Hockey sticks, candy canes, walking canes — these are some of the names for pocket sevens because they can be competitive, hit the sweet spot, or carry you all the way to hospital (figuratively speaking, of course). They’re notoriously tricky for beginners to play, but a pair of sevens in the hole can also be very profitable in the long run — as long as you can rise to the typical challenges of this starting hand in cash games. One thing’s for sure, if you want to make progress in playing online poker, there’s no escaping pocket sevens. Keep on reading to learn how to play poker, starting with a pair of sevens.
Pocket Sevens in General
Pocket pairs in poker come in three different classes. There are the top pairs from 10s through to aces, the bottom pairs from 2s through to 5s, and the middle pairs, including pocket 7s. Sevens in the hole is considered to be a very strong starting hand, so you often have to play it to avoid losing value in the long term. The challenge, though, is that while it can often give you the strongest hand before and on the flop, it will frequently fall behind on the turn and river. The clear and present danger in this situation is that you can get trapped in a massive pot with an ultimately losing hand. The silver lining is that it forces you to play decisively with a view to your hand strength on later streets. In cash games, this can boost your image as an aggressive player among soft opponents, even if you’re pretty much playing by the book. The aura effect (“success breeds success”) can even increase their tendencies to fold, which is good news for your bankroll.
Strategies for Pocket Sevens
Raise, call, or fold? Each of these actions can be correct when you’re holding pocket sevens. It all depends on your position and your opponents’ actions before and after the flop.
As one of the top 6–7% percent of all starting hands in poker, pocket sevens is an excellent hand to open raise with every time the action folds to you. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in; you’ll want to get your chips in and build the pot without limping.
So far, so simple. But if a player before you raises, your position becomes important.
If you’re in the big blind, the pot odds make it worth your while to call. After all, you’re already invested in the pot.
From the small blind, three-betting or folding are the most profitable lines to follow in cash games. Go for a three-bet against a cutoff or button raise, but fold to a raise from early or middle position.
From the button, pocket sevens are too strong to fold to a single raise, but they don’t play well against four-bets, so calling is the way to go. That said, it can make sense to three-bet if you know the raiser tends not to four-bet.
From earlier positions, it can be correct to fold, call, or bet, depending on various factors. In low-stakes games where the rake is high, it’s generally more profitable to adopt a three-bet or fold approach. But if you’re up against inexperienced players who won’t put the pressure on, calling can make sense.
What if you have to face a re-raise (three-bet)? Assuming typical effective stacks of 100 big blinds or more, you should call every time. The pocket sevens odds of flopping a set and potentially stacking your opponent are 12%, and a three-bet gives you the odds of making the call worthwhile. It’s not unlike playing highly volatile online casino games — the hit rate is low, but when you hit, it’s a big hit.
Against a four-bet, you should fold if it comes from a player in early position, from a very tight player, or if the bet size is very big. Otherwise, it’s correct to call.
What you do after the flop depends a great deal on the texture of the board.
If you’re the preflop aggressor and your pair of 7s is an underpair to the flop, it’s best to make a c-bet. If the flop cards are all above seven, your hand strength is poor, but your range is strong enough to warrant a small c-bet as a semi-bluff. Sometimes you’ll have your pocket sevens called by players with weaker hands, such as gutshot draws. Sometimes you’ll fold out equity hands, such as overcards, and sometimes players with better hands will fold. It all works out in your favor in the long run, especially if you’ve mastered the art of resilience and can ride the rough out with the smooth.
If you flop middle-pair as the preflop raiser, you should have a mixed strategy, sometimes betting, sometimes checking back.
If you flop third pair and you’re in position, it’s best to just check back and try to steer the hand to showdown.
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