''...understanding how to play pocket pairs is an essential part of your poker strategy...."
Playing pocket pairs effectively is a critical skill, and forms a major part of your starting hands strategy. Before we look at specific paired hands such as aces, kings, queens etc., we can lay out a handful of golden statistical rules for playing pocket pairs. 

1. When you believe you're holding the biggest pair, you're a strong favourite to win. The best starting pair is aces or pocket rockets, and in most cases your best strategy for playing aces is to be as aggressive as possible. Statistically an aces starting pair will win between 81% and 83% of the time playing against a lower pair, irrelevant of whether that opposing pair is high or low.

2. The odds are slightly in your favour If you believe you are playing a pair against an unpaired or unconnected hand.

3. The odds are 50-50 If you believe you are playing against suited or unsuited connector cards.

4. Watch out for a pair on the flop, there's a good chance they may make trips for an opponent. If an opponents bets heavily into a pair on the flop it's time to be careful.

The following section starts to focus on specific starting paired hands, beginning with the Holdem premium pairs ...A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and maybe J-J. On average you'll pick up one of these once every 55 hands, so they're reasonably rare. The main point to remember is that when you get one, keep your cool. These high pocket pairs give you a great chance to make some profit.


Pocket aces is the best possible pre-flop Texas Holdem paired hand. Many players are tempted to slow play to try and keep as many opponents in as possible, but this can sometimes be a mistake as it gives bad hands an opportunity to improve on the flop. Although they're a preflop favourite to win, pocket aces don't like a lot of company and the more hands in opposition the more likely you are to get beaten.

Read more on playing paired pocket aces.


Like aces, kings work best against a low number of players. Again you should normally aim to drive out the opposition with a pre-flop raise of around three times the big blind, but bet more if others limp in before you. Watch out for Aces on the flop, if there's a suspicion of an ace in any other hand, you're in potential trouble. So you need to play pocket kings strongly and treat them as the best hand until you have some evidence  that they're not. Remember if your opponent starts with an ace, he'll only make a pair on the flop one time in five.

Watch a video on playing kings.


Queens are a premium pair and raising pre-flop is a good idea with the intention of driving out opponents holding single kings. A pre-flop raise might not get rid of any A-J hands, but it should send K-J to the muck. Queens hate Aces or Kings on the flop, be prepared to fold fast if the flop goes against you.

Read more on playing queens.


Jacks are a little more complicated, if you muck these indiscriminately you may be losing out on long term profit opportunities.The best option is to treat paired jacks as if they're little big pair. be prepared to bet hard until someone bets back. You can often raise pre-flop and win right there. If you flop a set you're on good ground against someone with two pairs, but any flop showing A, K or Q  without your J is one to let go.

Read more on playing jacks.

Mid Pairs

When playing middle pairs - 7s through 10s ( and debatably jacks) in a big pot  - the chances that you'll win without improving are considerably reduced.  You need a set on the flop, and the odds are against you achieving that at around 7.5 to 1. In percentage terms this equates to a 12% chance. Almost 90% of the time you'll only end up with the starting pair. So you can see that the most sensible option in most cases is to fold.

Read more on playing mid pairs.
Playing Pairs - Additional Resources

Paradise Poker's website holds a neat article on playing pairs to good effect.
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