Once in every 17 poker hands, on average, you’ll be dealt two cards of the same ranking: Pocket pairs. Being dealt pocket pairs is a great way to start off 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 eights occupy the middle position in this array. Otherwise known as the “snowmen” (because the number eight looks like two stacked snowballs), pocket eights is a good starting hand that’s often worth playing before the flop. More often than not, though, the flop serves up an overcard, which can be tricky to contend with. Here are some basic tips on how to handle pocket eights when you play poker online.
Opening the pot with pocket eights
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 eights: 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 you’re 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 eights pre-flop or you’ll lose value over time.
How to play against a raise
Position is even more critical when it comes to wielding the snowmen against a raise. If you’re in the small blind, the prevailing wisdom is to re-raise against an open raise 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 want to call with pocket eights in most cases. 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 have to decide whether to fold, call or re-raise. If you’re playing in low-stakes games, re-raising is considered to be the way to go.
How to play against a re-raise
Believe it or not, pocket eights is one of the top 6% of starting hands when it comes to winning possibilities. You have a 12% chance of flopping a set (making three of a kind on the flop), and you have fairly good odds of making an opponent with an overpair or top pair go bust. 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 eights 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 in a game of online poker. 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 it’s important to protect your stack.
Some general considerations to keep in mind when you’re playing poker online with pocket eights 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 eights, 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 eights quite aggressively (assuming you have the budget). You can’t do that in poker tournaments, of course, 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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