Pocket tens is one of those hands that troubles poker players, especially beginners.
When you have pocket tens, you will often have to navigate the flop and beyond with at least one overcard on the board. It can be hard to tell where you stand.
The goal of this article is to help you feel more comfortable with pocket tens. Here’s what’s covered:
- How to Play Pocket Tens in Common Preflop Situations
- 5 Tips for Playing Pocket Tens Postflop
Editor’s Note: We previously covered how to play another “trouble hand” — Ace-Queen offsuit — and the response from y’all was overwhelmingly positive. That’s why we’re covering pocket tens today, and also why we plan to cover more singular hands in future articles. Are there any particular hands you’d like to see an article about? Let us know in the comments below.
How To Play Pocket Tens in Common Preflop Scenarios
It’s pretty intuitive that pocket tens is a strong hand preflop. After all, it is already a strong pair.
With this in mind, you should always raise preflop with tens when the action is folded to you. Like Ace-Queen offsuit, you should avoid limping with tens because doing so will lead to smaller pots on average. Folding is unthinkable.
To illustrate how clear of an open pocket tens are from any position, take a look at the UTG open-raising range for a 9-handed table from the Upswing Lab. This represents the tightest range one would play from any position in an unopened pot, and pocket tens are still clearly a raise every single time (tens are notated as “TT”):
Against a Raise
When facing a raise, tens are still very strong and you should usually 3-bet with them. Tens have a lot of equity against a typical 3-bet calling range.
If you 3-bet and face a 4-bet, you can quite easily call. This is because tens have a lot of equity against 4-betting ranges, including strong and unbalanced ones (such as QQ+ and AK only).
You might remember that AQo was a great 3-bet candidate because 3-betting forces more players out of the hand preflop, and AQo doesn’t play as well in multiway pots. It’s much better suited for heads-up pots.
Pocket tens also perform better in heads-up pots, but they perform well in multiway pots too — as do all pocket pairs. This is due to the hand’s ability to flop sets at a reasonably high frequency (~11%) and get paid off handsomely by random 2-pairs that your opponent might have.
While this doesn’t deter us from 3-betting I feel like it’s an important concept to grasp.
Against a 3-Bet
As previously mentioned, pocket tens play very well in 3-bet pots due to the hand’s ability to flop sets.
4-betting with this hand is also a viable option in late position battles against aggressive 3-bettors — specifically when you will be out of position postflop. It makes sense to just call 3-bets when you will have the advantage of being in position after the flop. But if you’re in the cutoff facing a button 3-bet or the small blind facing a big blind 3-bet, consider 4-betting.
In all other cases, a simple smooth call will work great.
Against a 4-Bet
Tens play great even against the tightest, most unbalanced 4-bet ranges that only contain QQ+ and AK. As I showed above, tens have over 36% equity versus that super-tight range.
As a result, you will almost always have the pot odds to profitably call a 4-bet. You usually need ~30% equity to call when in position and ~27% when out of position based on typical 4-bet sizes.
The only situation folding makes sense is when your opponent uses a very large 4-bet size and you suspect they are doing so with a very tight range. If you 3-bet to $18 and a tight player makes it $100 with $100 behind, for example, you can pitch your tens in the muck.
5 Tips for Playing Pocket Tens Postflop
1. Don’t get married to your hand.
This tip works for a lot of strong preflop hands, but it’s particular important with high pocket pairs like tens.
Let’s say you called a 3-bet preflop and the board comes A-J-5 rainbow. Yes, you had a great hand preflop, but now the flop is a whole other beast. If your opponent bets half the pot or more, then you’re out.
2. Play tight after calling a 4-bet when the flop comes ace or king-high.
These boards smash the 4-bettors range, and you should fold on them even if your opponent is laying you incredible pot odds with a very small bet. (That is, of course, unless you have some solid intel on him to suggest doing something else.)
3. Do not slow-play when you hit a set multiway.
I know it might be tempting to slow-play a set, but doing so in a multiway pot is essentially gifting a lot of free equity to the other players.
Unless the board has no flush draw possible and no straight draw possible, absolutely never slow-play with three or more players. Just bet and thank me later in the comment section!
4. If the turn makes your hand into a second pair, slow down and go for pot control.
Let’s say you have T♣ T♠ and the flop comes 9♣ 5♠ 2♠. Maybe you bet and your opponent calls. You’re feeling pretty good about your hand, but then the turn comes the Q♥.
Yes, your hand was strong preflop. Yes, it was strong even on the flop.
But when the turn changes the top pair on the board, then your hand drops in relative value. So, instead of continuing to bet, you should usually go into “pot control mode” and check. If you face a bet, you should call with your bluff catcher for at least one street.
5. You can slow-play when you hit top set out of position in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot.
When you hold top set, you heavily block the hands your opponent will call with on the flop.
Additionally, the stack-to-pot ratio is much lower in 3-bet and 4-bet pots. This allows you to get your stack all-in by the river quite easily, so increasing the size of the pot with a bet on the flop is not as important as it would be in a single-raised pot. You can always just start betting on the next street.
That advice was for playing with top set out of position. In position play is a different story.
When in position, you should usually bet. This is because the turn might come an ace, king, or queen, in which case your opponent will be unlikely to lead into your high card-heavy range. If you slow-play the flop in position, you might end up losing a bunch of value from hands that would’ve called on the flop (like middling pocket pairs), but can now justify a check-fold on the turn.
Pocket tens is a cool hand. There, I said it! Just make sure to follow postflop tip #1 (avoid getting married to the hand) and you will avoid many potential mistakes.
Are there any specific hands that give you trouble? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll work on an article about it.
Want to learn how to play high card hands when you whiff the flop? Read 3 Situations to Value Your Overcard Hands in Texas Hold’em.
Until next time, good luck, grinders!