Playing Big Pairs in Fixed Limit Hold'em
Big pairs in Hold' em are great to have in online poker. If you start with AA, KK, or QQ you are almost certain to have by far the best hand before the flop. How then, should one take advantage of these great starting hands to maximize their value in Limit Hold'em?
Before the flop, it is vital to raise with these hands. If someone bets before you, re-raise. Avoid the temptation to slow play (not bet to trap your opponents for more bets on later streets) these hands. While your hand right now is fantastic, it is the least likely of all the hands you are against to improve. Conversely, when your opponents' hands improve, it may be difficult for you to get away from your big pair, and this could prove very costly. For this reason you must bet early to thin the field of opponents. Ideally, you will get your hand heads-up, and play against one opponent, or at most two. If you were to flat call with Ah As, see a flop with four other players and the flop came Kc, Tc 9h, you could be completely dominated by QJ, 99, KT, K9 or T9, all very possible holdings. Yet due to the presence of straight and flush draws, you would need to bet into this flop, and it will be very difficult for you not to hang around to the river, depending on the next two cards. If you are only facing one other player, you can bet into this flop much more confidently, as the likelihood that your lone opponent has one of the above hands is greatly decreased. If you fail to raise before the flop, you could even be in trouble against much less obvious hands, for example on a flop of 8, 7, 4, you could be in big trouble from hands like 8 and 7, or 5 and 6 suited, which some players will be happy to play for one bet, especially in late position.
With big pairs, you should bet aggressively for as long as you feel you have the best of it, but not get married to your hand. If you have QQ and the flop is Ah, Kh, and 9s, you are probably going to have to let the hand go. If you have two red Aces and the flop comes 8, 9, T, or three spades, you must be prepared to release the hand. Many players wait so long for big hands like this that they can't bear to fold them, even when it is clear they are beat. You cannot be one of these players. The goal in Limit Hold'em is to win more bets when you are best and lose fewer bets when you are beaten. Getting married to a big pair runs counter to this plan.
Big pairs are great, and they will often win, but they will also get beaten, especially in a multi-way pot. It's important not to allow yourself to go on tilt (play badly due to emotion) when this happens and start playing looser than you should. Stick with correct play and in the long run, your big pairs will pay off.