How to Play Small Pocket Pairs Preflop

Small pocket pairs are tricky creatures. They might look cute and fuzzy, but as soon as you drop your guard they attack and you’re left with nothing but a bunch of bite marks and some money missing. Jerks.

The primary problem with small pocket pairs is that too many people overplay them. Small pocket pairs are, in my opinion, any pair of 7s or lower and while they look good, they’re almost as speculative as a high suited connector. In order to play these hands successful you have to know when to call with them, when to raise them and when to let them go.

When To Call

Calling is usually a good move with small pocket pairs however there are some conditions that need to be met before you put your money down. For example, you should be in middle or late position when you call with small pocket pairs. Remember that small pocket pairs are speculative and you need to see how your opponents are playing to play these hands profitably.

You should also avoid calling raises. The only way you’ll be able to continue the hand is if you make a set on the flop and you’ll rarely get the right odds to make that call. Ideally you want three or more people calling ahead of you before you call because you’re playing for set value when you call with small pocket pairs. No set, no bet.

When To Raise

Raising with small pocket pairs is an aggressive poker play and it should only be done in late position when there are few, if any, limpers in the pot. Raising with small pocket pairs is essentially a semi-bluff. You’d be happy to see everyone fold preflop, but there’s a chance you could make a big hand on the flop.

The good news is that your hand will be well disguised when you raise preflop. Not many players will put you on a small set when you hit. They’ll usually think you have an overpair or a missed Ace-King instead. You can win a lot of money from someone who flops two pair or slow plays a big pocket pair preflop.

When To Fold

Folding small pocket pairs isn’t easy, but there are some situations where it’s the right move to make. For example, small pocket pairs can’t stand a raise. If someone raises preflop, throw your small pocket pair away. It’s also hard to play small pocket pairs when you’re in early position. If you’re in an aggressive game where the pot is frequently raised preflop, fold when you pick up a small pocket pair preflop.
Even calling is a bad option in early position because you can only win if you hit your set and it will be obvious that you made a big hand when you start playing strong after limping from an early position.
Don’t think that you always have to play small pocket pairs. You don’t. Sometimes folding is the best move.