try a small reraise that allows the short stack to reopen the betting by pushing all-in. The hijack limps, and the cutoff raises to $12. The big blind min-reraises to $22. Now perhaps the hijack pushes all-in, and the cutoff calls. That allows the big blind to reraise again, since the raise from $22 to $36 was bigger than the one from $12 to $22. So the big blind makes a pot-sized reraise to $144. Or the big blind pushes all-in. Or the big blind makes a slightly smaller reraise, hoping to get the rest in on the flop.
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