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Playing pocket pairs from BB vs CO/BT raises, by James

Discussion in 'Poker Strategy Articles' started by Admin, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. Admin

    Admin
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    Introduction

    This will be the first article I will be doing for Grinders.org where I will basically be giving away as much knowledge as I can. We are trying to make this a community that is trying to help the players and not just flame everyone as other sites are notorious for. And best part is......its free! So feel free to leave feedback or what other article topics you would like to see in the future.

    A lot of people I coach and talk to have troubles with pocket pairs out of position especially in blinds vs cutoff and button raises. There are a few different schools of thought on this topic and I will give you guys all my ideas and thoughts. This article is concentrating on pots that aren’t multiway.

    First off I differentiate 22-55 and 66+. I believe 66+ have much more value than the first group because obviously they beat the hands under them and they beat some cards on the board. Obviously the higher you go the higher their actual value. This is why I will not address how to play pocket pairs higher than 55.

    To summarize the main discussion point of this article:

    This article will be based on playing 22-55 in a 6max or full ring game in a heads-up situation between the big blind and the cut-off (CO) or button (BT) raisers

    To make sure this discussion point comes across, I will first describe how to classify players. With that information I will describe how to play 22-55 against these different types of players.



    Classifying players

    The first thing you have to do with low pocket pairs in the blinds is to distinguish who the raiser is from the CO or the BT.

    The help of statistics

    When playing only a few tables you can just rely on your observations and reads to judge how often players are opening their CO and BT. When you are playing multiple tables however, it’s best to use your own reads with aid from software such as Hold’em Manager (HEM) or Pokertracker 3 (PT3). HEM actually gives you the positional stats on villains on the screen (as shown in my video’s) where as PT3 I recommend you look up regulars and look at their positional stats to see how they are playing in each position.

    Against unknown players

    If the player is unknown then I will play them passive, meaning I will call and play straight up for the most part until I get a better feel/read on their game. This means if I have 55 I will call preflop and if the flop is 923 rainbow I will check and call flop and check turn (regardless of the turncard) and see what they do. If they fire again I probably fold (especially to a 10+) and that’s fine. We gained some information because we now know that this player is capable of a 2nd barrel bluff or 2nd valuebet. In the situation that they check back on the turn it’s good because we probably have the best hand and can look to value bet on brick rivers (such as a card pairing the board or another low card, while 10+ would be a scare card) and check a scare card river.

    Against tight players

    If the player is tight meaning they do not try and steal that much and have a tighter opening range, you now have to distinguish between a tight passive player and a tight aggressive opponent. A tight aggressive player still has a tight opening range (say like 17/17 are his BT stats) and has a high cbet frequency (like 80%+) and basically a high aggression factor overall. The tight-passive player still has the tight opening range (ex. 18/15 on BT) but doesn’t have a high cbet% and isn’t that aggressive overall (plays a lot of pot control, doesn’t tiny value bet, etc)

    Against loose raisers

    The loose raisers from the CO and BT are the norm in today’s game but still follow the same guidelines for distinguishing the loose passive from the loose aggressive as we did for the tight openers. Even players with very tight stats such as 17/15 could be looser BT openers when you actually look them up such as 24/24 on the BT. These players will have a high attempt to steal percentage as well.

    Difference between playing from the small blind and the big blind

    Also, you will play different if you are in the small blind or the big blind where you close the action. In the small blind, especially at higher stakes, there is the possibility that the big blind will squeeze. The CO/BT raisers usually have a wide range of hands and your flat call is indicating you have a weak or marginal hand, thus it is a good spot for a squeeze in the eyes of a good aggressive player. So always be aware of who the big blind is and how often they are squeezing because you could be folding or 3betting your pocket pairs much more if this is the case since flat calling will be less profitable. This also allows you to set traps with big hands as well which I won’t get into. Also, if the big blind is a solid aggressive player who squeezes, chances are you might be better often finding a new table/seat to play at. The opposite of that is that if the big player is a weak player/station then you will be calling more because pots will be multiway so often. Playing multiway however is a totally different discussion which I will not get into in this article.



