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Bottom Pair

Definition of a Bottom Pair

by Jesse Knight
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Bottom Pair
Bottom Pair - The smallest pair on the board in a flop game.


In a flop game, a pair can be described by its rank, relative to the ranking of other cards on the board. Consider a Hold’em scenario, where the flop is K97. Regardless of the quality of your kicker, if you made a pair of Kings, you would have top pair. If you made a pair of nines, you would have middle pair (or second pair). If you made a pair of sevens, you would have bottom pair. Now imagine that the turn card is a 4. If you had flopped a pair of sevens, you no longer have bottom pair. A pair of fours would now be considered bottom pair, while your pair of sevens would be elevated to middle pair (or more specifically third pair, as they are numbered from top to bottom). Generally, any pair which falls between the rank of the top pair and the bottom pair is considered a middle pair, unless a greater level of specificity is required. If you were holding K4, it would be called “top and bottom,” because you are holding both the top pair and the bottom pair.

In a flop game, if a player is to complete a pair with one of the cards displayed on the board, they must use one card from their hand and one card from the board. In addition to this, there is another significant way to make a pair in a flop game. This occurs when a player makes a pair using only their hole cards, and does not use the cards from the board. This type of pairing is called a “pocket pair.” When a player holds a pocket pair, it must be of a different ranking than the cards that are on the board. Sometimes this ranking will be higher than all of the cards on the board. This type of pocket pair is called an “over pair.” Consider the previous example where the flop is K 9 7. If a player held pocket Aces, they would have an over pair to this board. Alternatively, if a player held two deuces as their pocket pair, they would have an “under pair.” Notice that, unless the top pair on the board is Aces, “top pair” does not mean “best possible pair.” Neither does “bottom pair” mean “worst possible pair,” unless it is deuces. The best and worst possible pairs usually take the form of “pocket” over and under pairs. Of course it would also be possible for a player to hold a range of pocket pairs which are neither over pairs nor under pairs, but instead fall somewhere in between the top and bottom pair on the board. These pairs can be considered middle pairs, but are rarely referred to as such because the term lacks an often necessary degree of specificity. Pocket pairs are most commonly referred to as pocket X’s (with X being replaced by the rank of the pair.) So two sixes would be called “pocket sixes,” and two eights would be “pocket eights,” etc.

Bottom pair is a weak hand in most flop games, and should usually be mucked if your opponent shows aggression. However, since you need to have a stronger hand to call than to bet, bottom pair can be useful to bluff or semi-bluff with. This is particularly true when you are in late position and everyone has checked to you. Remember, making a pair is difficult in Hold’em. If everyone has checked to you, bottom pair might be the best hand. Even if it is not, you will still have a chance to hit your kicker and make two pair, or to improve your hand in other ways. If you do make two pair, your kicker is likely to form the better of your two pairs, so its rank can often be critical. Remember, if you want to win with two pairs, you will need to beat all other two pair hands held by your opponents. So, as the old saying goes, “Always remember to pack your kicker!”

Whether or not you should draw to bottom pair depends in large part on your assessment of pot odds and implied odds. You may be fairly certain that bottom pair is no good, but in certain circumstances, you should draw to it anyways. Basically, you should draw to bottom pair anytime that the money it costs you to draw is less than the average long run return on that investment. This condition yields a positive return on investment, which is ultimately what you are after This positive return can happen in many situations, for instance when the pot is large, or when your kicker is an over card to the board.

While it is possible that drawing to bottom pair is the correct play, more frequently, it is not. Usually, a player who draws to bottom pair is a very big underdog and pot or implied odds simply do not exist for them. Drawing to bottom pair without regard for pot odds is a hallmark of poor play, and will earn you the nickname of “chaser.” It will also cost you a lot of money and may prevent you from being a winning player over the long run. You should avoid taking these types of long shot draws, and furthermore, you should also take note when your opponents take them. Use the information your opponents provide you with to make honest evaluations about their playing styles and abilities. If one of your opponents is constantly drawing to bottom pair, then their call is less threatening than a call from a player who typically calls only with stronger holdings. Pay attention to who is doing what and use that information as a basis for your decision making.

Usage: Bottom Pair No Good, Drew To Bottom Pair, Bottom Pair No Kicker, Bottom Pair Top Kicker

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