Sunday, March 28, 2010

Playing Pocket Threes

In a recent bar poker game, I decided to sit down and play to win.  The chips started coming my way, and then I got dealt pocket threes, also known as crabs.

A low pair is the sort of thing people debate on whether or not to play.  Pocket threes as it turns out, are a Sklansky Group 7 starting hand.  This means they are playable in late position with no previous raiser.  The book says to fold small pocket pairs when in early or middle position.

The actual odds of winning with a wired pair of threes preflop is about 13% at an eight person table, or about 1 to 6.4.  Once you narrow it down to five people in the hand, the odds improve to about 1 to 4.25.  With 400 in the pot, my call of 100 is pot odds of 4 to 1.  This is not exactly stellar expected value (EV), but I called anyway.

The trick is that if you flop a set, no one sees you coming.  When you do flop a set, the implied pot odds are enormous.  With a flop of say, AK3, the players with high face cards will fall over themselves to bet their pair or two pair while I'm holding back a grin and looking at my set of threes. While the guy betting Big Slick thinks he has hit paydirt, I've trapped him and will be taking all his chips.

The odds of flopping a set are about 7:1.  That means that once out of every eight flops with a pocket pair, I get trips.  The flop came and was 773.  As it turn out, I flopped a boat.

So the betting goes on and on.  Before long everyone is all in. There is not much chance of me losing the hand.  When we have our showdown I proudly turn over my boat.  The flush loses to me.  The other guy had a pocket pair as well - pocket sevens.  He flopped quads.

Phil Hellmuth is credited with saying 
I guess if there weren't luck involved, I'd win every time.

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