How to Play Two Pair in Poker

How to Play Two Pair in Poker

In this post, I’m going to answer one of the most common questions I receive from readers and share my thoughts on how to play two pair in poker.

I’m going to show you some real hand examples that were sent to me and I analyzed for my “Hand of the Day” show, but first, I’d like to discuss how you should be conceptually thinking about playing your stronger hands like two pair in poker.

How to Play Two Pair in Poker

When it comes to playing hands like two pair in poker, you want to first take a step back and think about your overall strategy for the situation you are facing.

The reason this is important is that you want to ensure you have a balanced strategy, one that keeps your opponents guessing. This will prevent them from deducing your most likely holdings based on your betting patterns.

For example, let’s say you defend a mid position open preflop with Tc8c in the big blind. The flop comes T84 rainbow. Instead of immediately opting for a check-raise with top two pair, ask yourself this fundamental question: ‘how am I playing the rest of my hands here?‘ 

If you realize that you’re always calling the flop with weak hands like one pair and draws, then consider calling with top two pair as well. The reason being it protects your calling range. 

Flat calling to trap with top two pair will make you more difficult to play against because your calling range is no longer weak by being limited to one pair and draws.

In short, in deciding how to play top two pair, your objective should be to keep your hand range balanced between your weak and strong hands.

How to Play Top Two Pair on the Flop

Should I Slow Play With Two Pair?

This is a question I get quite often. Like I mentioned above, your answer shouldn’t depend on the specific situation, but your overall game plan.

Here are some situations in which it makes sense to slow play a strong hand like top two pair in poker.

How to Play Two Pair in Poker
  • When there aren’t many hands in which your opponent could call a raise with.
    • For example, you call a raise out of the big blind with K8s, and the board comes K82 rainbow. Slow playing top two pair on the flop makes sense because if you raise, there aren’t many hands which you can get value from.
    • Furthermore, the hands which will call your flop raise will continue betting themselves on the turn, like Ace-King and pocket aces.
  • When you want to protect your otherwise weak range.Using the example above, most of your big blind check-calling range on a K82 rainbow board will be weak (hands like Kx, 8x and ace high).
    • Therefore, check-calling with a strong hand like top two pair on the flop protects your weak calling range. This will inevitably confuse your opponents who perceive you as weak when you are really strong.
  • To get value from your opponents’ bluffs.
    • On a K82 board, most of your opponent’s range will be weak as well, simply because there aren’t many hands that connected with that flop. By merely check-calling the flop with top two pair, you keep his bluffs in the pot and allow him to barrel away on a myriad of turns.

For a deeper look at how to balance your range in poker, check out this video.

How to Play Two Pair in Multi Way Pots

When it comes to how to play two pair in multi-way pots, things change a bit because slow playing becomes a riskier endeavor.

While there are no hard fast rules on how to play two pair in poker, in multi-way pots I typically prefer to fast play my hand.

The reason is twofold. First, you want to protect your equity which is far more vulnerable due to there being multiple players in the pot.

Second, you will have more incentive to bluff in multi-way pots (especially when out of position) because the pot size is bigger and it’s less likely you will win at showdown if you merely check-call. The latter is true because it’s less likely you can turn your hand into a bluff on a subsequent street or outplay your opponents.

In short, in multi-way pots, it pays to have a strong hand if you get to showdown.

To balance out the times in which you’re going to be aggressively playing your draws with a check-raise, it often makes sense to raise for value with your strong hands like top two pair.

Take a look at this situation from one of my readers where I analyze a hand he sent to me for my ‘Hand of the Day’ show.

How to Play Top Two Pair in Multi Way Pots

I hope you enjoyed this post on how to play two pair in poker. If you’re looking for more awesome content on how to hand read in poker, outplay your opponents and take your game to the next level, check out the Conscious Poker Membership.

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Alec

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