How to Play Medium Pairs Pre Flop in Texas Hold’em

In this article I am going to discuss how to play 1010, 99, 88, 77, and 66 pre flop in Texas Hold’em. Many players pay these hands improperly which leads to a large loss of value in the long term. Sure you could get lucky ant flop a set the one time you put in half your stack pre flop with 1010, but 7 times out of 8 you won’t and you will be left with a large loss on your poker sheet. To avoid such mistakes I am going to be going over very specifically how to play these hands before the flop. Luckily, they are all pretty much the same style and so I can generalize for them all collectively and just label them as medium pairs in the article. Here we go!

The most glaring mistakes people make with medium pairs are as follows:

  • Thinking that medium are will win a hand without improvement and take a good size pot

Pocket pairs that are medium never really win decent sized pots without hitting a set. The reason is that most people won’t place a lot of money in the pot with lower than a pair of tens and so unless they are trying to bluff you and betting huge you can’t win much money. Even if they are bluffing they could still either make you fold if you got too worried you were losing, or they could catch any draw or pair an over card to beat you. For these reasons people should not expect to taking down large pots with medium pairs in Texas Hold’em.

  • Thinking that medium pairs are dominant over any two over cards such as AK.

Medium pairs are a coin flip against these hands and very seldom will you win much with these hands unless you flop a set at the same time that they hit one of their two cards. This is nearly a 25 to 1 shot, so don’t expect to win a big pot against two over cards because most of the time they just end up folding. The real issue with betting big into two over cards and trying to win a big pot is that you can’t be certain you not going against a bigger pair. If they have JJ you are putting your money in very behind. For this reason, you must be careful when playing jacks in large pots when you can’t be sure where you are at in the hand.

  • Thinking that you can safely call a large pre flop raise with a medium pair.

Calling a large bet with a medium pair is one of the dumbest moves you can make in all of Texas Hold’em. Yet, people play 99 like it is QQ pre flop even though it is nowhere near as strong. If an opponent raises the hand, you are either in a coin-flip situation or you are behind in most cases. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is play a big pot. You are going to have so much uncertainty that you can’t possibly extract value from the hand. There are only really 3 outcomes here. Either you flop a set and win the pot (even when you do they might not have much so it may be a small pot). You think your 99 is good and you are behind from the start of they catch up on the river and you lose a large pot (this is the most common and worst possibility). Or, your 99 truly is good and when you bet the hand they simply fold and you win hardly any money at all for all the risk you have taken.

  • Trying to defend their medium pair too much before an over card has fallen.

If you see the board is 8 high and you have 99 it is natural to think you are ahead and equally natural to want to defend your hand since you know that any 10, jack, queen, king, or ace falling is going to be very scary for you. What many players do here is bet large and hope they don’t get called. This is a problem because if you do this and do get called you have no idea where you are at in the hand. You could already be behind, or any over card could be their match. If you keep playing the hand big the opponent can even go all in on the river forcing you to make a decision on your 99 for all of your chips. In most cases you will have to lay it down because the risk is just too great. For this reason I do not bet too high with medium pairs ever in a hand unless I have flopped a set.

  • Not valuing a medium pair if an over card does comes on the board.

Most people tend to exit the hand if an ace, king, queen, or jack comes on the board. That isn’t always a bad move, but if you are folding every time an over card comes up in hands with only one other opponent then you are going to be throwing a lot of value into the muck. Instead, what you want to do is play the hand very defensively and either try to check it down or simply call one moderate sized bet and get the hand to a showdown where hopefully you will win. A lot of times people will try to bet and represent that they hit the flop. Just call them and then check the hand the rest of the way and you will be surprised how often you win the hand.

  • Not getting paid out when you do hit three of a kind.

