How To Play Small Pairs In Tournaments

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As part of the Ask SplitSuit a question series, a couple people did ask hand history questions and this one actually came privately via Facebook. Josh just wants me to review a hand from early stages of a tournament. The blinds are 25/50 with 1,500 starting stacks. There are a bunch of limpers, and hero decides to attack to $195. This, in my opinion, is going to be the most important part, because this sets up the entire hand. This is a situation where I think it’s a prime situation just to limp behind. Call the 50, try to set mine for super cheap. You only have three people behind you that could possibly raise the pot, I think it’s very unlikely that someone does, at least with a weak hand and because of that, I think this is a great situation to limp back.

Think about what happens if you raise here. If you raise, are you going to pick this pot up pre-flop? It’s the early stages of a tournament, which means you don’t have a lot of hands or information on your opponents, which means you can’t know if raising to 195 is going to pick up the pot a lot pre-flop. As a pure default, I would not expect it.

That means you’re in a situation where you’re most likely going to get multiple callers, you’re in a situation where yes, you could smash a set, but let’s be honest, 88% of the time you’re not going to and you’re going to be in a situation where you have this weak pair that really can’t do anything and you’re just hoping that people fold. But, by the time you get multiple callers, the pot is going to be what, $6-700, give or take. You have like no maneuverability to try to move people off. You’re going to be in a situation where you’re risking a lot of money with a lot of uncertainty and probably not a lot of folds happening.

Especially when you’re looking at the first limper, EP1, who open limps under the gun, that’s someone that I’m probably not going to assume is a good player. Open limping under the gun is not a good thing to do and because of that, I assume he’s probably going to call and once he calls, everyone else wants to call as well, because now everyone gets multiple source of implied odds and whatever excuse they want to use.

So because of that, you’re kind of creating a situation where you’re not going to perform well, There’s really just nothing you can do in a situation like this.

If you have information—sure. Without it, I would just much rather limp behind here, call a 50, try to set mine for super cheap as opposed to raise here and put yourself in a situation where something like this, where you get this massive string of callers is most likely going to happen and this is just not a good situation for us.

At this point we end up going to the flop of queen/jack/deuce with two hearts. There’s a check, check, check, and at this point hero says, “Obviously I’m worried about draws and pairs, so I C-bet strong for $300.

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A couple quick notes here: One, this is not a strong C-bet, simply because it is very, very small, you’re giving everyone a great price on you and also you’re probably really not generating many folds, at least not from four people on this texture. There are a ton of different ways for people to have hit this board in one way or another and I would not expect four players to fold on this texture, particularly when you’re giving them 4.7:1. I just don’t ever expect this to work.

This is one of those where pre-flop was misplayed, yes, so because of that, my main goal here is how the heck can I get out of this pot without messing up any further? This would be the point where I would just say, “Okay, my pre-flop play was not great, it definitely did not work the way I wanted it to, and because of that, I just need to get the heck out of here cheaply.”

Especially in a tournament where you’re trying to salvage chips and make sure that you don’t just set any on fire, I would definitely just check here and be done with it.

As played, there’s a shove by the button, a call from EP1, and Josh says, “I obviously am beat, so I fold, but what should I have differently?”

The big things we could’ve done differently? One, limp behind pre-flop when we had the opportunity to, much, much better spot to limp behind as opposed to raise. I know I talk all the time about pre-flop aggression and just being aggressive in general, but there are times when limping behind is certainly going to be best and with things like small pairs and small suited connectors, when there are multiple limpers in front of you, those are prime candidates to consider limping behind as opposed to attacking.

The other mistake, in my opinion, was the flop C-bet. Just a situation where you’re not going to generate enough folds, in my opinion, you just don’t have the information to, it’s a really bad texture for you, so my major focus would just be to get out of it as cheaply as possible.

Again, we’re going to make mistakes, that’s a foregone conclusion in poker. When we make a mistake early in a hand, our major focus is how can we get out of this hand without creating any more damage, and again, by saving ourselves that $300 C-bet, I think we’re going to help ourselves in the long run a ton, if we ever make that pre-flop mistake.

Josh, hopefully this helps you the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. If you or anyone else has a poker-related hand or question, feel free to leave it on our Google+ page, I’ll leave a link for that in the description box. Please make sure to like and subscribe if you’re enjoying these types of videos.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Otherwise, good luck out there and happy grinding!

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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