Let’s talk about the snowmen!
Playing pocket eights can be tricky. The middling pair is a strong hand that’s very frequently worth playing preflop, but most of the time the flop will have at least one overcard.
This makes them difficult to play, so I wrote this article to make it a little easier for you. Here is what it covers:
- How to Play Pocket Eights Preflop
- 3 Tips for Playing Eights in Single Raised Pots as the Preflop Raiser
- 3 Tips for Playing Eights in Single Raised Pots as the Preflop Caller
How to Play Pocket Eights in Common Preflop Situations
Pocket eights are a very strong starting hand, falling within the top 6% of all starting hands.
For this reason, you should always raise with this hand preflop when the action folds to you, regardless of your position. Limping should be avoided at all costs, no matter how tempting it might be to “set the trap” or “set mine” with it. Put simply, you will win less money over time by limping.
Against a Raise
When it comes to playing against a raise, your position is a crucial factor.
Let’s take them one by one. Here are the table positions for your reference:
From the Big Blind: you will want to almost always want to just call. The pot odds you are given due to your default investment in the pot make it very appealing to call, despite having to play out of position with a high stack-to-pot ratio.
The only times you may consider 3-betting is when you’re up against a Button open-raise or a Small Blind open-raise. Against those looser ranges, pocket eights can work well as a 3-bet for value plus protection against overcards.
But if you’re up against an early position raise, 3-betting with pocket eights is too loose. So, you should only 3-bet Pocket Eights from the Small Blind when facing an open from the Cutoff or Button. You can just let it go against the earliest positions.
From the Button: the Button is a special position because you are guaranteed to be the last player to act postflop, which increases your ability to realize equity. With this in mind, you are highly encouraged to have a calling range against the other positions. 88 is the perfect kind of hand to call from the Button because it plays poorly against 4-bets and is too strong to fold.
From the Rest: from the other positions, you have a decision to make: fold, call, or 3-bet. If you are playing in highly raked games (low stakes), it’s usually best to go for a 3-bet only strategy.
(Many players would argue that you should only 3-bet or fold from these positions. I’ve written an article regarding this debate, which you can check out here.)
That being said, you shouldn’t 3-bet with pocket eights in all situations. In particular, you usually have to be tight and fold against the early positions (UTG, UTG+1, and UTG+2 in full ring games).
Against a 3-Bet
When faced with a 3-bet, you should always call with pocket eights. It’s simply a great hand to have since you have a 12% chance of hitting a set on the flop, and you will have a good chance of stacking your opponent if they have an overpair or top pair. It’s also a high enough pair that it can oftentimes continue versus a c-bet without flopping a set.
Against a 4-Bet
When facing a 4-bet, you should almost always continue with pocket eights by calling.
That being said, there are exceptions…
If you 3-bet versus one of the earliest positions (UTG through Hijack) and face a 4-bet, you can safely fold. Their ranges are so strong that even hitting the set 12% of the time on the flop is not enough.
The only other situations in which you should fold is when the 4-bettor is a very tight player or when the 4-bet size is very big. In all other situations, you should look to call with eights versus a 4-bet.
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3 Tips for Pocket Eights in Single Raised Pots as the Preflop Raiser
I will be talking about playing from the Button against the Big Blind specifically since that is the most frequent spot you will be in.
Tip #1: If you have an underpair to the flop, check back
If the flop brings three cards above an eight, your hand is very weak. You are often drawing almost dead and sometimes your draw to a set completes four cards to a straight, which gives you reverse implied odds. For this reason, it’s best to keep the pot small and try to check it down.
Tip #2: If you have middle pair, check back sometimes
If the flop is something like J73, you should mix your strategy between betting and checking.
The reasoning here is that this hand works great in both lines and there is no extra incentive to take a certain line over the other.
Tip #3: If you flop third pair, it’s best to check back
There is a big difference between flopping a second pair and a third pair.
With third pair, it’s much tougher to get value because even second pairs beat you. Furthermore, pocket eights have too much showdown value to fold out enough better hands. With these factors in mind, it’s clear that it’s best to check behind on flops like J93.
3 Tips for Pocket Eights in 3-Bet Pots as the Preflop Raiser
Tip #1: You should almost always c-bet when out of position
On the vast majority of boards, you will have the range advantage after 3-betting from the Big Blind or the Small Blind. When this is the case, you can leverage your advantage with a very aggressive c-betting strategy. You are often incentivized to bet your entire range for a small size (like 33% of the pot).
There are a few boards on which you may want to think about checking, including low connected boards (such as 543, 542, 642, 765, etc.). On these boards, I strongly advise check-raising for value and protection against two overcard types of hands.
Tip #2: In position, you should almost always c-bet
The exception here is also the same. Those low connected boards help the defender as they will have a significant portion of sets that the 3-bettor is unlikely to have due to the preflop 3-bet. It’s the same type of flops: 764, 765, 654, etc.
I recommend checking with pocket eights on these boards so you can realize your equity for free.
Tip #3: Play tight after your c-bet gets called on the flop (unless you have a set)
You took your shot on the flop and that’s great. But after your opponent called, his range is now much stronger than yours on most turns. This is because you are seeing that 4th card with your entire range, while he only continues with around 70-80% of his range on the flop.
Given that you will not improve to a better hand the vast majority of the time, it’s best to check, essentially waving the white flag.
You should now have a pretty clear picture of how to play pocket eights in common preflop and postflop scenarios. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below!
Ready to learn how to play another hand? Check out How to Play King-Queen Suited in Cash Games (Preflop and Postflop).
Til’ next time, good luck, grinders!
Note: Ready to join 6,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!