When you flop three of a kind, you really need to maximize the betting because it is one of the only chances you will have to get in your money at a 90% or higher in some cases chance of winning. Most hands will need one specific card or two cards in a row to come for them in order to beat your set, so take advantage of that and bet large with three of a kind because you know you are going to be ahead. If you end up behind for whatever reason (they hit a flush or a straight), you still have a chance to get a full house or four of a kind, so you are never going to be completely dead. In fact you are still about 25% to win the hand on the absolute worst case against a flush or straight.

Playing Medium Pairs

There are many different spots you can end up in pre flop when playing medium pairs and I will do my absolute best job to cover them all in this article. You are going to have to understand though that I will not be able to cover every single situation that can arise. There will be times in which you must make a gut decision for yourself based on the information I have presented here or just on a total gut feeling. The good news is that I can and will be covering the rule of thumb way to play medium pairs pre flop in about 90% of situations that you will be ending up in, so it shouldn’t be too hard to extrapolate the other 10% and make a decision on those on the fly.

Everything I tell you here is going to be based on tables with over 7 players seated. I am going to split the info up into four different categories based on things like positioning in the hand (in or out of position). For example, I will explain how to play medium pairs when you are early to act, late to act, and when you are small or big blind. I plan to do the blinds separately because they tend to be a position that most new players and even some advanced players have trouble plating from. You will want to add this information to memory because it will be extremely useful to have on hand when you do get a medium pair and want to make sure you are playing it the best way possible to extract value in the long term. Like I said, it will be used about 90% of the time.

Medium Pairs 1010, 99, 88, 77, and 66

Medium pairs are commonly played in Texas Hold’em by most players because they are in the top 15 hands that you can possibly get including AA, KK, QQ, AK, JJ, AQ, 1010, 99, AJ, 88, A10, 77, KQ, 66, 55. What people don’t seem to understand about medium pairs is that they are not large pairs such as AA and KK and so need to be played substantially safer. The people that do realize this sometimes will go a step further and play them too safe which in my opinion is still a mistake, but it is far less of one then playing them too strong. When making a judgment call on a hand like 77 you should always err on the side of caution. I like to come into the hands cheap and try to flop a set since that is pretty much the only way to win a large pot with a medium pair and because it is very easy and safe in terms of the play involved.

The Hidden Value of Medium Pairs

Medium pairs are fantastic because you can play them in small pots and not be angry if you end up losing. They are cut and dry so to speak, if you hit a set, it is amazing and you can bet big, if you miss you simply check it down and hope your pair holds up. Playing medium pairs slow is the proper way to play them because it isn’t going to show your opponents any info and it also allows you to make simple decisions that maximize your value in the hand. Limping in with medium pairs is in most cases the proper move to make, when over cards fall usually you will just get rid of your medium pair and call it a day, and if the board comes all under cards, you can try to defend your hand a little. If you hit your set people tend to be caught off guard because they figure you would have raised pre flop with your medium pair like most players do. We however know that it is too obvious and also too weak of a hand to raise with and play a large pot because you can never know where you stand in the hand. Knowing where you stand in the hand is actually one of the most important aspects of poker to know. It far more important to know where you are at in a hand than to catch a lucky break because knowing where you are at allows you to bet properly and not take substantial risks. Long term poker players do not rely on luck.

Playing Medium Pairs Pre Flop Out of Position

When you are out of position with your medium pair you are going to want to enter the hand for only the minimum $2 or whatever the big blind is. The reason is that you are trying to play the hand safe and see what your opponents are going to do. Also, it is impossible to read so it gives you some deception. If you had raised you would immediately draw attention to your hand and also sort of commit yourself to playing it because once you raise you have put in a decent amount of money and you tend to want to continue the hand. This is very dangerous because if your opponents have good cards they can raise and now you are in a very bad spot which is why we do not do it.

Instead, we limp in and if nobody raises we hope to flop a set. If we get raised we make a decision. The choice is to either call if it is really small and just continue trying to flop a set, to raise if it is a weak bet and could be a bluff, or to fold if it is a big bet. Any bet of $8 or more I say just fold unless it is from a known bluffer in which case you can try to steal the pot back by re-raising but it is risky. Essentially when you make this play you are attempting to represent KK or AA, so it should not be done often and when you do you should just imagine that you have KK or AA and play the hand accordingly.

