How To Play Medium Pairs Profitably

Knowing how to play medium pairs profitably can be the difference between a winning and losing session

It isn’t uncommon to discover poker players moaning about medium pairs. Eights through jacks are the pairs that give players the most trouble at the tables. Players moan that they lose money with medium pairs, but that’s because they’re playing them wrong.

We need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of medium pairs before we can devise a strategy for them.

Their main strength is obvious. They are a pocket pair, which means they’re already a made hand. Being dealt pocket tens means only jacks, queens, kings, and aces are beating you before the flop.

Pocket pairs can improve to sets and sets are extremely powerful holdings especially with overcards on the board.

The main weakness of medium pairs is their vulnerability. They tend to be the strongest hand preflop but things change rapidly post-flop. Even a hand as strong as pocket jacks is only an approximate 55% favourite over ace-king.

Playing medium pairs profitably relies on two key factors. Play in a manner that plays to the hand’s strength and protect the hand from its inherent weakness.

Playing Medium Pairs Preflop

Passive play is one of the main reasons players lose with medium pairs. The play them passively because they’re living in fear that someone has a stronger hand. This seeing monsters under the bed thought process destroys bankrolls. Your opponents will give you enough clues soon enough if they have a stronger hand.

Aggression is the opposite of passivity and is the best way to protect your vulnerable hand. Entering the pot with a bet or raise is your best course of action. Raising preflop makes your opponents fold holdings they may stick around with if you only called. The chances of your medium pairs being cracked increases with every extra opponent in the pot.

Raising helps you to narrow the range of hands you’re up against. Players will still call a raise with a wide range of hands, but they ditch many holdings too. Likewise, if you raise and are re-raised you can discount many possible holdings for your opponent.

Definitely open the betting from any position at a six-handed table with medium pairs. You should probably do the same at a full-ring table too. Raising also builds the pot for when you flop a set, and also gives the impression you have got a very strong hand. It can lead to you winning the pot on the flop with a continuation bet.

Call and try to flop a set when a typical opponent has opened the betting. This is for opens from early position. Remember the rules we wrote about set mining in a previous article.

Feel free to re-raise raises from late position. Late position raisers tend to open with less than premium hands. Almost always re-raise from the blinds. Your re-raise will either take the pot down immediately, or give you momentum in the hand.

Tips For Post-Flop Play

The majority of poker players have preflop strategy down to a tee. It has the least number of variables so it is the easiest to learn and memorize. Post-flop is a whole different story altogether.

How you act after the flop comes down to the opponents still in the hand and the board texture. It also depends on the preflop action. Bear all these factors into your decision making.

Continuing your aggression should be at the forefront of your mind before the flop comes down. Think like an elite soccer player in that your first instinct is to attack.

Some flops will be favorable for your medium pairs, others deadly. Raising preflop with pocket tens, being called by a single opponent and the flop coming down eight-high is obviously a good flop. You’ve an overpair to the board and your opponent has a myriad of possible holdings.

Think of the same scenario except the flop comes down ace or king-high. This is still a decent flop because your opponent hasn’t given any indication of strength. A continuation bet on this flop will often take the pot right there and then.

The best scenario is you flopping a set and there being some high cards out there. Even better if you raise, are three-bet, you call and you flop a set. This is the road to ruches!

More dangerous flops include those that are draw heavy. A flop such as 4c-5d-6c is difficult for medium pairs to know where they stand. Likewise, As-Ks-5d flops can be awful too. Your opponent can easily bluff you off the pot even if they don’t hold an ace or king. Approach these scenarios with caution.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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