Poker Pro: Hold’em Small Pairs In Early Seats

Mike Caro plays online poker at

As you may know, I teach that it’s usually wrong to call the big blind early with small pairs, such as 2-2, 3-3, and 4-4. Many things work against these hold ’em hands, such as (1) you can make three of a kind and lose to a larger three-of-a-kind, (2) if you get lucky enough that your pair might matter, a bigger pair (or bigger two-pair when there’s a major pair on board and your second pair isn’t large enough) might beat you, and (3) two bigger pairs might show up on the board, leaving you with essentially no hand at all.

But if this argument — and the simulation of millions of hands which I’ve done by computer — doesn’t convince you, here’s some more bad news: You usually can afford to call a single raise after you call the blind with a small pair, but not a double raise. So, if you call, and there’s a raise, and then there’s a re-raise, you should usually fold. But in folding, you’re surrendering a first bet without any shot at the pot whatsoever.

When I talk to people who are trying to analyze whether these small pairs are profitable in an early position, they seldom mention the fact that you might have to throw the hand away without seeing the flop. So, even if you can argue that the small pair is a close decision without the forced-to-fold factor, it is not a close decision when that factor is correctly considered. Once again: Seldom play small pairs from an early position, unless you’re in a very loose game with very timid opponents who don’t raise aggressively AND you can outplay those opponents on later betting rounds.


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Recreational vs. Professional Poker Play

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bet365pokerclient3-oct2015If you’re going to play poker online or in casinos you will run into two types of players – there are the recreational players and the professionals. A recreational player can be anyone from a novice, who barely has a clue how to play, to a weekend grinder who treats poker as a serious hobby. Professional players live the game of poker, and have a lot of experience playing the game and recognizing situations they’ve been in many times before. Both types of player can be beaten if you’re able to recognize their level of play, and then play them accordingly.

A common leak in cash games you’ll encounter in a recreational player is that they’ll play too many hands. They’ve been waiting all week to play poker, and they don’t feel like waiting for pocket aces when they’ve only got four or five hours to play. Recreational players will try to limp into as many pots as they can, hoping to hit a flop in a big way. Professional players are more interested in the long-term gain of poker, so they practice a patient game regardless of how limited a session may be.

Another good way to determine if an opponent is a recreational player is by their river bets. A player making a river bet when the only hands that would possibly pay them off would beat them, or raising a bet with second best when they could have just called, are sure signs of a player who just isn’t into the game that much. A professional player knows not to put himself into a situation where he could easily be getting trapped, when there’s little or no chance the bet can be called.

An easy way to recognize a professional player is if they change playing styles during a session of play. Recreational players play the way they play. The have their moves and they set their traps. They repeat betting patterns over and over again and become predictable. They have their game and they don’t even attempt to change it. Professional players are experienced enough to recognize the tempo of the game, and adjust their playing style to best combat other players. They’ll also change up the way they play to keep everyone guessing on their style.

Online one of the easiest ways to recognize a professional is by the time they take to play. If there’s always a pause when it’s their turn, it’s not because they’re still on dial-up. This player is likely playing numerous tables at once. You should be able to find out how many they’re playing through the poker room software, and any player that’s playing more than four tables at a time tends to be a professional, or at least a really good recreational player that’s very serious about their hobby.

It helps to know if an opponent is a pro or a part-time grinder. There are lots of good recreational players, but there are few bad professionals. Stay out of the games with too many pros in them; it’s always a tough game to beat.

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Mistakes to Avoid in Tournament Poker

Mistakes to avoid in tournament pokerHere’s the latest item from the team at … bet365 poker it’s aimed at rookie poker players.

Playing in your first couple of poker tournaments can be an intimidating experience. Many new players get wrapped up in the action and make basic mistakes that they should never make. We all have to start somewhere and learn the game along the way, but here’s a list of basic mistakes that no one should be making at the tables . . .

Playing too many hands is the most common of rookie mistakes. Novice players don’t understand that rag hands have a lower winning percentage than premium ones. They’ll play anything hoping to hit two pair or trips. This mistake just bleeds their chip stack quickly until they get knocked out of the tournament. They need to learn some starting hand strategy and tighten up their game.

Pricing in their opponents is the most common mistake a rookie will make when they have the lead in a hand. Instead of knowing to bet their hand for value, rookie players often bet too small of an amount when they’re leading early on. Doing this allows their opponents to call the bet with drawing hands because the pot odds are low enough to justify the call. If enough players are still in the hand, the rookie player’s lead will often get out-drawn and they’ll lose the hand.

Chasing a straight with the sucker end is another situation where rookies get into big trouble. If a board is 6-J-10 and they hold 9-8, even if the queen comes on a later street they could still be way behind. It’s a good move to only call bets if you do hit the queen, and not to raise in that situation. A big bet from an opponent will usually tell them that someone has the bigger straight. This can also apply to a small flush when the hand has some other callers in it.

Going all-in pre-flop is another mistake that rookies often make. This move is dangerous at the best of times, even with pocket aces. Most times the rookie will not get any action on their hand, and if they do it’s from a big hand. The only time you’ll want to go all-in pre-flop is if a short-stack player has tried to force the action. Then you can go all-in to isolate them from other callers with your dominant hand.

Bluffing too often is a common rookie mistake for the aggressive type of rookie. These players use the all-in bet as a way to steal pots, but this play will eventually backfire on them and cost them a big amount of chips in a hand they shouldn’t even have even been in. They should limit their bluffs so they can be hidden, and it looks like they have the goods every time they have to show their cards at showdown.

Getting emotional is another one you’ll see. Novice players don’t understand that poker has a lot of losing for every player, and they give up, or tilt out, when things go wrong for a while. They will give up after a bad beat, and essentially throw away their final chips because they figure they can’t come back. They let frustration take over and dump chips for no reason – other than they’re not strong-minded enough to accept that they can’t win them all.

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