I see people misplaying small pairs (22-66) a lot so I want to go over my thoughts on them and maybe we can start a discussion because some people probably disagree with some of these thoughts. I believe small pairs are extremely overrated hands that are often unplayable in MTTs.

There are two situations where a small pair is very valuable. First of all, it’s a great hand to get all-in preflop with when you’re short stacked. 22 usually has about 40% equity vs a calling range. Compare that with weak aces and small suited connectors, which have 35% equity or less. If you’re under 10 BB and it’s folded to you, then you should auto-shove any pair from any position. Only exceptions are satellites and other bubble situations where you can’t afford to bust.

Likewise, small pairs are great restealing hands. If I have 25 BB or less and an aggressive player raises in late position, I’m all-in with any pocket pair. 22 might actually be the best hand when called! For some reason people like to resteal with small suited connectors, despite the fact that their all-in preflop equity is awful. The best restealing hands are pocket pairs and suited big cards like QJs. You shouldn’t resteal with weaker hands unless you have a very strong read that the person is going to fold.

The second reason to play small pairs is to call raises with deep stacks and try to flop a set. I like the raise to be less than 5% of my stack, more like 3% if there are lots of people left to act who could 3-bet and force me to fold. This works best if you’re in position, otherwise it’s too easy for the preflop raiser to check behind on one street and you won’t win a big pot.

Small pairs are NOT good hands to open raise with. I found this out when I went into PokerTracker and discovered that 22-66 as a whole were losing hands when I opened with them from the HJ or earlier. They’re just too hard to play out of position post-flop. You can’t double barrel like you can with suited connectors, because you have 2 outs. And if you’re out of position it’s impossible to control the pot and try to get to showdown cheap. So nowadays I just open-fold small pairs unless I’m the CO or button. I’d much rather steal the blinds with any two big cards or any suited gapper that might give me more flexibility to double barrel if I need to.

Example: You have 55 two off the button with 6000 chips at 75/150 blinds. Just open-fold unless you’re at an extremely tight table. I’d be opening a ton of broadways and suited stuff here, but not 55.

Example: You have 33 in the small blind with 10000 chips at 100/200 and the HJ who has you covered, opens to 600. I strongly believe that this is a FOLD against any half-decent player, even though you’re getting 20:1 implied odds. You should be 3-betting his open with a fairly wide range and flatting stuff like 88+ and suited broadways like KQs or AJs. Those hands are a lot easier to play postflop.

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Thoughts on Small Pairs in MTTs
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