3 Emotional Phases of Playing Medium Pairs in Texas Hold’em: From Hope to Triumph to Despair
In Texas Hold’em, you can categorize hole cards into three basic value types: premium hands, junk hands, and everything in between which are medium-strength hands.
The first two types are straightforward to play, but the medium pairs, which fall in the last category, can be tricky. This article defines medium pairs as pocket pairs 66-99. Some players might consider pocket tens as medium pairs while others see them as high pairs (this is a debatable topic).
The play of medium pairs largely depends on your table position and the number of opponents. They might survive the flop and emerge as winners or get completely crushed post-flop. If you’re up against many players and the community cards contain many high cards, your medium pair might transition from a pre-flop leader to a post-flop loser.
How to Play Medium Pairs Based on Position:
Early Position to Play Medium Pairs
Given that I’ve defined medium pairs as 66-99, it implies that I treat them uniformly as overcards threaten both 66 and 99 alike. In early positions, it’s generally best to fold medium pairs, but depending on the table’s temperament, I might consider coming in, just like you would with a low pair.
Middle Position to Play Medium Pairs
How you handle medium pairs in the middle position depends on the action in front of you. If no action precedes you, I would 100% raise, hoping to either take down the blinds or end up heads up with an opponent. If several players have limped in ahead of me, I’d limp too. This often leads to multi-way limping, giving you the right pot odds to try to hit a set. If there’s a raise ahead of me, I’d consider the tendencies of the player making the raise. If I perceive them as tight, I would often fold or re-raise them. Calling is my least preferred action as it leaves me guessing post-flop.
Late Position to Play Medium Pairs
The later you are in the betting order, the more actions you’ll witness, and the greater flexibility you’ll have with medium pairs.
If there has been heavy raising by the time action gets to you, I’d muck the hand and wait for a better spot. Engaging in a rising war with a medium pair can be costly. If there hasn’t been a re-raise before you, I plan to always play medium pairs in late positions and more often than not, raise. With limited players behind you, the chances of someone waking up with a big hand are reduced. If multiple players have limped in before you, I suggest raising it to a larger amount. This is because limpers are typically holding marginal hands hoping for a cheap look at the flop. Make them pay to see it!
As with all poker plays, you should assess the skill level and tendencies of your opponents. Some players might slow-play hands like AA or KK, hoping to trap. If you occasionally fall for these traps, don’t despair, as these players are typically not playing optimally, and you should be able to recoup your chips in the long run.
Medium pairs share some characteristics with small pairs, in that they usually need help to win at showdown. With a pocket pair, the odds of flopping a set are around 1 in 7.5, so more often than not, you’ll miss.
If you’ve called a pre-flop raise and missed the set on the flop, and now the pre-flop raiser bets, you should typically fold.
However, if you were the pre-flop raiser, consider making a continuation bet, hoping to immediately take down the pot. If called, slow down and hope for a free card on the turn. If your c-bet is raised, then fold unless you know the player is tricky and capable of bluffing.
If you indeed hit your set on the flop, be ready to win or lose a big pot. While you might occasionally lose the hand, more often than not, you will be the one scooping the pot. It’s hard to let go of your set, but the betting pattern of your opponents and the texture of the board should guide your next move.