There is a school of thought at limit holdem that says you are supposed to play a pocket pair strongly if you face only one opponent. No wimpy calls for this crew. The fact is that I know certain players who swear by this treatment (I am a bit more flexible myself). Frankly, this philosophical club has some members that are better limit holdem poker players than I am, so it is worth listening to what they have to say.
How many opponents do you want for a pocket pair? Unless you have aces or kings, I would say, “none.” This means I prefer to win the antes instead of getting played with if I have queens or worse. My second choice would be, “one.” A pair is a hard hand to improve-it’s over 7-to-one you won’t flop a set–so you have to live or die with the same hand most of the time. If an opponent has two overcards, like A-K against your two tens, you are a slight favorite, somewhere around 6-to-5. But as soon as another player with two different overcards enters the pot, the added pot odds do not compensate for the huge dip in your winning chances with the pair.
Here are some of the situations where the machos play their pocket pair strongly. First, if no one has opened in front of them, they never limp. Sometimes they fold a pocket pair, but if they do not, the pot is popped. Second, if the pot is opened by a limper and no one has yet called, they raise the opener whenever they play. Third, if someone opens with a raise and there are no callers, but players left to act, they either three-bet or fold.
There are pros and cons to such an aggressive strategy. Raising or folding clearly gives them a better chance to win the pot, but does it compensate for the extra money spent to protect their hand? Frankly, I don’t know. I have an instinctive dislike for any poker strategy that incorporates the words “always” or “never.” On the other hand, when some of the best players in the world use a certain strategy, perhaps we should listen. What do you think?