The other day I was taking a look at the odds of flopping no overcards with high pocket pairs and that got me thinking about what the basic odds are of flopping a set with any pocket pairs. I seem to remember someone once telling me it was about 1:6, but it never seemed that good in reality so I thought I'd actually do the math.
The odds should be 2:50 + 2:49 + 2:48 since those are your odds of hitting one of the two remaining cards on each card in the flop. That would give you about a 12% chance or 1:8.16 odds of flopping the set, not nearly the 1:6 that I had been thinking all along. That means that you have to make back more than 8BB every time you hit a set to make up for the cost of calling and folding the other 7 times.
With higher pocket pairs you can factor in the odds that you will have top pair on the flop, but even this doesn't increase your odds of seeing a nice flop very often with anything but the best pocket pairs.
Fortunately sets on the flop have a way of paying off quite nicely and so it is usually possible to play pocket pairs cheaply and see a decent return, but there really isn't much room for error, so don't go calling any raises with them because that will throw off your ratios enough that it will be hard to make back any losses.
I think I will be playing low pocket pairs less often when I am shortstacked in tournaments from now on because they just aren't worth the risk when you can't afford to lose many chips. I had always viewed low pocket pairs as a chance to hit big when you are really needing it, but with worse than 1:8 odds of actually hitting a set I'm not so sure they are worth the risk unless you can afford to lose those other 7 times.
In cash games and when you have a large stack in a tournament, low and medium pocket pairs are probably worth the investment if you can be frugal about it, but you still have to be careful with them though because the fact that they hit the set fewer than 1 in 8 times makes it harder than it looks to keep them in the green in the long run.
But pocket pairs are still your best bet preflop when you need to go heads up against an opponent for a good chance to double up, so they'll still hold a special place in my arsenal for those critical tournament moments.
Labels: General Strategy, Odds
1 Comment:

 Anonymous said...
May 31, 2008 at 5:28 AMAgreed. Simple, but true.