There’s an ongoing debate amongst poker players as to how small pocket pairs should be played.
Some players feel that small pocket pairs (22-66) are always strong enough to play aggressively. Others feel that small pairs should be played for set value only.
In Rush Poker, there is less of a need to ramp up aggression with marginal hands. You can simply quick fold your way to a much better hand, making risky plays unnecessary. Thus it is correct to play pocket pairs 22 through 66 for set value only. No need to play them full steam ahead.
However there are times when it’s not even worth it to set mine with low pairs. This seems counterintuitive, but it is true. “Why?” you ask. Because of implied odds.
What are Implied Odds?
Simply put, implied odds are the ratio of total expected winnings when you hit your hand to the cost of calling a bet. Implied odds differ from pot odds in that they consider total possible winnings, as opposed to immediate winnings.
Thus it makes sense that the more money you expect to win in total, the better your implied odds will be. Having good implied odds can make playing more marginal hands—like small pocket pairs—more attractive.
To Mine, or Not to Mine?
To illustrate the effect of implied odds on how you should play pocket pairs, let’s play through an example hand.
In a game of .$50/$1 NL Holdem Full-Ring Rush Poker, you’re dealt 33 in middle position. A player in early position with a $35 effective stack raises to $5. That makes $6.50 in the pot, and you’re faced with a $5 bet to call. Your pot odds are 1.3:1, which clearly do not justify a call.
However if you expect to win a great deal of money on future streets once you hit, a call can be profitable. It’s all about your implied odds. Let’s calculate them.
We’ll have to make some assumptions here. First, that you will be playing your 3’s for set value alone. A player betting out from early position most likely has a strong hand, and to play 3’s for anything but set value would be asking for domination. Second, if you hit your set, your opponent will stack off. Third, everybody after you will fold regardless of what you do.
Your total expected winnings when you hit are thus $36.50, representing the blinds and your opponent’s stack. Your implied odds are thus 36.50:5, or 7.3:1. Compare these with the odds against your hitting a set, which are roughly 8:1. Clearly, set mining here is a losing proposition no matter what.
Although you stand to win much more than your immediate pot odds indicate, your implied odds simply aren’t quite good enough.
Stack Sizes Matter—A Lot
As we’ve just seen, playing small pocket pairs just isn’t worth it sometimes. Against a player with a really small stack, your potential payout often isn’t large enough to justify the risk you need to take. You need to make sure that your opponent can pay you off—bigtime—if you’re going to set mine with small pocket pairs.
Note that although this discussion has centered around playing pocket pairs in Rush Poker, the general concept of implied odds can apply to any situation. They are useful to consider when drawing or calling with suited connectors, for instance.
Any hand that has deceptive value will rely on implied odds to justify their being played. When you hit a low straight after calling a large preflop raise with suited connectors, it’s hard for your opponent to put you on the hand. After all, you called a raise—you must have AK, AQ, JJ, etc. At least, that’s what your opponent—who most likely has a strong hand—tells himself.
Don’t worry too much about calculating implied odds on the fly. You don’t need to be accurate to the tenth decimal or anything when calculating them. Just have a general idea of how they work, and keep them in mind when drawing or preparing to call with a marginal hand.
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