Thursday, July 19, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 10:27 PM
Playing Middle Pairs

In June 2005, I wrote:
I have decided to write a complete piece on this later, but here is the situation: pair vs overcards. It is basically a coin toss and it is so close, that I personally find it irrelevant that the pair is a slight favorite. What I do find relevant is how you play this hand in this situation. Adam had a pair (so he says), maybe about a 99. He raised and I popped him hard with AK. He thought for a while and folded. I think he did the right thing, or at least one of the right things. His only options are to fold or go all-in, IMO. A call is so very wrong with a low or middle pair because your BEST case scenario is a coin toss and there is a possibility of the 4.5:1 situation of facing a bigger pair. Fold or raise big. He folded.This hand isn't all that interesting except that it happened the same day that I posted Matusow's rant about calling in this situation and the same day Kim Hock and I analyzed a similiar hand from a tournament in Houston on Friday. Anyway, look for a rambling diatribe soon on how to play your cards in this situation.

I had a followup which covered some math and got some discussion from some players for whom I have respect. Worth a read.

Then I got some mail in the mailbag:

From: K, father of C
Date: 06/19/2005 03:05 PM
To: Dr Fro
Subject: CF's Post on Mid pairs

I read CF's post on IAG and I can't argue w/ any of his assumptions. Whileit is not EV based, Dan Harrington addresses this situation in his book. His scenarios revolve around T-T instead of 9-9 but it is interesting reading. He goes through several scenarios in p (sic) 241-250. He never suggests folding but he does present situations for calling and raising. He uses pot odds to support his conclusions.

I thought that would make for some good reading if you are interested in another perspective on the same topic.

So I re-read pages 241-250.

Action Dan gives examples. Example 5-14 and 5-15*, while offering brilliant advice, are not on point to my original post (a raise that sees a re-raise).

Example 5-16 is, somewhat. It involves the raise, re-raise situation, but because the re-raise is all-in, it is impossible to re-re-raise. So the decision boils down to fold or call. He says to call.

Example 5-17 involves JJ and is only concerned with your initial action, not what you do if you raise and get re-raised.

Example 5-18 involves 22, which is extraordinarily different from a middle pair. Action Dan correctly tells you to fold this hand.

In summary, I don't see anything in Dan's book that tells you what to do if you raise with middle pair and get re-raised. He does correctly consider the threat of a re-raise when advising on what your initial action might be. Too many people ignore this risk and consequently raise too often (and for too much) with middle pairs. Perhaps the reason Dan doesn't advise what you should do in the difficult situation that Adam found himself in is because his preflop play is designed to avoid minimize such a situation. In the end, I think that is perhaps the best lesson of all: don't do shit that puts you in a tough situation.

But I am still looking for wisdom that is on point to the Adam situation. Alas, I found it. On page 483 of S/S, Doyle says that "he might pick up a pair of nines...and I might raise with it...he might play back at me. If he did...he'd get the pot. I'd give the pot to anyone who raised me before (emphasis is most definitely not mine) the flop."

I'll correct his quote rather than sic the whole thing and confuse you, but he finishes with this:

I'd never stand a re-raise when I have a small (this includes JJ and lower) pair before the turn. I won't take any pressure with them. If someone puts a play on me, I throw them away.

Well, it is good to know that I wasn't crazy after all. Some washed up ex-basketball player from Texas agrees with what I wrote. More importantly, he agrees with what Adam did.

* On a side note, you are holding TT, you raise, get a re-raise, call and end up in a three-way pot. The flop comes QQ6. Dan is (not surprisingly) brilliant in pointing out that this a a good flop. KQ6 is a bad flop. QQ6 means that you opponents likely missed the flop. So, he says bet, and I agree. In fact, if you miss this bet on a regular basis, I think you will lose a lot of money at NLHE. Drive out everyone but the all-in dude and in all likelihood, you have him beat. I guess that it worked out well that you called given the flop. Most flops are uglier than that. This is a post-flop play that is fantastic. My post was supposed to be about pre-flop play.

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