Pairs in Poker

Mar 16, 2010 5:16 PM

But don’t make a career out of playing them!

You often see a player’s eyes light up when he’s dealt a pair in Texas Hold’em, especially when they’re face cards.

Not only can a dealt pair be an instant winner, it can lead to bigger and better hands, such as three-of-a-kind, a full house or even four-of-a-kind.

But I’ve always contended that it’s sometimes better to receive a smaller pair than a larger one.

Now, before you call the men with white coats let me explain myself.

Let’s assume you’re playing in a tournament, where your existence hinges on key plays and, after losing, there’s no coming back.

I contend that in some circumstances you’re better off with a pair of nines, say, than a pair of queens when you’re up against a pair of aces or kings.

A specific instance I’m alluding to is when you’re heads-up against one opponent, and all your chips are in before the flop.

Assuming you’re in this situation (predicament?) you do have some outs or chances to win. And because all the money has already been bet you will get to see a flop, a turn, and a river card, and as lucky as you are, you may draw out on your opponent.

I had you select the pair you wanted to play with and when you choose two queens I told you no, that two 9s gave you the best chance of winning when playing against two aces and it would follow that two 8s would be the best when playing against two kings.

Here is why and the answer is very simple: If you catch a Q in any of the five cards that will be on the board when the hand has been completed, you would of course beat As and/or Ks with your three of a kind, except that the Q will give the other player the third leg of a straight and you could lose even if you hit the Q.

If a J and 10 were a part of the five common cards, you must improve to win the pot and you have the same chance to catch a 9 as you do to catch a Q.

The difference is that the 9 will not make a straight for the other player if you are lucky enough to catch it.

So this is one time that you would rather have two 9s than two Qs.

Remember you must catch one of them to defeat two As or two Ks and you have exactly the same outs to catch one of the two 9s as you do to catch one of the two remaining Qs.

I agree that this is a small difference but it is a true difference and I have seen this very thing happen many times when a player gets the thrill of victory, when on the flop, he would catch a Q only to suffer the agony of defeat when the other player draws the other two cards that will make him a straight.

"Oklahoma Johnny" poker tip of the week

You cannot control the cards that you will get when you are playing poker, but you can control what you do with the cards after you get them!

Remember, until next time to stay lucky!