Middle Pairs Strategy
Middle Pairs, 7s, 8s, 9s
The thinking conservative with middle pairs at the beginning of medium and lower-limit stud games. At the big limits, you will see players with these middle pairs, especially if their kicker is an overcard to the board. But at low or medium limits, your basic concern is the quality of your kicker not deciding whether you will raise, but whether you will play.
Automatically raising with middle pairs at these limits might cost more money in the long run
Let the pros splash around. This is good for them because they play stud poker more aggressive, due to what is known as an over ante, compared to these limits. That means that their ante is higher percentage of the bet size. For instance, at $10-$20 game, the ante is $1. At the $20-$40, the ante is $3. Notice that the limits have increased by 100 percent, but the ante has increased to 300 percent. As the limits go up the size of the ante also goes up by the percentage each time. This promotes aggressiveness. But at our limits, with the smaller percentage ante, being the conservative works better.
You will have to consider various factors in deciding whether to play a middle pair on third-street of 7-card stud. What is the quality of your kicker how big is it? What is your position? Are you in the steal position? Are your cards live? Is your pair hidden or split? We shall discuss the answers of these questions at a time.
First, let's take your kicker. How big is it? Standard poker wisdom says that if you start with a small or medium pair, your side-card should be an ace. This is because an ace would be an overcard to the board and would give you a shot at the highest two-pair if you pair your kicker. Your kicker should be an overcard to the board but not lower than a queen or jack. Anyway, when you play these middle pairs, your goal is to hit three-of-a-kind or a big two-pair at fourth- street. If your pair is small, you cannot make a big two-pair in stud poker. If you pair your small kicker on fourth-street, you will have a little problem.
Let's assume that a split pair of sevens and an ace kicker is on the board you have a seven showing with an ace and another seven in the hole. All your cards are live. The low card throws away in the bring-in money. Do you play? Yes you can play live cards and an overcard kicker. But what if there is a raise before the action gets to you will you play? You can if you can see that there will be also one other caller.
Reasons for not playing in such an instance
Does it look as though there might be another raise behind you? We have found a reason for not playing seven-card stud, in such case. If your kicker with those two sevens is a jack instead of an ace, we don't call the raise. At middle limits, it is likely that the raise will come from a pair higher than jacks. And if the raise comes from the jack, then your jack kicker is a dead doornail.
To try to put the raiser on a hand, you will have to see if his cards are live on third-street. You will have to stand one raise with a medium stud pair and a definite overcard kicker. But if you call a double raise, you should fold even if your kicker is that an ace.
Let's assume that you have called with a split pair of nines in early positions. A solid player raises showing a small upcard. You know that this player raises only with big pairs, so he has something big hidden. In this example, your smaller pair has a legitimate call against a bigger pair. This is somewhat opposite of what we have already discussed. Now it becomes easy to read your rival's hand. He cannot make two pair without your seeing it, except on the last card. If he pairs his doorcard or any other card before seventh-street of stud poker, you can see the pair lying there and will know that he has two pair and therefore you will be able to play accordingly.
We have discussed about being inclined to call a raise with a hidden pair, especially if your kicker or upcard is higher than the pair you think your rival raised with. But if there are players to act after you who have higher doorcards than the upcard of the raiser, especially if they are aggressive players, you should fold. This is because someone might re-raise behind you which would get into trouble. You can stand one raise in this case, but not two.
On third-street, when you hold a medium or small pair with one of your pair cards showing on the board, you should fold unless your kicker is an overcard to the board and is no smaller than a queen.
An overcard to the board gives you the probability of making the highest two-pairin addition to improving your pair of trips if you catch the last available card of your rank. But the main consideration in determining whether to play a pair with one of your exposed cards is your position in relation to where that card is on the board.
Suppose you have a pair of eights. If your needed eight is in front of you (must act before you act) and plays, you are gone. The reason that he played indicates a strong possibility that he has the last eight in the hole, especially if your two eights are hidden because then he cannot know that his eights are dead. If he folds, you can guess that he doesn't have another eight and so you can play assuming that you have big overcard.
But if your needed eight is to your left and must act after you do, you don't know if he is going to play or not. You don't even have any information to make a correct decision, so you will take a little moment to glance to your left to see if you can make any guess as to his intentions. You can see a player reaching for his chips long before he gets any action. Or you can say that he is ready to toss his hand when it's his turn to act. If he signifies that he wants to fold then you can play. If he is reaching for his chips, you should fold. And you will have to play because you don't have any information.
We expect that by now you must have noticed the stress put on high kicker in determining whether many of your hands are playable.
Seven-card stud A game of live cards and a game of high kickers
Let's take another example. Suppose you put your rival on a pair of jacks while you are holding a medium or even a small pair. For playing, you must have an ace, king, or queen in the hole for a kicker. You don't want it to be your upcards because you will have to act first at fourth-street. As your hand is not strong enough to beat you will have to check, showing weakness. A solid rival will bet strongly on every card. Unless you get immediate, better improvement, you will be in a position of checking and calling, which is weak to play poker.
At such limits, middle pairs should be played conservatively with more consideration given to big cards as kickers
You should never call the raises unless you have a specific profitable situation. If there has been no raise, limp in cheaply. You are looking to make three-of-a-kind at fourth-street, or two high pair if your kicker is big one.
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