If a poker player has two cards of the same value in their hand, they’re called a pocket pair. Read this article to get to know how to handle the pairs!

When playing poker, you can get a pair in your hand. A pair is two cards of the same ranking, such as 99. The probability of getting such a combination is around 6%. You can expect to have a pair once every 17 hands, on average. Depending on what you do with it, it can significantly boost your odds of winning — or lead to losses. In this article, we’ll explain how to make the most of the pairs.

Types and Values of Pocket Pairs

Pairs are also called “pocket pairs” or “pockets”. They can be divided into three categories:

  • Small — up to 66
  • Medium — from 77 to TT
  • Premium — from JJ to AA

This classification is not carved in stone. For instance, some players might perceive 77 as a small pair and TT as a premium one. Let’s have a look at the specifics of each category.


If you’re lucky enough to hit the right flop, such a pair might let you hit a big win. Otherwise, it may not be too helpful. The odds of flopping a set with any pair are approximately 12%. In other words, it’s usually one case in 7.5, which is not too much.

If you have a small pair in your hand, we recommend you should try to:

  • Get involved cheaply to see the flop
  • Avoid bluffing or do it very carefully
  • Avoid 3-betting

These tips should enable you to turn the game in your favor even with the lowest pair in poker, which is 22.


There is no one-fits-all strategy for this category. Judging by the situation, you may apply to it a strategy that fits a premium hand or a small one.

Try and get heads-up going to the flop. It seems to be the worthiest advice for a medium pair. If there is only one player at the table except you, you should have decent odds of winning even without flopping a set.

When you see a flop with several opponents, the wisest way out would be to hit a set to take down the pot and simply fold for the most part.


Premium poker hands are the best option that you can get. The higher the value of the cards, the better — that is, AA is stronger than JJ.

The fewer people are involved in the hand, the lower the probability that a single player will out-flop you. Consequently, the value of pairs goes up.

The optimal strategy is to get as much money as possible before the flop. However, you might fail to achieve your goals before the flop.

Let’s imagine that you raise and face several callers. If there is no over-card on the board, your hand with a premium pair should be still very strong. But in the case of a multi-way pot, the potential of your pair might be not too impressive.

Two Pairs in Poker

Sometimes, you can have not one but two pairs in your hand. When using a 52-card deck, the probability of such a situation is around 4.75% or around 1 case out of 20. Here is an example: KK + 88.

Two pairs give you better odds of winning, compared to a high card or one pair. However, if your opponent has a three-of-a-kind and all the hands above it, his cards will outrank yours.

Below, we’ll share smart 2 pair poker tactics.

After Defending the Big Blind

To estimate your hand’s strength ceiling, analyze the flop. If the ceiling is low, feel free to play rather a

In Position as the Preflop Aggressor

As the preflop aggressor with two pairs, you should bet actively. The slower you act, the more likely you’ll be to miss your advantage.

Out Of Position as the Preflop Aggressor

In such circumstances, you should thoroughly analyze both your position and that of your opponent.

Imagine that you’re playing from an early position against a cutoff cold call. You’ll lack an advantage on many flop textures. To protect yourself, consider playing passively even with a strong hand, let alone a weak one.

Now, imagine that you’re playing from the small blind against the big blind. The range of the big bling is extensive. On most flops, it will be weaker. This means you may bet your two pairs more actively.


In a multiway game, the smartest tactic is to remain passive. The more opponents you have, the more likely someone is to have a stronger hand than yours. Plus, the other players have to call with a tighter range versus a bet, which means the burden of defense goes down.

General Advice on How Play Poker with Pocket Pairs

Playing with pairs is not too easy. They might deprive you of flexibility. The more you hone your poker skills, the more creatively you’ll handle the pairs.

Keep Your Eye on the Effective Stack Size

With small pockets, it would be unreasonable to set mine against the other player. Consider folding instead.

With high or medium pockets, feel free to push all your stack in the middle.

Act Accordingly to Your Position at the Table

If you manage to get premium pockets, your position at the table won’t be the crucial factor. But with weaker pairs, set mining should be the wisest decision.

When you’re the last person to take action, you can check the actions of all the other players. You’ll be able to assess their odds of winning with relatively great precision.

Out of position, it’s not too comfortable to chase sets.

Analyze Your Opponents’ Behavior

The more often you play against the same opponents, the better you understand their character and behavior. It will enable you to plan your actions more meticulously, including your tactics with one or two pairs.

In a tight game, the value of sets goes down. Even when you flop big, it might be challenging for you to stack the other players.

In a wild playing session, mining for sets can deliver excellent yields.

Final Thoughts

When playing poker, you can discover one or two pairs in your hand. A pair (or a pocket, or a pocket pair) is two cards with an identical value, such as JJ. Two pairs look like, for example, JJ and 99. Depending on the value of the cards, the pairs can be classified as small, medium or premium. For each category, there are strategies that you can apply to make the most of your hand. Pairs might limit your flexibility. But after you learn how to handle them, they can boost your odds of winning.

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