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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

What If You Flop Second Pair in Texas Hold'em?

17 April 2005

On average, one high pair will win the pot in a Texas Hold'em hand. In fact, flopping the top pair (pairing the highest card on board) would be a textbook outcome for you. Just play two real high cards like all the books say and have one of them be the highest card in the flop. On days when this keeps happening for you, life at the poker table is usually pretty good.

But let's face it. Many times you'll flop a pair, but it won't be top pair. Suppose you've got Ace/10 and the flop comes

K-10-5

giving you second pair? Now what? If somebody bets, they'll usually have a King. Can you call, either hoping that he's bluffing or hoping to improve? Tough decisions like these separate the winners from the losers in poker.

Here's the thing to understand. In limit Hold'em, the bet on the flop is still at the lower stakes. In a $5/$10 game, for example, the bet on the flop is $5. Your pair of 10s is probably trailing at the moment, but you do have five outs to make two pair or trips (three Aces and two 10s). That makes you about an 8-to-1 shot to improve on the next card.

Since a $5/$10 pot will usually contain around $30 by this time, you can afford to call one $5 bet to see the turn card (fourth board card). If you hit your card, you'll usually pick up two or three more $10 calls afterwards, thereby paying you more than an 8-to-1 return. The same odds are at work in any limit Hold'em game, be it $3/$6, $20/$40, whatever.

The key requirement for calling on the flop is that you don't have to pay more than one bet. If it's been bet in front of you on the flop and there are still players behind you who might raise, you need to fold! Your hand is worth one small bet, but getting trapped into calling two bets would be a losing strategy. This kind of call needs to be made from late position where you can see that it'll just cost you one bet.

Now if you miss on the turn (fourth card), you have to just check and throw your hand away if somebody bets, since the turn bet is double sized ($10 at $5/$10 stakes). That's the appropriate percentage strategy for playing with second pair on the flop.

If the pot is bigger than usual, you can even use the same strategy when you flop third pair. That would be when you have say, 8/9 and the flop comes

A-J-8.

Go ahead and call one small bet on the flop, but that's it. The pot needs to offer you a little more potential profit to cover those frustrating occasions when you hit your 9 on the turn and one of your opponents has something like J/9. Then your two pair would lose to a higher two pair.

Beware the underpair: It's important to realize that having a pair in the hole when a higher card flops is an entirely different animal than flopping second pair. If you have pocket 10s when the flop comes

A-8-6

and there's a bet, you're probably a lot further behind than if you'd flopped second pair. It's true, you can beat second pair (a pair of 8s in this example), but if the bettor has an Ace you now have only two outs to improve with (the two remaining 10s). In this situation there are only two reasonable things to do, either raise or fold -- and you should usually fold.

The only times you'd raise would be if the bettor was the kind of player who might bluff without having an Ace. Raising would then accomplish two things. First, if your pocket 10s are good, your raise is likely to drive out other competition that might beat you with an overcard (a card higher than a 10) later in the hand. Second, it may get the original bettor to check to you through the rest of the hand, thereby getting you all the way to the showdown very cheaply. Most of the time, though, just fold when a high overcard flops against your pocket pair.

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

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