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The life of a poker player ME!!! Dhruv Doshi

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pocket Pairs !?!?!?!? Yummy? or Not?

Hello all, hope the blog has been interesting so far. Today I just want to focus on pocket pairs in holdem. Whether it is a cash game or a tournament these are crucial hands to play or not to play. In poker I think the best way to play is to give yourself easy decisions and I feel pocket pairs CAN give you a very difficult time. Ok lets take PPs in cash games for now (response to Perrys email, thank for the email, nice to get some feedback) If playing a full ring game (9/10 handed) making easy decisions easy is crucial. As I have stated before I love small pot poker. Therefore increasing the pot with hands like 88s or 67s is not the way forward in my mind. Yes, it does disguise your hand as most people feel if you raise you must have a range of hands like 10s to AK. Unless you are on a table with non-believers, which in my opinion is often the case. Most bad players do not care about your image; they just play their cards and nothing else. This is especially true in a live card room where the standard of play, in my opinion, is pretty poor. At the higher levels you will have to mix up your game you otherwise you will not get any action when you pick up a hand.

This brings me back to a night at Big Slick. I made the final table with a comfortable chip stack and played a solid game, stealing when needed in position, but when moving in, I had the goods. I get to the final and raise a few hands early on picking up the blinds, one guy moves in on me and I call with 10s which hold up. Then I raise with KKs and AQ moves in instantly without a thought for all his chips, (Ace hits) Then raise with AQ and some moves in with garbage and hits, I then move in with 66s and A10 moves in instantly! So a lot of players look at their cards and do not care what has happened before. This doesn’t happen at the higher levels.

So anyway back to PPs, I like to limp and flop big, as in hit a set. A few weeks ago I loved calling raises, but not re-raising, just to flop a set and hope they catch top pair or have an over pair. If you play it right, especially betting out if an Ace hits, you can get the guy to move in or re-raise you, and from then on it depends on the player if you want to stick it in or smooth call and check the turn. However after playing this style I felt it was unprofitable. I kept calling raise missing the flop and folding. You flop the set 12.5% of the time and to call off $16-$20 or £7 to £13 (depending on the stakes) it gets quite expensive. For this play to work we need to be achieving a +EV, which means if we spend $200 for say 8 flops we need to making more than $200 after taking those 8 flops. Now, unless you are a lucky player *cough GUV cough* this is unlikely to happen. As on some occasions you mite flop a set of 5s of a 2 5 9 board on the original raise made it $16 to go with AK off and got no part of the flop and is willing to let it go, so you end up paying $16 to win $16 on the 12% chance of hitting that 5, that does not sound profitable to me at all. Also going back to giving yourself easy decision if the flop comes 9 5 3, and you hold pocket 88s what do you do now if 3 other people in the pot and the original raiser comes out betting?

So I have mixed it up a bit with small pairs. I tend to only raise with JJs and above and only re raise with KK or AA, maybe QQ if against a short stack or if I feel I can get it heads up. I do not really want to play QQ strong in a multi way pot. So now it comes down to who you are playing against, if you are playing someone who plays AK hard see a flop and if you avoid an A/K/Q bet it out or maybe check call if you are sure they will play the nut high hard. But remember any Muppet can wake up with AAs not matter how bad they play, so you cannot always assume they have nothing. Another thing to be careful with when calling with PPs just hoping to flop a set is the worst thing in holdem SET over SET!! That just hurts thinking about it! YUK YUK YUK!!! The whole point in calling a raise with a PP is to crack a big hand. But what is a big hand AK or AA. If the flop comes 9 A 6 and you have 99s and you are getting action did they raise with AA or AK, hmmmmm.

This brings me back to a hand, which I felt I played poorly online. I raised with QQ in early position on the $1/$2 game and got re raised. At this point in the game people were not re raising with AK or small PPs so I felt he has KK or AA, but he didn’t make the bet too large and I felt if I flop a Q I’m good but I said to myself before I called if the flop comes Ten high you not going broke (an example of making the decision easier for me). The flop comes J 3 Q, bingo bango bongo!! He checks!!!!! HUH!!!!! Why has he checked? I was very confused here and my read of KK or AA has gone out the window I feel he has JJ or AK now, I check behind encase he has AK and I need for him to catch up, but again I said if a ten peels off I will fold, then turn is an Ace and he bets out, I am now sure he had AK or JJ and I raise, he moves in and I call, he has AAA!!!! Ouch!! Now I realise he wanted to check raise me or keep the pot small on the flop, I think the money goes in on the flop anyway, but was disappointed I moved away from my original read of AA or KK and I think KKs gets away on the turn.
In conclusion playing PP for a set is slightly weak, you need to play it for something else unless in a multi way pot where the chances are someone will flop big or against someone who hates folding AK. But it is very important to know who you are playing against rather than the cards itself, you need to be making +EV moves every time to be a profitable cash game player, but then again sometimes you cannot avoid it, like in the latest high stakes poker where Gus and Daniel tangle in a $600,000 pot!!


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