    Playing the low pocket pairs (22-55) against different opponents

    As written, I will now discuss how to play the low pocket pairs against different types of opponents

    Against the tight-aggressive player

    Against the standard tight-aggressive player there are a few things you can do with your low pocket pairs:

    • Against the tightest of the tight-aggressive range (people who play below 15% of their hands) you can call with the intention of basically just set mining. This is really the only player you can do this with since they are aggressive enough to at least get 2 streets of value from them and their opening range is tighter so it will become more likely that they actually have a hand.
    • You can also try and check/raise scary flops since they are likely to have a 'way too high' cbet frequency and if called they will most likely be done with the hand unless an excellent bluff card comes. Just remember that they are more likely to have a hand so don't get carried away with flop check/raises by using them too frequently against these type of opponents.
    • You can also frontbet scary or dry flops (and I frontbet fairly large) since these players are tight and tend to play somewhat straightforward
    • Reasons for folding preflop are they will be cbetting basically every flop AND following up his bets on turns and rivers especially on good scare cards where you can’t profitably continue and are stuck playing a guessing game OOP which is not a profitable situation

    An exception can be made against some players that can also be described as tight-aggressive. Most of the these players will be very close in their VPIP and PFR percentages meaning they only play raise or fold style (the Cardrunners way) which is usually very exploitable. I will be 3betting or folding preflop against these players. They will be folding a lot and 4betting a lot meaning you won’t have to play postflop out of position very often. Your hand doesn’t have much value here anyway (while we want it to have a lot of value) so when we 3bet it’s basically the same as bluffing preflop. When you do get called however, your hand is very easy to play postflop and the potential (although small) to hit a set is always there. Be aware of your frequency when 3betting though and recognize when they start adjusting by calling your 3bets more or by 4betting the crap out of you. When they adjust you should also adjust accordingly.

    Against the tight passive player

    Here you can call and basically play your hand for pair value and bluff spots. You can frontbet on low boards and basically be done with the hand when called or you can frontbet on scary flops where the opener is likely to check back, such as 4s5s7h where you can make later street bluffs if called on flop like if another spade or a 6 comes on the turn.



    Against the loose aggressive player

    This is the type of player that can have any holding to raise and he will bet them no matter what comes on the flop and barrel away on the turn and river. Against these players a fold or 3bet is best. Since you don’t have set value odds because they tend not to have a strong starting hand anyways, they won’t be stacking off postflop as much as the tighter player. It’s also harder to check/raise them on scary flops since they tend to be able to rebluff more. They also tend to be paranoid and not give as much credit. However check/raising them at a decent frequency will be profitable, as is frontbetting and stop’n’going. I use a mix of all 3. Since they will have a high cbet% and a wide opening range, using a mix of all 3 will become profitable. The good loose aggressive players will basically make your life miserable if you try and play them frequently out of position with marginal holdings. The 3bet preflop will be profitable since they have weaker holdings themselves so they will be forced to fold a lot. If they adjust by calling a lot they will have to either fold or try and bluff on your flop cbets (I will write about this in a different article in the future). One thing to note is to be cognitive of the frequency of your 3bets against them since they will eventually start to play back either by 4betting or flatting your 3bet in position and outplaying you postflop.

    Against the loose passive player

    This player raises a very wide range and doesn’t cbet as often. Also he doesn’t follow through with bluffs as much and he tends to be fishy all around. He also tends to call 3bets liberally. Because of this I would rather fold or call instead of 3betting for the most part. A 3bet will put you in a tough spot if they call very light and tend not to fold postflop. When you call however, you can basically play pretty straight forward. Against some of these players you have to use your own judgment and I think a mixture of folding and calling is best. You could try some odd 3bets to balance your 3betting range a bit against these players.

    Exceptions

    Obviously there will be super fish and crazy maniacs that are exceptions but I feel playing them is pretty game flow specific with these holdings judging by exactly how they are playing.

    Ending words

    And always remember, one of the reasons poker is so great is because there really isn't ONE way to do things and I hope you enjoyed what I had to say and utilize it with your own thoughts and what you are most comfortable with when creating your style of play.



    - James

    Disclaimer: the percentages I used in this article were not exact. They are rough examples so don’t give them too much credit.
     
  2. Slowninja

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    10x for the article, it was useful :). In the future i hope, among the other articles, to include one for overbets on flops, turns, rivers, etc. against different opponents(regs, fishes, monkeys :) ) on different types of board textures (dry, drawy..) if this is profitable enough in 6max :). I think this is something, which is not in the arsenal of almost anyone and is quite interesting :).

    edit: Oh, and 1 more thing. I dont get what mean stop'n'going, can u explain? :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2009
  3. IronmanBG

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    Nice one :)
     
  4. SickOfItAll

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    Stop'n'go is a move whereby you call a raise, but you are first to act on the flop and you push all-in regardless.
    Usually where you will probably get called by a better hand if you push pre-flop or you are going to get called anyway, but you may get that better hand to fold if they miss the flop or may have just enough money to make a better hand fold.
     
  5. Zografa

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    stpo n go dosnt mean that u push allin u can just call bet 2/3 pot etc in general it means c/c 1 str and bet the very next one
     
  6. SickOfItAll

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    I found the definition in the flopturnriver.com dictionary.
    But yours is better!

    Cheerz!
     

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