How to Spot Big Pocket Pairs in NL Texas Holdem Tournaments

How to Spot Big Pocket Pairs in NL Texas Holdem Tournaments

One of the worst things that can happen to you in an NL Texas Holdem tournament is to get too many pocket pairs. Too many weak players know how to play AA, especially in full ring games, and they often get rewarded for it.

If you make it to the money in a large MTT then you definitely want to be playing with pairs of Queens or better. That’s a good place to get started with pocket pairs, but you can still get struggling with them in post-flop situations. I’ll present some ways to not get burned with pocket pairs and still have them be profitable.

Not-So-Bad Hands

Choosing hands that aren’t quite perfectFirst and foremost, you have to choose your hands with caution. Even pocket pairs have to be thought a little bit before they are withdrawn for a few reasons.

In cash games, you are obviously hoping to make a big flop to get paid off. Too many times you will take the flop and end up making a mediocre hand with it. That will mess up your stats in the long run. It will mess up any positive expectation you have on your bankroll.

Secondly, there are other factors that will play a role and may be the deciding factor between getting your money in or not. You will find that these hands are better than you and have a very good chance of winning the pot. But, it will be expensive to get that hand. In other words, it will be more expensive than it is to call. That puts extra pressure on you to make a good play and beat your hand.

Loose Aggressive

A hand like AK is a great example of a hand that is good pre-flop, but where it can be trouble in the latter rounds. Early on, the bettors will put a lot of money in with very little raising. Then, the big stacks will come out with a big re-raise. Keep an eye out for these guys.


If you have ever watched a WSOP tournament you will see a lot of hands that have a lot of drama. Even the great players have periods where they can be really aggressive or really passive. Using AK as your calling hand is one of those times.

If you have a tight image, putting lots of money in with a challenging image can pay off. You will get paid off a lot more. If you are known as a very tight player, using AK as your calling hand when the action gets tight, and one of your better hands, will win you a lot of small pots. That’s a lot of money in the longer term.

If you are in the blind and an aggressive player re-raises ahead of you, calling his raise is a good idea. An aggressive player with a hand like AK will win a lot of small pots because other players are not going to understand why an Ace is good. rewarding your opponents for worse hands is a pretty nice scenario.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a loose image, and an aggressive player re-raises, you are probably better off just folding. A loose aggressive 7meter player is a player who will play any hand, and win when it’s good. That’s a very dangerous image to have if you are in the blind, because you’re hoping the flop is better than your cards.

It’s interesting, because a lot of beginning players have a hard time folding real strong hands. They have a lot of trouble with the idea of folding a hand, even when they have top pair or better. It’s kind of a fear of losing money or losing a tournament in general. But, if you want to be a great poker player, you need to be comfortable with betting your money away. You don’t need to be one of the biggest, most fear-raised players in the world, but just one who is comfortable enough to realize when their hand is good and when it’s not.

One of the best ways to find your comfort zone is to just play a lot of poker. When I first started playing online, I started in the lower stakes games and I played a lot of micro-stakes cash games. I didn’t really take the micro-stakes seriously, I really didn’t think they were that low. I was playing in tournaments, obviously, but I was also playing a lot of cash games. At the end of the month, if I had been able to just win one or two of the tournaments that I played, then I had a pretty good month. But, not winning any of them, not winning any of them was really the cause of my poker problems.

When I started playing in the micro-stakes, I was winning some, I was making money, I was building a big bankroll.