On average, once in every 17 poker hands, you’ll be dealt two cards of the same ranking: Pocket pairs. Being dealt pocket pairs, like pocket 8, for example, is a great way to start a game of online poker. You’ve already got a made hand before the flop, and you have reasonably good chances of winning after the flop, assuming that you play your cards right.
Players tend to divide pocket pairs into low, medium, and high categories, ranging from pocket twos to the mighty pocket aces. Pocket 8s occupy the middle position in this array. Otherwise known as the “snowmen” (because the number 8 looks like two stacked snowballs), pocket 8s is a good and often underrated starting hand that’s usually worth playing before the flop. More often than not, though, the flop serves up an overcard, which can be tricky to contend with.
Understanding Pairs in Poker
When you’re playing Texas Hold’em, whether online or at a land-based casino, there are 13 possible types of pairs you could come across. The highest pair you could get would be an A-A combination and the lowest a 2-2.
Knowing how to handle premium, medium, and low pairs is crucial when you start a hand.
- Premium pairs are any pairs made up of face cards (jacks, queens, kings, or aces).
- Medium pairs are pairs made up of two cards with a value of between 6–10 (hands of 6-6 to 10-10).
- Small pairs are pairs from 2-2 through to 5-5.
Your strategy with pocket pairs will usually change depending on your position at the table and your opponents. Generally, if you’re in a late position and facing a single raise, playing cautiously with small and medium pairs is a good idea. In early positions, you should only play them if the value is clear, or you can fold them.
With premium pairs, you’re in a strong position to take control of the game. It’s a good move to raise before the flop or re-raise if someone else has raised before you, regardless of your position.
The odds of receiving any pocket pair are only +1,595. Being dealt a premium pair has even lower odds. For example, the odds that you’ll be dealt pocket aces in any of your online poker games are +22,122. Still, it’s important to know how to play these poker hands so you’re prepared for any eventuality. So, here are some basic tips on how to play pocket 8s in your online poker games.
Opening the Pot With Pocket 8s
If you’re playing Texas Hold’em poker, and the pot has not been opened (in other words, only the blinds have placed bets), there’s only one way to act with pocket 8s: Raise. No matter what your position, if you’re going to play, always raise if the action folds to you in an open pot. If you’re in an early position and are re-raised by another player in a later position, you’ll be out of position for the rest of the hand if you want to call. If you’re in a late position, you’re very well placed to eliminate the limpers. Whatever you do, though, don’t limp in with pocket 8s preflop, or you’ll lose value over time.
How To Play Pocket 8s Against a Raise
Position is an even more important consideration for your poker strategy when wielding the snowmen against a raise. When it comes to cash games, cold-calling the small blind is generally a losing strategy (especially in high-rake environments). So, in this situation, you should only 3-bet. However, it’s essential to remember that if you’re in the small blind, the prevailing wisdom is to re-raise against an open raise either from the cut-off or button positions (re-raising against earlier position raises is considered too loose). If you’re in the big blind, you’re already invested in the pot, so you’ll likely want to call with pocket 8s. In the button position, you’ll be the last player to act after the flop, which gives you better chances to realize value, so it’s also advised to call. In every other position, you must decide whether to fold, call, or re-raise. If you’re playing in low-stakes games, re-raising is probably the way to go.
How To Play Against a Re-Raise
The odds of getting pocket 8s as a starting hand in poker are +1,567. Your odds of flopping a set (making three of a kind on the flop) are +733, and your odds of making an opponent go bust with an overpair or top pair are fairly good. Even if you don’t hit a set on the flop, you can sometimes keep going against a continuation bet. For all these reasons, the best choice with pocket 8s against a re-raise is always to call. The same goes against a 4-bet (second re-raise). That said, it always pays to be wary when you play poker online. If a very tight player makes a 4-bet, or if the 4-bet is very big, you may want to consider folding. That holds especially true for online poker tournaments when protecting your stack is important.
Some general considerations to keep in mind when you’re playing poker online with pocket 8s include stack size, the type of game you’re playing, and your opponents. The size of your stack puts a limit on how creative you can get. If you’re short on chips and holding pocket 8s, you’ll want to push hard before the flop or just fold. A bigger stack gives you more confidence to see the flop and take your chances.
With regard to game type, cash games allow you to rebuild your stack, so you play pocket 8s quite aggressively (assuming you have the budget). You can’t do that in poker tournaments, so you’ll have to play a lot smarter to stay in the running. When it comes to your opponents’ style of play, you need to figure out whether they are aggressive or passive players so you can tailor your approach and, hopefully, take their money.
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