In acknowledging the importance of selecting appropriate poker starting hands depending upon our position, there is still a tendency among less advanced players to treat middle pairs in early position exactly the same way we’re trained to treat low pairs.  However, limping with 99 or 10 10 and looking to catch a set on the flop may not be the most profitable way to make the most of the opportunity a middle pair creates, and can be apt to get us into trouble spots if the hand goes south of cheese.  So what’s one alternative to passively entering a pot with middle pair in early position?

Let’s take a look at an example.  We’re perched directly to the left of the under the gun player, who puts in a standard raise.  Our options at this point are to fold (which, sans a complete lack in judgment, we aren’t going to do) call, put in a small raise, or put in a large raise.  So what do we do?

Calling is an option, but it leaves us stuck out of position with a hand that’s going to see an overcard on the flop more than half the time.  However, we won’t know where we are in the hand and will probably need to pay to find out.  Even if we get a nice low flop, chances are if we’ve limped, we’ve left the pot open for speculative hands being played in late position, which means our overpair might already be in trouble.  A set is about the best we can hope for, same as any low pair.  This isn’t necessarily a bad option.  We might be playing at a disadvantage information wise, but we also have the benefit of not loosing a lot of chips if we’re raised off our hand pre or post flop. 

Putting in a nice solid raise is an option.  It allows us to take the lead, is more likely to narrow the field, and if we are called helps us in putting our opponents on a range of hands.  It also opens up the prospect of a continuation bet to a low flop, which in the event of an overcard, can help determine where we are in the hand post flop.  However, there’s always the risk that opening up the action to subsequent players will result in a hefty re-raise.  If we are raised off the hand by another player however, we stand to lose more than simply flat calling.  In all though, this isn’t a bad option and allows us plenty of room to move.

Now, putting in a small raise as an option…but it’s similar to the sort of option we had when we were 15 and working at the cinema and got to decide between scraping out the cigarette trays or cleaning the tampon disposer.  Why?  A small raise is unlikely to scare of subsequent players, chances are if they were going to call three blinds with a suited connector they will pay to see a flop for six.  On top of that, the original bettor will be priced in to call with pretty much any two cards as well. Of all the actions we can take with middle pair, this is probably the worst.   Why?  Because we effectively commit more of our chips to a pot without serving our purpose, and without getting any more info from our opponents. 

In summary therefore, much like harvesting sanitary pads, a min raise with middle pair in early position really isn’t any option at all.

Whatever action we decide upon, whether it be to flat call and play the hand by feel, or to taking the lead, the most important thing is committing to that action.  Always be telling a story.  It doesn’t have to be the truth…it just needs to be believable.

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