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Starting with a Pair in Poker

pair of Nines
"Falsa pareja"   CC by 2.0   Roman San
An assessment of how strong your starting hand is in poker is the first decision you have to make in the card game. Unlike blackjack where the conditions never change, there are a number of factors which need to be considered in poker, the most important being how many other players are around the table with you.

If you are sitting on a table which features six of more players, the quality of your starting hand needs to be very good for you to bet with confidence as the chances are someone else will be in a stronger position than you before the flop. 

Your tactics change when you are down to two players in a head-to-head situation. A pair all of a sudden becomes very strong, giving you a high probability of winning the pot. You should therefore play the hand positively and be careful not to fold even if your opponent chooses to raise pre-flop.

Knowing how strong your starting pair is in relation to the number of players around the table takes a lot of experience. The more hands you play at tables which have a varying amount of players on, the easier you will find it to make the right decision.

If you are unable to play at tables of fewer or more than six, the next best thing to do is watch the elite players in the game. And this couldn’t be easier: some of the biggest names in poker such as Jesse Sylvia feature in the World Series of Poker events which are televised from around the world, or you can watch the dedicated poker channel on Twitch which features stars like Jason Somerville.

High-Value Pairs
There are no better starting hands in poker than high-value pairs. Top of this list is pocket Aces, also known as pocket rockets, while any pocket face cards should also fill you with confidence when it comes to betting into the pot or calling any raises from the table.

If you do go into the flop with a high pair in poker, you are hoping to turn your hand into three-of-a-kind. Anything more is bonus before the turn and river cards. More often than not you should be happy to raise the pot to either eliminate your opponents or to try and get them to commit to more chips.

Low-Value Pairs
One of the hardest things some beginners struggle to do in poker is fold a low pair. It is a difficult to throw away a set hand because you know you are only one card away from a three-of-a-kind which would put you in the driving seat at your table. You do have to play the percentages though and accept that a low pair is a weak hand at a table with six or more players.  

Sometimes it is best to fold your hand as then you don’t feel committed into a pot. If you have the majority of your chips tied up in the middle of the table, it can lead you to make wrong decisions as you are more likely to hang around longer than you should do.
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