Low pair in pocket

What’s a low pair in the pocket worth? I tend to treat it as a flop hand, if nothing comes on the flop, and there’s a raise (often w/face cards in the flop), then I fold. Is that a good move?

1 Like

On Replay and it games with especially loose bad players you can try and see cheap flops with low pairs for the purpose of hitting a set which is a very strong hand that often gets rewarded with our opponents stack in these types of games. When you’re going call a pre flop raise with them be aware of the stack sizes of others in the hand, you typically want to be able to win 20x the bet. If the blinds are 1/2 and someone raises pre to 6 you would want to be able to win 120 so both you and the opponent needs to have stacks of 120 or more. If you’re in the bb though, you have 2 in and you’re only calling 4 to see the flop so the stacks would only to be 80 in that case.


Low pocket pairs are usually set-mining hands. Like @dayman said, you generally to be able to win 20x the bet to call behind.

Low pocket pairs should defend the BB, open raise in blinds vs blinds situation, and open raise in middle and late position. You can open them in early position if your opponents aren’t aggressive.

Multiway pots
Most of the time, it is a check fold in multiway pots. Pocket pairs can be used to bluff as a gutshot that blocks the straight combo. For example, bet with 66 on 753. While holding 55, your opponents are 50% less likely to have 64.

If you do hit your set, you should look to build a large of a pot as possible if there aren’t many straights or flushes. by betting or check-raising. I would avoid slow-playing in most situations.

heads-up pots
In 2-way pots, it can call a cbet on dry boards. Sometimes, if it is a second pocket pair on a low board, like 55 on 832. you can also call a turn bet. Generally, low pocket pairs are poor bluff candidates if they don’t have a straight draw since you only have 2 outs. Avoid bluffing with low pocket pairs unless your opponent has a high fold frequency.

tldr: Pocket pairs are looking to see a cheap flop and build a large pot if a set comes, otherwise fold.


How did you arrive at the 20x desirable winning figure?

On average, you have just a 13% chance of hitting the set on the flop. I agree with aeou. If you can see a cheap flop, then give it a shot.

It isn’t 20x, its 10x. 20x is required for playing low/medium suited connectors. The figure is derived from taking into account the number of times you will make a set and the implied odds associated with that. Since you won’t get your opponents whole stack every time you make your set (and lose your stack sometimes as well), the number required is higher than your raw odds of flopping a set. In a loose game with multiway pots, the figure should probably be a bit higher than 10x but doesn’t need to be anywhere near 20X. If you want a reasonable margin to take into account more set over set situations, you’d be safe with 12-13x.

This is why people limp in low pocket pairs - to keep the SPR as high as possible. The proper counter to this is to raise/3! with your hands that make strong single pair hands - so that they cannot set mine profitably. Since you mostly play MTT’s, this concept is especially important. As stacks get below 40bb, you want to reduce the SPR to clear out those low/medium pocket pairs or force them to make a mistake by calling to see a flop without the required odds.


Thanks, @1Warlock. That’s why I was asking for the method that @dayman had used to arrive at his 20x figure. I’d like to be able to run similar calculations for other types of hands. I like math, but working out combinatorials and probability is making my head hurt today.

If we’re hitting the set on the flop 7.5:1 of the time, we need to get paid out better than 7.5:1 in order for the bet to be +EV in the long run. Simply invert the fraction and that’s the target pot to bet ratio needed in order to make the play profitable. So then at first glance it would seem that we need to win about 7.5x the price to see the flop by the time the hand is done in order for set mining to work out +EV.

There are factors that make this a little more complicated:

  • we won’t win 100% of the time when we do hit a set on the Flop.
  • we won’t lose 100% of the time when we don’t hit a set.
  • we might hit the set on the Turn or River.

So maybe after adjusting the above estimated 7.5:1 payout needed for set ining to be profitable with the above factors, it turns out we need more like 10:1, as you say.

I’m sure it’s been worked out by others, but I’d like to understand it for myself how they got there.

The issue with set mining is that you will not always get paid off. When you got your set, most of the time, you will not get stacks in.

When your opponent does call, you have to worry about the turn and river completing a straight or a draw, which also makes your opponent more likely fold to a bet.

20x is just a rough estimate. Splitsuit recommends 25x.

1 Like

As much as I like the bearded one (for someone who hasn’t played much poker since 2006), his recommendation is adding in a ton of assumptions to the baseline that may or may not apply to any particular game. He is also trying to dissuade his students from calling with these hands too frequently (great advice). You can’t go wrong with 25x but it is leaving a giant hole in your game if this is the metric you are using. Heck, I’d recommend it to be 100x vs players that can’t fold top pair but I don’t get to make those decisions :wink:

The math of the baseline is what it is. Everything after that requires assumptions and estimates. I’ll try to get back to this tomorrow to list what those factors are and how to make the relevant calculations.

@puggywug - its just a sum of probabilities function to come up with the required odds. The math is easy (if cumbersome). The hard part is assigning values to how other players will behave in any given situation. Its the same type of issue we have when trying to assign ranges to someone - if our assumptions are off, everything that follows will also be off. The way you play your sets will also have a significant impact if you are sitting with competent players. This is why we build in a wide enough margin over the known mathematical result.


My view? Its a marginal hand and want to get in cheap. I only want to play them in late position with no raise. On the flop? no set? no bet… Period