Pros Playing Medium and Small Pairs in Texas No-Limit Hold?em
Phil Hellmuth lists 8-8 and 7-7 in his top ten hands, but suggests playing them differently from 9-9 in no-limit (where as in limit playing them the same way). While he advises re-raising with 9-9, with 8-8 through 2-2 he recommends calling a small pre-flop raise, or if no one has opened before you then make a pot sized raise about the size of the blinds. However, in his book Playing Poker Like the Pros, Hellmuth mentions Frank Henderson?s theory of limping in or calling a small raise, the ?megalo? theory of raising or re-raising pre-flop, and how Bob Hoff ?courtesy? raises on the button with small pairs. Though Hellmuth might not employ these ideas himself, he thinks enough of them to include them in his books.
In his DVD, Howard Lederer lists 8-8, 7-7, 6-6 and 5-5 as group D hands, meaning that one should open with them in middle or late position. He lists 4-4, 3-3 and 2-2 as group E hands, meaning one should only open with them in late position. And when he says open, he means raise, around three times the big blind. However, he advocates that you do not call a raise with any pair smaller than 9-9 unless you are in the blinds. From either blind, with group D pairs he suggests calling a raise from middle or late position. With group E pairs, only call a raise from late position.
Tom McEvoy likes to limp in with pairs from 10-10 to 2-2, unless he goes for a blind steal from middle or late position and makes a small raise. To mix up his play, he will sometimes open in early position with pairs as low as 6-6, but if he gets raised and it looks like he will be heads up against the raiser he folds; however, if the raise is small and the raiser has a big chip stack, then he will call to see the flop. If a player or two throughout a game raise a lot pre-flop, McEvoy will fold ahead of them with small pairs. He plays small pairs the most early in tournaments when the blinds are small and it is cheap to muck a pair if it fails to flop a set or an open ended straight draw.
Dan Harrington advises that if no one has opened ahead of you, limp in with 8-8, 7-7 and 6-6 from early position and raise from middle or late position; with 5-5 and 4-4 limp in from middle position and raise from late position; with 3-3 and 2-2 limp in from late position but raise if the blinds seem weak. If anyone has opened for three times or more the big blind ahead of you, he suggests calling with 8-8 and 7-7 but folding with 6-6 and lower. If one player has limped in ahead of you, call with 8-8, 7-7 and 6-6, unless you are on the button, and then call with smaller pairs as well. If three people have limped in ahead of you, call with all pairs from 9-9 to 2-2 as the pot odds are in your favor.
I hope the article puts some different tools in your toolbox. Experiment and see which tools work best in your hands.