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Overplaying small pairs

21st December, 2005
I entered a small no limit Texas holdem tournament the other night and on the very first hand the following situation came up.

I was in middle position with a suited A2 and limped into the pot. The next two players also limped as well as the blinds, so five of us saw the flop. It came 3 5 5, with two of my suit. It was checked to me and I bet. The next player called and the second player raised. The two blinds folded and I moved all in and the raiser called. He / she flipped over pocket sixes and I hit a four on the river giving me a straight and an early double up. Now you could definitely say that I played my hand poorly, but I want to talk about the player with pocket sixes.

The way the hand played out, the best he / she could have hoped for was a toss up, like what happened, but it was very likely that he / she was dominated. The range of my possible hands included any pocket pair, which the only ones that sixes could beat were twos and fours, any four to a flush, two over cards, a hand with a five or a combination hand like I had. Now they did make a good read that I wasnt very strong, as I probably would have tried milking the pot instead of pushing, but gambling all of your chips on the first hand of a tournament on a 50 / 50 shot is not the best way to win.

Of course I encourage aggressive play, but calling an all in is not aggressive, where moving all in is. There are a few different options on how to play the sixes in the above situation. If he / she was willing to go all in with them on that flop, they should have pushed to put the pressure on me. The other good option would be to call the bet on the flop to see what the turn brought.

If the turn completed a possible flush or was a high card, it may have been easier to get away from the hand. The last option is a very difficult one for many players to do, but in a no limit tournament, when you enter the pot with a small pair and dont hit a set on the flop, the best play is to get away from the hand, so they could have folded the sixes to my bet on the flop.

I would have called the bet to see the turn, but that doesnt mean that it would have been the best play, and I still may have lost all of my chips, but I believe I could have gotten away from the hand.

Until next week, be careful with those small pairs in tournaments and good luck at the tables!

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