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The Two Pair Gambit. Angle Shoot? Or Genius Game-play?

If you have played Texas Hold'em for a long time, you invariably at some point have run into this situation. On the board is a pair, and with that one of the remaining three cards matches one of your hole cards. Thus while you officially have two pair, you really see your hand as only one pair because your opponent also has the pair on the board like you do. You get to the end of the hand, and your opponent announces that they have two pair. Naturally you think you might be beat. You are expecting your opponent to have both their hole cards matching two cards on the table. Until they turn over their hand and show that only one of their cards matches one on the board. Welcome to the situation that what we have decided to coin "The Two Pair Gambit".

So what exactly is the goal of the gambit? Simple. Your opponent is using technical correct terminology in an attempt to make you think your hand is weaker than it actually is. When a player states they have two pair, it is a good bet that he or she knows the first thought that comes to your mind is that both of their hole cards match. The reason being is because since pairs on the board are shared, it is usually much easier and simpler to state the pair that you do have. For example, if the board was A K 2 5 2 and I had a King, I would simply say that I have a king when it comes to show down. While I would be correct to say that I have Kings and Twos, stating that I have the twos is redundant as I know that you have the twos as well.

Players of course know this, and by using this gambit they are banking on the probability, albeit very small one, that you will think they have a genuine two pair that beats the two pair that you technically also have. If you buy that, then there is a chance you will muck your hand, not realizing that it may have been a winning one or at the very least one that would yield a chopped pot. Now that we know what the gambit is and what it is trying to do we can ask ourselves the next question. Is it an angle shoot? Or is it just good gamesmanship?

Just like anything else in this life, it depends on who you ask. There are plenty of poker players who agree that it is indeed an angle shoot. The spirit of Texas Hold'em is that everyone understands the concept of shared cards and that there is no reason to be redundant with them for the sake of technical accuracy. That said if you talk to some purists, they would argue that these players are indeed doing nothing wrong. By rule they do have two pair, and it is not against any rule to state a hand that you actually have. In fact, there isn't even any rule that you have to state a correct hand. Which makes sense, because there are times where you may misread your hand and state something you don't actually have. This is why the cards speak rule exists and it is always recommended to table a hand at the end. So that way any confusion gets weeded out and the pot is awarded properly.

In the end, it comes down to one key rule for poker. It is an observational game, and the responsibility of your hand comes down to you and you alone. If you are running on auto pilot, that is something that can be exploited by a player that is noticing that. Part of poker is being able to keep your focus at all times. That is why poker is a difficult game. It can go for long periods of time. It's mentally exhausting. Players who are good are that way in part because of how they can keep their mental discipline going for long stretches. You will have to sometimes do this too. You can't rely on your opponents to do the work for you. You can only rely on yourself.

Where Can I Go To Improve My Poker Focus?

If you are in the Cincinnati area you can come try out our club to sharpen your poker skills anytime we're open. We have tournaments going on almost every night, and even have cash games too. We're in the West Chester area at 4844 Union Center Pavilion Drive. You can also email us or reach out on Facebook with any questions you have for us.

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