Playing Medium Pairs in Position

When you play a medium pair in position you are going to be excited because there are so many good possibilities that can happen for you. Either a bunch of limpers come in and you can limp as well and hopefully flop a set or bet them out on the flop once they all check around. You can raise those same limpers big and win the pot outright, or if someone had raised small you can call along and get in cheap, or if they raise big you can dodge them completely and just fold your hand. The possibilities are really fantastic when you are in position with a medium pair. In fact, most good players will tell you that being in position with a medium pair is one of their absolute favorite spots to be in before the flop because it is so exciting. The typical play is as follows. If nobody raised you either limp in or bet big and try to take the pot down right away. Only bet big if the people that came in are loose players pre flop and not terrible on the flop. What I mean is that if they play a lot of hands, but aren’t terrible players. If they don’t play a lot of hands you won’t raise because they could be limping a good hand and catch you, and if they are terrible players you don’t want to raise because when you flop a set they might pay you out with some trash small pair that they hold or medium pair on the board. I love terrible players, they make me so much money. Anyway, if someone had raised it is a different story. If the raise is big you just flat out fold. If it is small $10 or less you have to decide if it is worth a call based on the number of players in and how bad they are. Either way you had better be willing to play the hand somewhat aggressively on the flop when you do call a raise because if you plan to just fold every time you miss your set you will not do to well in the long run.

How to Play Medium Pairs From the Blinds

The best part about being in the blinds is that you get the advantage of acting last before the flop comes out. This allows you to see exactly what every opponent does before you act and so it allows you to either fold when it is clear you are behind, raise when everyone is weak, or simply limp and try to flop a set for cheap if you can’t really tell or don’t want to take a risk. In most cases if there are no major raises and some limpers I will usually throw a large bet out and hope to win the pot straight away when everyone else folds their hands. However, when the pot is small I tend to either check and see a flop cheap or raise small and hope to be called knowing I am going to bet the flop no matter what comes representing whatever hand they will believe has them beat. This way, I can try and either flop a set, or catch people playing other low cards they may have when the highest card on the board flops below my pair. Obviously this works out best when they flop top pair and it is still lower than your pair. This is a slightly dangerous strategy, but when you get used to it, it works very effectively.

Never, ever call a raise over $10 with a medium pair, not in the blinds, not In position, not ever. The reason is that you will never know where you are at in the hand unless you flop a set. Flopping a set is pure luck and you should not be playing hoping to win off of luck, so since after the flop assuming you missed your set, you have no way of knowing if your ahead or behind, you are safer just folding and waiting for a better spot to play from. Even if you were ahead they have outs and you are not likely to win a big pot because they won’t have much. If you end up behind it is near impossible to catch back up because you only have 2 outs in the whole deck to improve you.

Reviewing Medium Pairs

In most hands you are looking to keep the pot size small with a medium pair unless you connect to your set. This allows you to play the hand safely as well as keep track of where you might be at in the hand more easily. If the pot has many limpers however, it is valuable especially from the blinds to bet big at it and try to win the pot outright without a flop, just keep in mind that if you get raised back you will need to fold. If you go over the list of common mistakes people make when playing their medium pairs and learn it well, you will do far better in the long run playing Texas Hold’em. It is always good to learn and apply good habits to your play, why not start here.

One of the most important and obviously overlooked aspects of Texas Hold’em is emotional stability and the ability to not get upset and go on tilt. Think about this, how many times you have seen a player make a bad mistake when upset, bored, over excited, or tilted for whatever reason? Avoiding the things that will get you emotionally unstable (such as badly misplaying a medium pair) will save you money both in the hand that you played properly, as well as in all other hands played after because you will be happier and more in control of your emotional state.

Please check back because I will probably be posting more info on poker hands in the future. Until then, GOOD LUCK!

Strategy Game & Gambling & Poker

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