Using Pairs in Poker ; Tone of Voice Can Be A Tell

pairs in poker
Know how to use your pairs in poker
by George Epstein


Odds of being dealt any particular pair in the hole is 221-1Playing Texas hold’em, in the long run, you will be dealt a pair in the hole (a pocket pair) one out of 17 hands. Let’s put this statistical fact into perspective, and discuss the ramifications.

With 30-35 hands dealt per hour, you can expect to be dealt a pair – any two cards of the same rank – about twice an hour. That’s on the average. In the short term, it could vary widely.

At a full table of 9 or 10 players, anticipate an opponent will hold a pocket pair about once every two hands dealt. That’s more likely if you don’t have a pair in the hole. Of course, like many other statistical combinations, that holds true in the long run. But, if you play long enough, the time will come when two or three players in the hand all have pocket pairs.
I have seen three players, each holding a pocket pair in one hand; the A-A beat out the K-K and 10-10. The 10-10, in a middle position, started out the betting and was raised by the K-K. The A-A, on the button, reraised. The 10-10 folded on the flop after the K-K bet and was raised by the A-A. Little did the K-K realize he was a huge underdog from the start, with only two outs.

For any particular pair in the hole, say a pair of Aces, the odds are 221-1 against it being dealt to you. Again, that’s on average and in the long run.

A-A, K-K, and Q-Q are regarded as “made hands” – they could win the pot at the showdown even without improving. But, it’s so much more comfortable – and exciting – when the flop brings a matching card. Then you have a set (three-of-a-kind). There is even a reasonable chance you could catch a full house. A monster hand!

With a made hand – say it’s A-A – before the flop, you are a favorite to beat any other opponent who stays to see the flop. In fact, preflop, you are about an 80 percent favorite over each of your opponents.

How should you play this hand? According to the laws of statistics, the probability of winning that hand at the showdown against all four of these opponents at the same time, is determined by multiplying the probabilities for each opponent.

Thus, assuming the probability is 80% against each of the four opponents who stays to see the flop, then, the statistical probability your pocket Aces will prevail is 80% x 80% x 80% x 80% = 41%. That would render your A-A an underdog (less than 50%).

That’s why a skilled player will bet or raise to thin the field. Optimum is to play against two or three opponents – never more than four. How often have you heard someone complain: “I never win with pocket Aces,” while he fails to thin the field against him. He may be naïve to believe he should encourage more opponents to stay in the hand, so he can win a bigger pot.

Yes, the pot would be much larger, but – in the long run – he will lose more than he wins.

Should you hold a small pocket pair (7-7 down to 2-2), usually you need to improve to a set to win this pot – provided no one makes a bigger set or a straight or a flush. With a small pair in the hole, fold from an early position and call only from a middle/late position if the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied: no raises preflop and a multi-way hand (three or more opponents staying to see the flop).

Middle pairs (J-J down to 8-8) are playable from any position. These are Premium Drawing Hands – usually must improve to win the showdown. These often require the Hold’em Caveat. Exception: Against tight/conservative opponents, your raise may thin the field so your J-J (down to 8-8) could hold up.

If a higher card falls on the board, be cautious and prepared to fold to a raise unless the raiser is very aggressive and deceptive.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at


poker tell yell

Tone of voice can lead to poker tells

by Irene Edith
Mike Caro (“The Mad Genius of Poker”) and other poker experts encourage us to look for tells – primarily body language

The tone of her voice can be a great tell.

By carefully listening to your opponent as she speaks, the tone and pitch can give you real clues – information – to help you make the best decisions in your own favor. Alternatively, your own voice tones can reveal information you would rather your opponents were not aware of.

Recently, I learned of the voice-related research conducted by the Torb Pedersen Institute (TPI), a rather unique organization headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. Its multi-disciplinary team (doctors, psychologists and engineers) has identified and isolated sources of unusual muscular contractions during oral communications that can provide vocal clues – tantamount to tells in the game of poker.

Mike Caro (“The Mad Genius of Poker”), Joe Navarro (former FBI agent), George (“The Engineer”) Epstein, and other poker experts encourage us to look for tells – primarily body language; but, to my knowledge, none has ever suggested vocal clues of the type TPI has studied. Be aware of these so you can better read your opponent; and, concomitantly, you can take precautions to avoid inadvertently revealing information your opponnent can use against you.

Over the past 20 years, TPI founder Torb Pedersen – “the voice guy” – has worked with world leaders and celebrities to improve their vocal health and ability to communicate with others. These include corporate CEOs, members of the White House press corps, major record labels such as Capital Records, and Grammy Award-winning artists such as Gloria Estefan – even the government of China.

The Principle

Different muscular contractions, it was found, correlated with the individual’s emotional outlook, thereby resulting in changes in vocal pitch, speed, quality, volume or expression. The speaker is unaware these vocal clues (tells) can contradict or distract from their intended message, and, instead, may reveal underlying negative thoughts.

For example, Pedersen worked with a corporate attorney who often ended his statements in a high pitch. Although his words were powerful, his insecurity was being revealed through his unconcious desire to ask a question through his vocal tone.

“As his voice rose, what he was really saying was, ‘Do you approve of this? Is this OK?’…And subconsciously as we listen, we realize he is insecure; so we don’t really trust him, even if we don’t know why.”

Were this to occur during a poker game, this tell could lead to suspecting your opponent is trying to bluff you into mucking your hand. Couple this tell with previous observations of this player. If you have seen her play deceptively before, there is a good chance she is doing it again. Use that information to make the best decision on how to respond to her bet. You might even want to raise her. Bluff out the bluffer!

Pedersen recognizes that, unlike many other forms of non-verbal communiucation – facial expressions, eye contact or body language, “vocal cues can be difficult to identify and manage.” It takes skill and effort; but it could be well worth the sweat.

TPI has identified over 1,200 neuro-muscular reactions to stress, or vocal cues – “1200 Sounds that Prove You’re a Liar.” Here’s its advice that we might apply to avoid giving tells to our poker opponents:

• End a sentence in a high pitch only when you intend to ask a question.

• Avoid speaking in a combination of high and soft tones; it makes you seem guarded (suspicious).

• Think more about your listener than yourself to avoid signs of need from your communication.

• Take care when breathing while speaking: Too fast, shows anxiety; too slow, suggests aggression.
To these, I would add the following:

• Don’t speak while the hand is in play. Then you cannot give a vocal tell. Let your actions speak for you.

• If you seek a vocal tell from your opponent – to better read her hand – calmly ask her a short question, such as, “Could that river card really have helped your hand?”

Listen carefully to her response; the tone may be the tell you need to decide how best to play this hand.

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