When to Fold a Pocket Pair

Big pocket pairs can be great hands to have. They often give you great odds of 1:4 to win a hand, but depending on the situation those odds can quickly turn to 8:1 or worse.

For example, let’s say you’re playing in a poker tournament and you’re dealt a pair of queens. This is a good hand to start with and you decide you will raise the action pre-flop. You make it three times the blinds and every player folds except for two. The three of you see a flop of A-10-3.

This flop creates a situation for you that must be addressed. Your pair of pocket queens is still a good hand, but because of the ace on the flop you could easily be behind. Players tend to play their aces when they’re dealt to them, and if either of your opponents in this hand called your raise with an ace, you’re in big trouble at this point.

Against an ace your pair of queens would be lucky to have a 10% chance to win the hand. What’s worse is that your opponents may have a drawing hand that would reduce that percentage. To continue in this hand you’re essentially making a 9:1 bet that you will come from behind and hit one or two cards to make a higher hand than a pair of aces.

If neither opponent has an ace, you’re in good shape to win the hand. Finding out if an opponent has an ace is what’s important in this situation, and your opponents should tell you if they have one by how they act. If you have to play before they do, you can either check or bet a small amount to test the waters.

If neither player has an ace they will likely fold. If one of them has an ace you will either get raised back and can fold, or they will just call your bet. If you check the action and they bet the flop, you’re likely beat and should fold. If everyone checks, then your queens are likely the best hand.