Small Pairs in No Limit Holdem
Pre-Flop

There is more than one way to play small pairs preflop. One of the best and safest strategies is to make a set on the flop, for as cheap as possible. Then extract as much as possible from unsuspecting opponents. This is one of the most powerful plays in no limit holdem.

The best type of situations for this play are when

  • your opponent has a big pocket pair and will pay you off if you hit
  • there are multiple opponents taking the flop
  • there is likely to be allot of action postflop

To do this correctly you must be able to see the flop for no more than 10% of the chips you could win (after the flop). This means that if I have 100 and my opponent 50 the maximum I would want to invest with 33 is 5 dollars/chips (10% of 50 =5).

Note this formula is also correct any time you feel you are behind in a hand, holding JJ against AA for example.


The worst type of situations for this play (small pairs) are when

  • your opponent is on a steal raise and will not pay you off if you make your hand but bluff you if you miss and big cards hit
  • being in late position and the first to voluntarily enter the pot
    (here a standard raise would be correct)
  • there is likely to be a big raise or reraise preflop and you will be forced to fold, after you have called

Note this is a problem if calling a substancial raise with the threat of a big reraise behind. This is not a problem if calling only the minimum since it will cost virtually nothing (assuming the minimum is a small amount).


Keep this strategy in mind when you hold a big pair like AA or KK. Bet as much preflop as you think they will call without giving them the right odds to use this play on you. 


For more on this see
AA and KK Preflop
QQ and JJ Preflop
Post Flop Strategy with a Set
Slow Playing
Betting Sets
For all NL Holdem Tips
NL Holdem Strategy (from small pairs)
Complete Menu of all Strategy Available

Texas Holdem Strategy Home


Top of Page