By: Victor “Vegas Vic” Royer
In this series of articles we are going to explore some of the possibilities of how to play Big Pairs in poker tournaments, and many of the most important reasons for doing so. In the game of Texas Hold’Em there are four pocket pairs that can be considered in the classification of “big pairs”. These are, in their order of importance:
- · Ace-Ace
- · King-King
- · Queen-Queen
- · Jack-Jack
While this may seem like a no-brainer to just about anyone who ever picked up a card in a poker game, there are different values to be assigned to these hands – particularly as this applies to poker tournaments. It’s not always the same as the game you play at home, or the cash games you may play regularly. And that’s one of the main reasons why tournament poker is so very different from cash-game poker.
Let’s begin with the best of them all – pocket Aces.
Pocket Aces is the best hand, and for good reason. Not only can this hand win unimproved, but it has a multitude of possibilities for making a variety of other hands that can also turn into winning hands. Statistically, pocket Aces win about one third of the time. This is one of those readily understood quirks of this game, and the statistics that apply to it. Many people consider it a given that whenever they get pocket Aces they should immediately win the hand. Although it is indeed the best hand prior to the flop, a whole lot of things can happen on the flop, and on the turn, and on the river, that can very quickly and easily counterfeit those pocket Aces and consequently turn something that looked very good at the beginning, into something that quite often has to be thrown away, or will lose.
What many players don’t realize, and not just novices, is that if we are to accept the statistical models that guide the various percentages relative to such hands in the game of Texas Hold’Em, pocket Aces is a hand that will actually lose two thirds of the time.
Therefore, although you are a very significant favorite in the hand when you begin with pocket Aces, if the situation was left purely to the statistics and no other considerations brought to bear, you would find yourself winning one third of the time with them, and losing the other two thirds. This would not make the hand profitable. However, the good thing about poker is that we as players do not have to rely purely and only on the statistics, nor do we have to play the hand as if it was a computer simulation designed to provide statistics based on the frequency of occurrence of potential wins relative to the occurrences of other events that counterfeit them.
As poker players, we have the ability to be able to play the hands in a manner in which they can win even if statistically they would be favored to lose given the circumstances on the flop and thereafter. This is what separates purely the statistics from the actual playing of poker as a game played by humans against other humans, with the objective of winning money.
Statistics – and statistical testing programs – do not take that into account, and no computer yet developed can take into account the abilities and skills of the player, nor understand the concept that the acquisition of tournament chips in the process of playing is an objective and the goal, and that such objectives and goals are the winning of money.
Therefore, the theories of the game do not necessarily always reflect the fact that human beings have abilities that transcend the theory, as well as goals and objectives that are inherently unable to be part of such theories, and consequently inapplicable thereto.
All these are considerations that often escape a great many poker players, and as a result many players do not play such big pocket pairs always to their advantage, or necessarily as well as they could given the various situations and circumstances to which they can apply.
In Part Two of this series, I will, therefore, offer a few guidelines that you can use as the basis and building blocks to form your own strategies, based upon the remainder of the rest of your arsenal of skills and abilities as such apply to your goals and objectives in Texas Hold’Em poker tournaments.
But remember that these are guidelines designed to work under the best of circumstances, and that ultimately whether or not you personally will be able to play them that well, or to apply such recommendations alongside the remainder of your skills and abilities as successfully as possible, very significantly depends on precisely what kind of a poker player you are, and exactly how well you can do so.
Nevertheless, by at least being aware of these guidelines, this should provide you with the ability and framework upon which to build such success, because you will at least be aware of the most common circumstances in which such hands should be played in accordance with these recommendations.
I also again remind you that this entire discussion is concerned with the playing of poker tournaments. Consequently, it is equally as important to remember that some ways of playing big pairs are better suited to such tournament strategy, while others are not. Similarly, what you may do with big pairs in cash games will (may) also be different to what you would (could) do with the same hand under similar conditions in tournaments. This discussion will continue in Part Two.