the house holding such a big edge, players must be
careful not to consider strategies which will increase
its advantage even further.
1. Folding Small Pairs
Some players I have observed have consistently gotten
rid of really low pairs, such as deuces, treys, and
4s. Their reasoning is that any higher pair in the
dealer's hand will beat them, but they are wrong.
First of all, just as the players will get a pair
only about 42 percent of the time, so will the dealer,
More than half the time he'll be holding five odd
As I mentioned previously, the pairs are your bread
and butter hands, even though they won't all yield
a gain expectation against a higher up card shown
by the dealer. This is true especially of the 2s-4s
as pairs, even when the dealer's up card is of the
same or lower rank, such as a dealer's 2 against a
pair of 3s. But for all other pairs, there is a win
expectation against a dealer holding an up card of
equal or lower rank.
For example, if you hold a pair of 7s, you have a
positive win expectation if the dealer's up card is
a 7 or lower. When you hold a pair of loss or higher,
you have a positive win expectation against any card
the dealer might have as his up card.
Why then, as we have observed, not fold the 2s-4s
as pairs, if there is a loss expectation? For the
same reason I suggest holding certain non-pair hands.
Your overall losses will be much less if you bet these
low pairs than if you simply fold them. If a player
folds his pairs of 2s-4s, he will be giving the house
an edge of over 7 percent! Don't do this.
A comparable situation exists in online blackjack
games If you are dealt a pair of 8s against a dealer's
10, you should split the 8s, even though in the long
run there is a loss expectation attached to this
play. The same thing holds true when you are dealt
a hard 16 against a dealer's 10. You should hit this
hand, even though there's no winning expectation to
the play. What you are doing in both situations is
making a gain in the sense that your losses will be
less by making these moves. For example, if you stand
on the hard 16 against the dealer's 10, you give up
almost 3 percent to the house.
have a friend who plays a lot of low-limit hold'em
and he plays tight, very tight. He wins at the game,
but his average win rate is about one-third of what
mine is in the same games. He wins a high percentage
of the hands he contests, but he just doesn't play
many hands and the pots he wins tend to be very small.
He's happy with his results, but he'd do a lot better
if he'd open up a little and not always wait for the
nuts before he gets aggressive.
In his very good book on low-limit hold'em, Winning
Low-Limit Hold'em (2000), Lee Jones suggests getting
rid of middle or bottom pair on the flop. He claims
it won't hold up when there are a lot of players in
the hand and that the hand is an overall loser.
Well, it's an overall loser if you play it indiscriminantly.
But it would also be wrong to fold it indiscriminantly.
Against a bet you might want to fold. But otherwise
there's a good chance you're best if you have a good
kicker against loose opponents. In this case, you'll
probably get called by worse hands if you bet.