Gimme some twos
by Mike the Dealer
In the early stages of one
of the nightly poker tournaments I used to deal a hand came up where a
bunch of people were calling to see a flop. The blinds at this point of
the tournament are very low and allow for people to see flops cheaply compared
to the amount of chips they have. The action got a younger looking fellow
who looked at his hand, thought about his action, and then said "I don't
think anyone here would fold this hand, except me." and then confidently
pushed his hand into the middle of the table. He then added "Well maybe
you would." to me, as if he knew I was going to one day be writing poker
columns on the internet and wanted to flatter me.
Early in a tournament catching a pair of Aces is great, maybe you'll get really lucky and run into somebody who's got Kings or Queens and bankrupt them, but the real problem with Aces is that it's only one pair, and that the trick to a one pair hand is that you generally want to end the action sooner rather then later. But catchng Aces late in the tournament is where the real money is. The blinds are higher, players are more likely to play any two cards due to the pressure of the blinds, people are more willing to call all-ins. Let's look at some examples
Blinds are 25/50 and everyone has 2500 to start. Three people call, and you wake up with Aces. You can't go all in and expect to be called, because the investment people are putting into the pot is very tiny, you have to make a raise that's reasonable to the size of the blinds and the pot, like say, 300 or so, but even now, if somebody calls, and then you bet big on the flop and they fold, you only win 475 in profit from the pot (The two callers who folded, the caller who called, and the blinds)
Now if the blinds are 300/600 and there's only 5 people left, you got 5000, and everyone else has about the same, and you catch Aces. Now if somebody calls the 600, you can push all-in and even if everyone folds, you win 1500 on the spot. Also 600 is a lot bigger part of somebody's stack then 50 is out of 2500, they might get stubborn and call the all in, or one of the blinds might feel pressured to defend the money they anted up at the start of the hand. Here Aces have a great likelyhood of getting somebody all in pre flop and win a monster pot.
Now why do I like the twos so much? Because the hand is simple and plays itself out in an easy fashion, I'll either flop a set (Another two will show up on the flop, three of a kind with 2 in your hand and one on the board is called a 'set') and have a real monster of a hand, or I'll miss and fold and save my money. The problem with Aces is that against novice players who are hard to read, it can be tough to know where you stand and how much to bet your hand. What do you do if they decide to lead out the betting after two high cards flop, do you give them credit for two pair and fold? Do you just call them down, do you raise? What happens when the third card of a suit shows up, do you slow down fearing the flush or keep betting? In a hand where your stack size makes it such that you can not get all your money in the middle after the flop and thusly you are forced to bet not just the flop, but also the turn and the river, can make Aces a tricky situation, yes a lot of the time you'll win, but you may not win all you could have, or you'll find out the idiot you were playing against somebody did have two random pair and lose a big pot to them. The biggest killer in poker is making mistakes, and mistakes come most often when one is forced to make tough decisions. Playing one pair, even an overpair like aces, against a hard to read opponent leads to many tough decisions.
Now with the twos, if you flop the set, your hand is huge, it's also well hidden, people will have a terrible time trying to put you on three of a kind, players with top pair or two pair will be more then happy to call down huge bets or even get all in on the river with you, thinking they have the best of it. Even better, having flopped a set, you now have a chance to hit a full house or quads (Four of a kind) if the board pairs. Your hand is better then a great many hands and yet still had a redraw to be even better still. One of the great parts of having a set is that the turn or river card can give an opponent a flush, and make you a full house at the same time, this kind of situation almost always leads to the money going all-in and your opponent bemoaning his bad luck to catch a big hand when you have an even bigger one. This also happens when you can make your full house and then an opponent catches a straight and goes broke against you.
Even against a small raise, which normally happens at the low limits in a tournament, I'd like to play my twos, a raise is a sign of a big hand that wants to get money in the pot, what better hand could I be hoping for then my opponent to have Aces? The flop comes out Jack, Two, Seven and suddenly he's broke and I'm collecting all his chips. Now I'd never call an all in or a bet that threatened a good portion of my stack pre-flop with the twos, but they are so easy to play after the flop (fold if I miss, hammer if I hit) that it makes the hand very simple to play.
So get in there with your tiny
pocket pairs early in tournaments and hope to become the chip leader after
the hand is over!