Presto Poker Hand

Pocket Fives - 55

by Jesse Knight


Presto - The nickname for pocket fives in a Texas Hold’em game.

In a Hold’em game, the starting hands contain two cards, and they often have nicknames. For example, two Aces might be called “Pocket Rockets,” two Kings might be “Cowboys,” and Ace-King is often referred to as “Big Slick.” “Presto” is the nickname for pocket fives. More specifically, “Presto” is what you utter at the end of the hand when you win with pocket fives.

Pocket fives is one of the most culturally rich hands in poker. This hand has developed its own subculture over the past 15 years, particularly in online card rooms and message boards. This culture was initially developed on rec.gambling forums in the early 90’s. In 2004, after winning a key televised race with pocket fives, Greg Raymer used the term on his way to winning the main event at the World Series Of Poker (WSOP). This helped to increase the popularity of both the term, and the hand it represents. The use of the term “presto” is now commonplace in the poker vernacular.

One common idiosyncrasy that many poker players share is that they often have a “favorite hand.” This hand will typically not be a super premium hand, like Ace-Ace or King-King, but something much weaker. A player may choose a less than premium favorite hand for a variety of reasons. Some players just feel lucky with certain holdings and think that their gut feeling about the hand will materialize into a quick profit. Some players just like to be identified with a certain hand, because it is a type of fame or notoriety. They may want to be thought of as “the guy who always plays 5-3 offsuit,” or as “the lady who always wins with a suited 7-6.” Many players who have these types of “favorite hands” have chosen pocket fives as their favorite hand. Some may have done so for superficial reasons. They may be trying to emulate Raymer or one of their other favorite pros. Or possibly, they may like the table image it gives them when they play pocket fives more aggressively than the accepted practice.

Of course, the more sophisticated player understands that pocket fives can often be a complex and challenging hand to play. Since a pair is a small favorite against any unpaired hand, pocket pairs can have substantial value in certain situations. The larger your pair, the bigger favorite you become. When you hold a pocket pair, situations frequently arise in which you are forced to evaluate the strength of your pair, in the face of action from your opponents. Large pairs will often hold up on their own merits, and small pairs often, but not always, need to improve. This can make playing the largest and the smallest pairs easier and less complicated than the medium strength pairs. It is simply easier to determine where you stand when you hold two Aces or two Deuces.

With a hand like pocket fives, it is not always clear when you have to improve. Sometimes, you will not improve, and you will have to make a very tough call in order to win the hand. At other times, when you do not improve, you will be a very big underdog, and should muck your hand right away. Good players excel at making good reads and tough calls, and have a very good idea about when to call and when to muck. This means that they can play a hand like pocket fives much more profitably than the average player.

Good players also know that they have to proceed with caution when they hold pocket fives. Sometimes you will be dominated, when your opponent holds and over pair. Even when you are a favorite with the hand, you are often not a favorite by very much. Much of the time your opponents will be holding two over cards, and two overs is not a very big dog to a pocket pair. So you are in a situation where if you get action on your fives, you may be dominated, or alternatively, you may be a very small favorite, essentially racing. This is not really a good spot to be in, as you never want to be dominated, and you really don’t want to race unless you need to. So you want to avoid this situation. But that does not mean that you should avoid playing pocket fives altogether. You can make a lot of profitable plays with the hand. Pocket fives can be extremely valuable if you are lucky enough to flop a set and get action. You can also extract a lot of fold equity out of your opponents by attacking their blinds with the hand.

Usage: Presto A Set, Presto On The River

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(c) Shirley Rosario

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