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Pick Your Texas Hold'em Hand: Big Slick or Pocket Deuces

8 August 2004

Most of the poker players around have seen at least one episode of World Poker Tour or World Series of Poker on cable TV. One nice thing they both usually do is display that little window in the corner of your screen which tells you each opponents' respective chances of winning the pot with his particular hole cards.

Sometimes two players will be "heads up" and one opponent will have "Big Slick" (Ace/King) while the other has a lower pocket pair. Depending upon whether the Ace/King is suited or not, the small pocket pair will usually be anywhere from a modest 5-to-4 favorite down to even money to win the pot after the river card is dealt. It really makes very little difference whether the small pocket pair is, say, a pair of 7s or measly deuces. The made pair still has a small edge over Ace/King -- suited or not.

To the average viewer, that makes it seem as though in Hold'em you'd rather have pocket deuces than Big Slick. Well, in a heads-up tournament pot where all the money goes in before the flop, that's true -- to a small extent. In most other Hold'em scenarios though, it's not even close -- the Ace/King is a much better hand. Here's why.

In a heads up, "all in" tournament situation, you just deal out all the cards and see who ends up with the best hand. The pocket pair of deuces has only one opponent, and that opponent cannot make any more bets the rest of the way. Thus, the deuces knows that if his opponent doesn't already have a bigger pocket pair, then the deuces are a small favorite to win the hand.

That's fine -- for no limit tournaments. In a typical game of limit Texas Hold'em, however, everything is different. First off, if you're the one with the pocket deuces, it's going to be very tough to call a bet if any picture card flops -- and at least one will 80% of the time. Since your opponent likely has high cards in the hole, any picture card might well have paired him and there may be three more bets to call before you get to see this hand. That's disadvantage number one.

Disadvantage number two is that most limit Hold'em pots are not heads up on the flop -- but usually three or four-way action. Now you have to be afraid that any card in the flop higher than your pocket pair has just beaten you -- and one or more of them usually has done exactly that.

In fact, in a four-way flop the pocket deuces are a 4-to-1 underdog to win the pot if nobody else already has a pocket pair. Since the pot is four way, you're losing equity with every new dollar you put into the pot if you're less than a 3-to-1 shot to win.

The Ace/King however is only a 2-to-1 dog in the same situation, and a little less than that if it's suited. Another benefit of holding Big Slick is that you pretty much know when you've flopped the lead hand and when you've missed. Just for the record, an Ace/King will flop an Ace or a King (or both) one third of the time -- and is usually a pretty strong hand when it does. Thus, Big Slick can be played much closer to its true potential than pocket deuces, since the deuces for lack of information will have to fold some pots that it would've won. Remember, those pocket deuces (or any pocket pair for that matter) will flop a set of trips only one time in eight. The truth is, Big Slick is a premium hand in limit Hold'em and should be played almost every time you're dealt it. However, you should only play a small pocket pair (6s or lower) from middle to late position in games where it's usually not raised before the flop.

Pick Your Texas Hold'em Hand: Big Slick or Pocket Deuces is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey