how to play pocket eights

Texas Hold em Starting Hands » Pocket Eights

Knowing how to play pocket eights in Hold'em is tricky but, if done right, you can win a good pot or, if you must fold, you can minimize your losses. This is not a superior starting hand but it sure is a nice one and should spark some excitement in you if you get it--just don't drop your poker face!


One of the key aspects of playing this middle pocket pair is your position at the table. This is true to one degree or another for all pocket pairs, but the lower you go with them the more important position becomes by degrees. So, one of the most widespread pocket pair strategies is to limp in with pocket eights if you're in early position but, if you're in a later position and there's been all limping up to you, go ahead and raise.

Pocket eights are to be played to do one of two things: trip-up on the flop so that you have a very good set, or steal the pot by managing the hand as if it is, or could be, stronger than it really is. But this will require playing your position well pre-flop, and that will also include using whatever knowledge you possess of the playing styles of the other players.

So, unless you know that you are playing against some loosie goosies, fold pocket eights against a pre-flop raise or, if you're sworn to aggression and you're in a later position, call the raise or raise yourself and see if coming around again you get re-raised before you fold. Taking the more aggressive pre-flop approach with pocket eights can give you a read on those who stay in, sweeten the pot, and whittle away at the competition. But again, you've got to be ready to fold without reservations should you get re-raised, unless you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the person doing the re-raising has been stone cold bluffing a lot, or is a fisherman or a maniac.


The first objective of yours, if you get dealt pocket eights and don't fold pre-flop, needs to be to get a set, and you want that set most of all on the flop. But, you will fail to hit the triple eight on the flop nearly 77% of the time--and, to make matters worse, there will also be at least one overcard in the flop texture most of those very same failed times. So, if the typical happens to you on the flop, and the table gives you raise with a lot of callers, strongly consider folding immediately.

But keep in mind, when you see that pair of eights before you, you already have more than a 90% chance of starting the game with the best hand at the table (people only get 8-8 to start the game less than 1% of the time, too). That's why if you draw people out with aggression early and you get a lot of folders and thus get your competition down to just one or two other players you have an excellent chance of winning the pot.

Indeed, the pre-flop pot equity of 8-8 in the hole is a juicy 69%. This means that if you have 8-8 and are heads-up against an opponent who has a random hand, you will win the pot 69% of the time (assuming "correct" play). If you could win the pot in Hold'em more than two-thirds of the time you'd be fabulously wealthy and on the cover of GQ and Men's Journal.


What does the king of edge-of-mayhem aggressive poker play, Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, say about how he plays pocket eights? In his book 'Super System', Brunson writes about what to do if you have been aggressive (calling raises/raising) pre-flop and the flop fails to give you your set:

  • You’re through with them if you just called before the Flop…
  • If you raised with them, you should generally be on the Flop trying to win a small pot, but, if you get called…you don’t want to bet again.
  • If you get re-raised…you throw away your hand

So, think you know how to play pocket eights now? Get online and start practicing!

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