NOTE: This story was originally posted in 2005, but has been moved forward because it was so relevant in my current ring game play.
** A player raises 3x the BB in early position and gets two callers including the BB. The flop comes A74 rainbow. The original raiser makes a pot sized bet and one of the two players calls. Fourth street brings a T and the original preflop raiser checks and the other player makes a 3/4 pot sized bet. Our raiser calls. The flop brings another blank, again the raiser checks and the other player bets the pot, the raiser calls and his KK loses to AQ.**
It seems fairly ridiculous when written in this fashion, but at the small blind NL tables -- I see this happen quite often. It is easy to fall in love with a big pocket pair, but it often becomes a very expensive date.
Of course, I wish I could claim immunity from such "pair worship" but alas I am guilty of it too. I am especially vulnerable to it when I have either just lost a big "bad beat" or won a big pot.
In the end, it is important to remember a pair is only a pair and a pair doesn't usually win in small blind NL ring games (blinds under $4.00).
**If that pair don't improve and the opponent's are bettin big, its time to be movin on.**
One of the key things I have surmised from my poker education during the past two years --- most of my winnings come from very few hands. The real key is to limit the size of the "leakage" (lost hands) while waiting for those big hands.
While AA, KK and QQ often turn into those big hands, they also have potential to be big losers. Just think about what hand you want your opponent to have when your pocket 7s turns into trips on the flop!! That is why people lose so much cash with high pocket pairs.
Based upon the betting patterns, you really have to assess what hands your opponent could have if he is raising all in on the flop, fourth st. or the river.
Here are a couple of examples of hands in which I have thrown away a big pocket pair, take a look and see if you would have done the same.
A player raises to 3x BB in early position and I call from middle position with my QQ (I will both raise and call with this hand to mix things up). The player on the button reraises all in with a stack that is about 3x the pot. The original raiser quickly calls and I fold. If the original raiser folds his hand, I might have called the buttons raise, since he could easily be making a move. However, when the original raiser calls this size bet I am fairly certain I am beat. Why? Two reason -- first, to call takes a bigger hand than to raise (especially if you can't reraise to get the opponent to fold) -- in this case I think the original raiser needs at least AK, but more likely AA, KK to call. What's more because he did not reraise all in, I am fairly certain he was trying to goad me into doing so. Sure enough the original raiser has AA and I save myself a big loss. Incidently, the button was making a move with a questionable hand AJ and lost. Many people will gamble it up and call with QQs preflop. I rarely do so, unless it is a single opponent and they are fairly short-stacked. I would simply prefer to wait for a hand with the odds stacked in my favor.
Two players limp into the pot ahead of me and I raise to 4x BB with AA two off the button. The BB calls and both of the original limpers call and everyone else folds. I have played with these players long enough to know that they are decent players. The flop comes 872 with two cards of one suit. In general, I like this flop and hope that my opponents had AK, AQ or a pair like JJ, TT or QQ. The players check to me and I make a 3/4 the pot sized bet. Two players fold and the other player calls. Fourth street comes with a Q and the first player checks. I am now fairly worried, because to call my flop bet, my opponent has a hand. Given the size of my preflop raise and flop bet, I am guessing that he has KK, QQ, JJ, (maybe TT or 99), 88, 77 and maybe 22. Very few decent players would call the flop bet with a draw or overcards. So I am very worried about those trip possibilities and decide to bet 1/2 the pot. My opponent raises me all in (about 4x the pot) and after a short analysis, I fold. Again against a decent player in this position, I am fairly confident that I am beat. Of the 8 likely hands my oppenent could have, 3/8s are losers and the only hand I can beat that would suggest this betting pattern post flop is KK. Given the high likelihood of being beat, I like to fold and save the chips for a better post flop opportunity.
Remember the goal is to win the war, not every battle. The person with the most cash at the end of the day, not the person that wins the most hands!!!