Playing Pocket Pairs in Texas Holdem Poker

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Playing Pocket Pairs

After playing for years, the masters of Texas Hold’em, have perfected their skills at bluffing, strategy, slow-playing and reading other players. But the one thing it doesn’t take an expert to know is that the pocket cards in Hold’em hold all the power.

This is the time of the game where the most important decisions are made. Position, whether the game is loose or tight, the skill level of the other players, and the number of players who have already called and must be taken into account in deciding if one should play their hand or pass.

Because five of the seven cards dealt in Hold’em are community cards, the game is about the cards in the hole, not about chasing pairs. The reason? If one improves, their opponents usually will too. No matter how many years you’ve put in at the tables, if your opponents are consistently starting with better cards, they will often come out on top.

If you draw pocket pairs, where odds run 16-1, consider yourself lucky, and in good position to grab the pot. But it still takes knowing how to play them correctly, whether you’re sitting with a pair or deuces or a monster pair of aces.

High Pairs

High pairs consist of pocket Jacks or better. They should be played aggressively by raising preflop if no one has raised yet, or reraising if someone has. But remember that depending on how the community cards fall, a high pair hand can lose value quickly. If an overcard falls, tread carefully. If the flop has three of a suit or cards close enough in sequence, caution should also be exercised. Otherwise, bet it up if for nothing else than to gauge the strength of your opponents’ hands. But, always be cautious of playing a strong second best hand. As discussed, the big pair is a good hand, but it’s not a great hand.

Low Pairs
It is important to understand the value of small pocket pairs. These hands fall under the category of playing well with very few (heads-up) or several (6 or more) other players. When playing a small pair, the ultimate goal is to flop three-of-a-kind. Without a set on the flop, it is time to start thinking of an exit strategy. The idea is to think economy class when getting to the flop, make sure it is as cheaply as possible. The cost to see the flop with a small pair should be no more than a single blind bet. As with any hand, position makes a difference on how to play a low pair as well. Since they’re not strong raise material, early position hurts. Middle is OK in a loose game and, a raise from late position is good if no one else has entered the pot.

The most important advice when playing pocket pairs? “Never marry small pocket pairs.” This means one must be ready to fold if they do not make a set on the flop.

Texas Holdem preflop hand rankings

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Texas Hold’em Pre-Flop Ranking of Hands

Premium Hands
The very best of the best starting hands. It’s viable to raise or re-raise these hands in any position.
• AA
• KK
• AKs (the s refers to both cards of the hand being the same suit, which suit doesn’t matter for this discussion)
• QQ

• JJ

Good Hands
These hands are often worth a raise if you’re the first one to enter the pot. With some of them, it will often be right to just call or fold with them if someone raised in front of you.
• AK,
• AQs, AJs, ATs
• AQ, AJ
• KQs KJs, QJs, JTs
• TT, 99

• AT, KQ
• KTs, QTs

Solid Hands
These hands should generally be limped pre-flop, and should usually be folded to a raise
• 88, 77
• J9s, T9s
• 98s, 87s
• Ace with any other card of the same suit as your Ace

• KJ, QJ, JT

Decent Hands
These hands that are best played only in late position, usually only if there are several limpers in front of you.
• Low Pairs (66 or lower)
• Suited Connectors like 76s, 65s, 54s (don’t usually play anything lower like 32s)
• KT, QT
• K9s, J8s

Hands not mentioned are generally trash hands and should only be played in situations where you have a big advantage over your opponent. For example, when you’re trying to steal the blinds, or are up against a very weak player.

While narrowing your starting hand selection is important, doing so is just the tip of the iceberg. After choosing which hands to play, you next have to know how to play these hands, before the flop, on the flop, and further on into the hands. You have to decide whether the best play is to call, bet, raise, or fold at each stage of the hand. As you progress and learn how each of these options works best, your chance of winning the hand increases tremendously.

After you have strengthened your fundamentals through each stage of the hand, you should be looking for other ways to win hands. This could include things such as bluffing, reading your opponents, and using your table position to your advantage. Adding these tools to your arsenal will greatly improve your chances of winning hands and, eventually, the size of your bankroll.

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Cake Poker Two for the Money is back

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Cake Poker marks the return of their Two for the Money promotion for March 2011. If you enjoy multi-tabling cash games, then this promotion is definitely for you. Each week you will be assigned a target number of FPP’s to hit while multi-tabling. If you hit your number, you will be entered in a $2,000 Kamikaze Freeroll for that week. the kamikazes will pay out to 30% of the qualified players so there is a real chance to get some cash out of the deal. If you play cash games, you already know that the Cake Poker Network has some of the softest tables around. Now you can earn extra cash while being paid by the unsuspecting masses as well.

How it Works:

Each week in March you will be assigned a multi-table hand target. If you meet that target within the specified time period, you will automatically be awarded entry in to that week’s $2,000 kamikaze tournament*. Multi-table to meet your target through all four weeks and you’ll get a shot at a combined prize pool of $8,000!

For hands to count towards the multi-table target, you must:

Be seated at two tables or more with stakes equal to or greater than $.10/$.20.

Cannot be sitting out.

Play real money hands across all tables combined.

View your multi-table hand target and monitor your progress via the My Account tab of the Cake Poker software starting March 1st.

$2,000 Two for the Money Kamikazes

When you reach your multi-table hand target, you will automatically be entered into that week’s kamikaze tournament. Two for the Money kamikazes take place each Thursday at 17:57pm GMT starting March 10th.

Each week starts on Tuesday at 00:00 GMT and end at 23:59 GMT the following Monday.

*Kamikaze tournaments require no action by players as all hands are forced all-in. A table winner is quickly declared and the tournament continues at warp speed until the prize pool is distributed.

Terms and Conditions

Players must be 18 years of age to participate.

Employees and immediate family members of employees of Cake Gaming N.V., the Cake Poker Network and its associated companies are not eligible to take part in the Promotion.

Cake Poker reserves the right to alter, modify or terminate the Promotion and/or these Terms at any time, without notice (written or verbal) where it is reasonable to do so.

To be eligible for the Promotion players must be seated at two tables or more with stakes equal to or greater than $.10/$.20; cannot be sitting out and; must play the specified number of raked hands across all tables combined within the specified weekly time periods.

Players who meet the requirements set out in #4 will be awarded entry into that week’s Two for the Money kamikaze.

Two for the Money kamikazes award cash to players in the top 30%.

Two for the Money kamikazes run weekly, every Thursday at 17:57 GMT

Players may not transfer, sell or award their Two for the Money kamikaze seat to anyone else.

Cake Poker management decisions are final.