Let’s talk about the hockey sticks!
Pocket Sevens is one of those “good, but not easy to play” hands. Middling pairs are strong hands that are very frequently worth playing preflop, but most flops will have at least one overcard. Misplaying the Sevens regularly will make them feel less like hockey sticks and more like walking canes (another nickname for Pocket Sevens that I may have just made up).
This article was written to make playing Pocket Sevens easier for you. Here is what it covers:
- How to Play Pocket Sevens Preflop
- 3 Tips for Playing Sevens as the Preflop Raiser
- 3 Tips for Playing Sevens as the Preflop Caller
Let’s dive in!
How to Play Pocket Sevens in Common Preflop Situations
Pocket Sevens are a very strong starting hand, falling within the top 6-7% of all starting hands.
Because of this, you should always raise with Pocket Sevens preflop when the action folds to you, regardless of your position.
Limping should be avoided, 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. Why hit a set in a 3 big blind pot when you can hit in a 6 big blind pot?
Against a Raise
When it comes to playing (or not playing) Pocket Sevens against a raise, your position is a very important factor.
From the Big Blind: just call. The pot odds you are being laid 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.
From the Small Blind: cold-calling from the Small Blind in cash games is generally a sub-optimal play (especially in a high-rake environment). For this reason, you should only 3-bet or fold from this position.
If you’re up against an early or middle position raise, 3-betting with Pocket Sevens is usually a losing play. The ranges you’re up against are simply too strong.
If you’re facing a Cutoff or Button raise, however, the Sevens are worth 3-betting. You can just let it go against the earlier positions.
From the Button: the Button is a special position because you are guaranteed to act last after the flop, which increases your ability to realize equity. With this in mind, you are incentivized to have a calling range against the other positions. 77 is the perfect kind of hand to call from the Button because it plays poorly against 4-bets and is too strong to fold to a single raise.
3-betting from the Button with Pocket Sevens can certainly make sense too, especially if the player who raised doesn’t seem like they’ll 4-bet very often. It’s a choose-your-own adventure when it comes to Pocket Sevens on the Button.
From the Rest: all three options (fold, call, 3-bet) are on the table with the best choice depending on an array of factors. If you are playing in highly raked games (low stakes), it’s usually best to go for a 3-bet or fold strategy. But sometimes calling can make sense, in particular when the players at your table are inexperienced and won’t punish you for it.
(Many poker players would argue that you should only 3-bet or fold from these non-Button positions. I’ve written an article regarding this debate, which you can check out here: Should You Stop Cold Calling in Cash Games?)
If you do opt for the 3-bet-or-fold strategy, don’t go overboard and 3-bet 77 in all situations. In particular, you usually have to err on the tight side and fold against the early positions (UTG, UTG+1, and UTG+2 in full ring games) and also from the Hijack against a Lojack open-raise.
Against a 3-Bet
When faced with a 3-bet, you should always call with Pocket Sevens assuming typical stack sizes (100bb+). 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 sometimes call and sometimes fold with Pocket Sevens depending on which positions are involved in the action.
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 other common situations in which you should fold are 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 sevens versus a 4-bet.
3 Tips for Pocket Sevens 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 after 3-betting from the Small Blind, fire a c-bet
If the flop brings three cards above a seven, your hand is obviously not looking great. That being said, your range is quite strong — probably very strong compared to your opponent’s. This happens because you will more frequently have overpairs and sets on high boards.
This range and nut advantage allows you to play very aggressively, and you can profitably fire a small c-bet with Pocket Sevens. This acts as a half value/half bluff because you will sometimes get called by worse hands (draws) and you also fold out hands with equity (such as overcards). Once in a while, you may even get a better hand to fold (e.g. if you c-bet on a K-J-T flop, Pocket Eights will almost certainly fold).
Tip #2: If you have middle pair in a single raised pot in position, check back some of the time
If the flop is something like T63, you should mix your strategy between betting and checking as the in position player with Pocket Sevens. The reasoning here is that this hand plays well in both lines (check back and bet), and the actions have similar expected value (EV).
If the flop is T63 two-tone, then only bet when you have a backdoor flush draw. The added equity and blockers against raises and flush draws are just enough to make betting them better than checking back.
Tip #3: If you flop third pair in a single raised pot in position, 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 from worse because even second pairs beat you. Furthermore, Pocket Sevens have a good amount of showdown value and won’t fold out many (or any) 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 Sevens in 3-Bet Pots as the Preflop Caller
These tips are for when you raise preflop with Sevens, the Small Blind 3-bets, and you call. This is a pretty common spot for Pocket Sevens, so it’s important to cover.
Tip #1: If you have a third pair and a couple of backdoor straight draws, lean towards calling (even versus a big bet)
Imagine a board such as T-9-4 rainbow after you’ve called a 3-bet from the Button against the Small Blind. Your opponent should bet very large here, like 75% of the pot.
It might feel daunting to call a big bet (13-15bb into a pot of around 20bb) with a weak-looking hand, but the fact that you can pick up a gutshot or open-ender on any 6, 8, and Jack makes it strong enough to call most of the time.
Tip #2: In position, you should almost always check back (exception in tip #3)
Very often you will watch the dealer fan a bad board for your Sevens (AJ5, KT4, J93, etc). If you are playing high-stakes poker online against professional players, you will almost always face a c-bet on these boards. But if you’re not playing against very good players, your opponents will probably check sometimes.
When they check, you need to remember that even though they’ve indicated weakness (because they wouldn’t check with many super-strong hands), they will have plenty of hands that are strong enough to check-call once or twice. So, while you may consider turning your Pocket Sevens into a bluff, it probably won’t work as well as simply trying to steer the hand to showdown.
Tip #3: In Position, you should always bet when the board is low and your opponent checks
Every once in a while, the board will be relatively good for your range rather than your opponent’s.
Low boards (8-high and lower), in particular, don’t bode well for the Small Blind’s 3-bet range. Most of the hands they can have will miss low flops, forcing them to play a lot more passively. If they’re playing well, they will even check with a good chunk of their overpairs in order to protect their weaker hands (such as unpaired overcards).
That checking range, no matter how well built it is, is vulnerable to small bets by the In Position player. With Pocket Sevens, specifically, your small bet will be very profitable because you will benefit from equity denial while also getting value from worse. Don’t miss a bet in this spot!
From walking sticks to hockey sticks in under 5 minutes. You now have everything you need to start playing Pocket Sevens better than most of your opponents. Make sure to be consistent and keep printing that expected value in every single spot.
Let me know which hand you’d like to see covered next in the comment section down below!
If you play live poker, here’s a great article to read next: How to Spot Preflop Sizing Tells in Live Cash Games.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!