Small pocket pairs and paired flops--what are the odds?

A situation I have seen quite a bit lately is that I have a small pocket pair and limp into a multiway pot with 3 or 4 players, then the flop comes with an overcard and an overpair.

Obviously the odds that an opponent has made trips are less than an opponent making two pairs with the other card, so there is quite a bit of potential for bluffing.

For example, I have 33 and the flop comes TT9 with the board not flushing. I might sling in a bet to represent, say JJ or JT and often take down the pot against an opponent who holds A9 and fears a T.

The problem is that if the flop bet does not take down the pot, and an opponent flat calls, then what next? Is he slow playing T or T 9? There is no knowing, or is he overpaying for a straight draw?

There are quite a few ways to play this kind of hand on both sides of the table. Another variation is that the flop is checked around, giving me another shot at picking up the bottom end of a full house.

I am inclined to think that leading out with a half or third pot bet is useful, as it is hard to read, but giving it up after that is probably best unless a 3 falls.

All-in on the flop will usually take down the pot, except when opponent holds a T, in which case you are sunk.

Just an addendum to the above. Of course the conventional wisdom is that with a small pair, you can limp in, and if you don’t make a set on the flop, just throw away the hand. The hypothesis is that with a paired overcard flop, the likelihood of anyone else having been hit by the flop is reduced, and that if no one else seems to have a made hand ready to pick up the pot, you might has well have a stab.

I have done a little bit of work on this on a calculator. If one of the other hands has an overpair, your chances are very slight. But otherwise, assuming that the flop misses the other players, then you have at least an equal chance of taking the pot against two opponents, should the hand go to the river, so you still have many outs (your outs being all the cards that do not improve your opponents hands).

Your exact odds will vary a lot depending on whether your opponents have cards duplicated in each other’s hands, for example if both hold AK, then 33 is a strong favorite, or if one card is duplicated, for example AK vs KQ vs your 33, your odds are improved.

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Paired flops can be some of the best places to bluff because it’s so hard to call unless you have trips.

However, not all paired flops are equal. QQX is more likely to hit your opponents than 66X, for example. This gets worse the more people in the hand. It’s hard to get a bluff past 3 or 4 players no matter what.

I would rather bluff a paired board from early position than from late. It’s less likely that someone will bluff raise, so if you get called or raised, it often means you are beat and should slow down or give up. Basically, you are taking the slow play option off the table.

Smaller bets can look more frightening (because it looks like you want a call), risk less, and can often accomplish the exact same thing, so why bet more? Of course, on draw heavy boards, you can’t bet small enough to make a chase worth while. Of course, if the 1st guy calls, everyone gets better pot odds and this can quickly get out of hand.

Paired boards can be good spots to bluff, but it can get tricky in multi-way pots.


Interesting post, @MekonKing. Personally, I like to play paired boards with a 20-40% c-bet with nearly my full range. The more disconnected the board (think QQ4), the lower I’d go on that range; with something like TcTh9h, I’d go higher. That puts a lot of hands in a spot where they’ll need to fold, and give me a chance to scoop a pot with air and little risk.

If competitors try to fight back at me and raise, then I can choose to defend when I have equity (boats, flush draws, straight draws, trips, &c.), and fold with relatively little committed when I don’t.

Ditto with continuing on turns - those that improve my hand or give me stronger draws, I’ll bet another street, with larger sizing, facing flop calls. If I have air, or a nutted-type hand that won’t likely improve (top boat, straight flush, quads), I’ll check.

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@MekonKing - How would you credibly represent JJ+ in a multiway limped pot? Are you limping behind with hands like this or are you assuming that no one will notice the preflop action and just look at the show of strength on the flop? People both over-fold and over-call here a lot so its going to depend on who you are in the hand with and your table position. If you have a table of nits, over-bluffing is a good idea. If you are in a hand with stations, its not going to work out well. The nits are going to fold to almost any sized bet so smaller is better. The stations are going to call most bet sizes so its best to go larger but only for value.

Vs tough players, I think @WannabeCoder has it about right but I think he’s talking about a pot where he was the preflop raiser (otherwise there is no c-bet to be made). The small bet size allows you to get some value for the made hands and get some folds as well. You just can’t be predictable and do the same thing every single time or a good player will catch on and make your life hell. If you are out of position, I wouldn’t fire the 1st street unless I was prepared to fire all 3 barrels (even if only 33% pot each street).

Sometimes the small bet size does not work out in the end. When that bet induces someone to shove their pair above the unpaired card and spikes their 2-outer:
This was actually a poorly played hand from me all the way around though - too small a preflop open for my position and hand strength and I got cute with a tap-bet on the flop. Should have gone with a size closer to 750 I guess. With my remaining stack, it was all going in at some point if I had action though. Oh well.