In my last article, I explained many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to play small pocket pairs before the flop. Now, I will continue to explain small pocket pair strategies, this time dealing with the factors that should be considered once the flop has been revealed.
The first situation I will describe is also the simplest one, where you got a cheap look at the flop, while there are several other players in the hand. If you didnâ€™t get your set on the flop, you can just sit back and wait for a chance to fold, although you wonâ€™t refuse to see another card if everyone checks around.
If you did hit your set with several others in the hand, than you should make a bet large enough to force the players who donâ€™t have hand or simply have draws out of the pot. You will want to continue to extract chips from any players that the flop helped, and hopefully get a big payoff. The ideal situation here is having a player hit top pair top kicker and who is willing to call your bets, or even make a bet or raise of their own.
When there are a lot of players, and you got to see the flop cheaply, than the decisions you must make are fairly simple, but when there are only a few players, you must make careful and well-reasoned decisions to avoid putting yourself in a bad situation. Before the flop, your goal with small pocket pairs is to isolate yourself against a small number of opponents, giving you a chance to outplay them on the flop. If you were successful, and you are facing a limited number of opponents, then you must delve into your opponentsâ€™ minds and discover what they are holding.
If you are only facing one opponent, you should have some excellent opportunities to force them out of the hand and take the pot. For instance, if the flop comes down without an ace or a king, then you might want to make a bet to test your opponent. Oftentimes, you can win the pot right here. If you act after your opponent, who checked to you, you should definitely bet, while if you act first, a small bet to gauge your opponentâ€™s strength is a good play. If your opponent does call your bet, the chances are that the flop either helped them in some way, or they are holding a higher pair. Here, you should decide whether or not you can force your opponent out later in the hand. If you decide that you canâ€™t force them out, you shouldnâ€™t put any more chips into the pot, exiting the hand when given a chance, as your only way of winning the hand when your opponent holds a better hand is to force them out. You should play very carefully if you decide you want to continue to try to force your opponent out, as this can turn into a very bad situation very quickly, so be sure that your read tells you that your opponent holds a better hand, but not one they are totally confident in.
Another situation where you need to be very careful is one in which an ace or a king does land on the flop, as unless your opponent is a loose player or likes to play high potential hands like suited connectors, they will probably have been holding an ace or a king with a good kicker, or a higher pocket pair. If this sort of flop does occur, you should only consider betting if you are last to act and your opponent checks to you. Even then, you might want to check and see another card, and another action from your opponent to help you gauge the strength of their hand.
If you did hit your set on the flop, be sure to check for any possible draws that are out there, as well as aces or kings. If your opponent hit a good pair, they will want to call your bets, thinking they may have the best hand, or possibly a better kicker which will let them pull in a pot. Make a bet big enough to force the draws out and play against opponents who have improved their hand, as hunting season will then commence.
When playing small pairs after the flop, your actions will depend a lot on what actions your opponents take, and who your opponents are. If you know how your opponents play, you will be more likely to get better reads on them, thereby giving you the advantage of knowing how strong your hand is and how strong your opponent thinks their hand to be. It is crucial to be playing against your opponents, especially when you are holding a marginal hand that could easily be beaten.