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Flopping Two Pair

by Michael Cappelletti |  Published: Apr 18, 2012


Michael CappellettiWhile attending a weeklong regional bridge tournament in Biloxi (Mississippi Gulf Coast), I took a day off from bridge and played in both of the two daily poker tournaments at the Beau Rivage – starting at noon and at 6:00 PM. Three times during that day I flopped two pair. I noticed that there was an obvious good lesson suggested.

Shortly after the noon tournament had started, in five-way action, I called in late position with 10-9 suited. The flop came the 9Diamond Suit 10Club Suit 3Club Suit. It went several checks and a three-times blind bet in front of me. I chose to simply call and await further callers and developments. I was essentially trapping and expected to make my big move on the next round. There was one other caller.

The turn card was the QClub Suit. Since both a straight and a flush were now possible, I regretted not having made a big raise on the previous round. It went check and a five-times bet to me. I called and the other player folded.

The river card was the 4Club Suit. Again there was a five-times bet and I called. He showed a red king and the 9Club Suit which made a flush with the four clubs on the board. If I had made a big raise after the flop, clearly he would have folded and I would have won a little pot instead of losing a much bigger one.

At the final table of that noon tournament, I chose to play the 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit in a late seat in four-way action. The flop came J-8-7 rainbow. It went a check and a four-times bet to me. With three to a straight present, I really did not want to see another scary card. I shoved in my medium sized stack (about 25 big blinds). Everyone folded. That win kept me alive for a while but I ended up fifth in that noon tournament (when my set of queens got flushed away).

About an hour into the 6:00 PM tournament ($130 buy-in), I crawled in with a 7-5 suited in a late seat five-way action. The flop came jack-seven-five with two spades. It went check, a four-times bet and a fold to me. I had already lost about a third of my “deep stack,” so I went all-in with the rest of it. He agonized for at least a minute then said “I gotta call.” He showed an A-J offsuit. Nothing bad turned or rivered, so I won a big pot. That big win allowed me to coast into the final table – and I ended up second for a nice payoff.

I later simulated that situation on my computer. My two pair against the jacks with an ace kicker were about a 3-to-1 favorite to win after the flop. I also simulated his holding a pocket pair (such as pocket aces or kings). My two pair would then also have roughly the same advantage – about 3-to-1 after the flop.

Indeed there seems to be a clear lesson in the above three hands. Two pair should be played fast. Two pair (especially two low pair) is a rather fragile holding and is certainly not a lock win. Many turn cards are potentially dangerous. Two pair may be a 3-to-1 favorite versus an overpair after the flop, but that can change dramatically. And you still rate to lose one time in four.

So when you are fortunate enough to flop two pair and are a strong favorite to have the best hand at that moment, you should press your advantage by making a large bet. Make hay while the sun shines. And make them pay to draw against you. ♠

Formerly a career lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Mike Cappelletti has written numerous books on poker and bridge, and is considered to be one of the leading authorities on Omaha. Mike has also represented the U.S. in international bridge competition, and he and his wife were featured in a four-page Couples Section in People magazine. His books include Cappelletti on Omaha, Poker at the Millennium (with Mike Caro), and Omaha High Low Poker.