Want to learn the optimal way to play Pocket Fives in No Limit Hold’em?
This article covers:
- How to Play Pocket Fives Preflop
- 3 Tips for Playing Fives as the Preflop Raiser
- 3 Tips for Playing Fives as the Preflop Caller
How to Play Pocket Fives in Common Preflop Situations
Pocket Fives stand among the top 7% of all starting hands.
You should always raise with Pocket Fives preflop when the action folds to you in a 6-max game. If you’re at a 9-handed table, the best baseline strategy is to fold Pocket Fives from the 3 earliest positions (UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2). If your table is very passive or the rake is very low, you can consider loosening up from those early positions.
Against a Raise
When it comes to playing Pocket Fives against a raise, your position is a very important factor.
Let’s take them one by one. Here are the table positions for your reference:
From the Big Blind: You will want to call every time with Pocket Fives. The pot odds you are given due to your mandatory investment in the pot make it very appealing to call, despite having to play out of position with a high stack-to-pot ratio.
From the Small Blind: Cold-calling from the Small Blind in cash games is almost always a losing play (assuming you’re in a game with normal table rake(. For this reason, you should only 3-bet from this position.
But if you’re up against an early or middle position raise, 3-betting with Pocket Fives would be too loose. So, you should only 3-bet from the Small Blind when facing an open from the Cutoff or Button. You should just fold in the other cases.
Note: There are some situations in which it can make sense to call from the Small Blind, such as when there is no table rake. This topic was recently covered on the Upswing Poker Level-Up podcast, which is free to watch/listen to. Click here to check out the relevant episode of Upswing Level-Up.
From the Button: The Button is a special position because you are guaranteed to be the last player to act postflop. This positional advantage increases your ability to realize equity. Given all of this, you are highly encouraged to have a calling range against the other positions. Pocket Fives are 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, Pocket Fives are not strong enough to cold-call or 3-bet because the “GTO” open-raising ranges are too strong. Of course, if you are up against a loose player, then cold-calling or 3-betting are probably your best options since you will have more equity against them. You can also consider cold-calling more often if the players behind are tight and unlikely to squeeze you out of the pot with a 3-bet.
Against a 3-Bet
When faced with a 3-bet, both your position and your opponent’s position are important.
When you are out of position especially, you should mix between calling and folding with Pocket Fives. That being said, always calling or always folding is very hard to exploit in these situations, so it won’t make a huge difference either way. That’s just the nature of close spots in poker.
When you are in position against the 3-bettor, you can basically always call with Pocket Fives. The exception would be against a short stacked opponent or against an extremely big 3-bet size.
Against a 4-Bet
When facing a 4-bet, Pocket Fives are a marginal hand. They are very close to 0 expected value at equilibrium. That being said, if you are not facing a large 4-bet, your opponent is loose with his 4-bets, or you are playing deeper than 100bb, then calling can become profitable.
I’m willing to wager that most people reading this will not be playing in games with opponents who 4-bet aggressively, in which case you should probably just muck your Pocket Fives against a 4-bet.
Note: Look up how to play any hand in every common preflop situation in less than 10 seconds. Get instant access to extensive preflop charts (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course and community. Lock your seat now!
3 Tips for Pocket Fives in Single Raised Pots as the Preflop Raiser
These tips are for when you raised preflop with the Five balls and exactly one player called.
Tip #1: Never slow-play a flopped set
Do you like the feeling of winning your opponent’s entire stack? If you do, then you must NEVER slow-play your flopped sets (in single raised pots).
Your imperative is to build towards putting your opponent all-in on the river (or sooner) if possible. Failing to do so (by slow-playing) will cause you to win a fraction of what you could have won. Or worse even, get a bad beat by some outlier backdoor straight that would’ve folded against your bet or check-raise on the flop.
Tip #2: If you flop an underpair in position, it’s generally best to check back
Without going super deep in the technical underpinning of this tip, the main idea is that you’ve flopped a weak made hand with your underpair.
You aren’t going to make a lot of money with it so it’s usually good to simply not put money into the pot unless there are some encouraging factors, such as having a draw to back it up. And even then, you shouldn’t be itching to fire bets into the pot. You’ll be better of checking and (if faced with a bet) calling.
For example, suppse you are on the Button and the Big Blind called your open-raise. If the flop came and the Big Blind checked, you should check back with your Pocket Fives.
Tip #3: When you open-raise from the Small Blind and the Big Blind calls, always c-bet on double broadway flops
Double broadway flops are very favorable for the Small Blind in these scenarios.
As the preflop raiser, the Small Blind has the range advantage coupled with the nut advantage on flops like K-Q-2. With both advantages in your corner, you should press the action very aggressively by c-betting with your entire range using a block bet size (~33% of the pot). Your Pocket Fives will be protected by so many other better hands that your opponent will not be able to exploit you.
So, if the board is something like K-J-6, K-Q-3, or A-Q-7, you should always fire a small c-bet with your in blind vs blind battles.
3 Tips for Pocket Fives in Single Raised Pots as the Preflop Caller
Tip #1: When out of position, you should call a bet when you flop middle pair
Middle pairs are generally very good bluff-catchers. The main action that you want to take with these hands is to check-call.
For example, if you defended from the Big Blind against the Button, the flop came and you are faced with a 33% pot bet, you should check-call every time. If you face another bet on the turn, you can let it go then. But you can’t let your opponent take down the pot with just one small bet on the flop.
Tip #2: When you’re in position and the preflop raiser checks, you should check back if your Fives are middle pair or an underpair
This tip goes hand in hand with the one from the previous section. You’ve flopped a weak-made hand that only wants to showdown or improve to a set or some backdoor straight once in a blue moon. Don’t put money into the pot if you don’t have to.
So, if you’ve called from the Big Blind against a Small Blind open-raise, and the flop comes something like , you should check back with your Pocket Fives.
Tip #3: On medium or low paired flops, check-raise sometimes out of the Big Blind
Flops such as 9-9-3, 8-8-4, and 6-6-2 miss most of your opponent’s range, so you can attack c-bets on these types of flops with an aggressive check-raising strategy.
On these boards, Pocket Fives will usually be the best hand, but it’s a very vulnerable made hand. This makes it a great hand to include in your check-raising range at least some of the time.
By check-raising with Fives, you deny some of your opponent’s equity while still getting a good chunk of worse hands (such as Ace-high) to call. The best way to achieve this is to make a small raise designed to make the opponent fold a lot of their weakest overcard hands, while also getting value from the stronger ones that will call.
Presto! You now learned how to play Pocket Fives better than the vast majority of your opponents in under 5 minutes. Make sure to be consistent and keep printing money in every single spot.
Let me know which hand you want me to do a quick guide on next in the comment section down below!
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!