Playing Top Pairs AA KK QQ

When you're playing No-Limit Texas Hold'em and you get dealt a big pair in the hole, you feel blessed by the poker gods, as well you should. A big pair refers to just three examples: AA, KK, QQ. The top three pairs guarantee you pre-flop (in a vast majority of the cases) that you are top dog. Regardless of your position, you are encouraged to RAISE, RAISE, RAISE.

The minimum raise is three times the size of the big blind. The max is your entire stack. Remember - this is NLHE. You want to raise big to drive out smaller pocket pairs, connectors - suited or not - like A,K, J,10, one-gappers, A,Q, Q,10 and so forth. The best scenario is for you to win the hand pre-flop.

Why? Post-flop a pair can lose significant strength. Remember that a pair is the bottom-rung of a winning hand on the poker scale. It's just one above a HIGH-CARD.

You have to study the "TEXTURE" of the flop. What does that mean? Well, you need to see if there is a possible straight or straight-draw on the board. You need to know if there's flush potential. Three hearts on the board and you're holding two black queens. Uh-oh! What if your opponent made a bonehead move with his 7,10 of hearts in the hole. You are beat here unless you get lucky and catch a full house.

These are things you must think about. Always continue to raise after the flop if your pocket pair is still the highest on the board and there are no backdoor straight or flush possibilities.

You will ram and jam (raise up the pot as much as you feel you can without scaring everyone off while still putting maximize pressure on your opponents) if you hit a set, full house or - amazingly enough - quads.

By studying the texture of the flop, you'll have more than a good idea at this point as to whether your hand is beat or not. If an opponent re-raises you, and there is a possibility that your hand is NOT numero uno, cut your losses and get out.

The same holds true on the turn and river. If the board appears unfriendly, odds are that it is especially if your opponent employs an aggressive betting style.

In a nutshell, play big pairs strong before the flop NO MATTER WHAT. After the flop, make sure you take a minute to calculate the best hand. If you're pretty sure you've got it, go with it and continue to bet aggressively. The same holds true on the turn and river.

However, your best bet is to remember that it is usually more profitable to lay down a big hand than to tempt fate. The relative strength of your big pair dwindles as the cards fall on the board.