how to play pocket sevens

Texas Hold em Starting Hands » Pocket Sevens

Let's take a look at how to play pocket sevens. You'll sometimes hear this starting hand as "lucky sevens". Well, this is rather like the "luck of the Irish"--it's all bad. Now, there is nothing bad about starting off the game with a pair, no matter what pair it is. It's just that "lucky sevens" is a middling pair (a small pair to many players' minds) that is low enough in value to be good yet a terrible headache to try and play correctly. It's kind of like being the best and the worst at the same time.


To start with, let's look at a number. If you've got 7-7 you can expect to see at least one overcard on the flop 92% of the time. Yikes! So, this is a speculative hand and you've got to have a deep knowledge of when to hold'em and when to fold'em if you're going to win (or minimize your losses) with them. Yes, if possible you do want to hold on to them pre-flop and go for hitting a set on the flop. But unlike with the starting pairs that are higher than pocket sevens, you really have to be cautious and have a keen mind for other factors--and with these, one of those other factors is players' chip stacks (more on that in a while).

Many players just use the rule of thumb that pre-flop they'll start playing pocket sevens for value if they are in an early position but they'll get more aggressive if they are in a later position and if they think that their opponents tend to be loose.

Then again, you could follow the lead of the Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth's method for playing pocket sevens is uber-aggressive--to the point of re-raising a raise against pocket sevens pre-flop. At the risk of sounding sexist, can you say "ballsey"? What Hellmuth wants to do here is steal the pot pre-flop, or pare his competition down to bare bones to increase his odds of winning on the flop or turn by hitting the right board texture.

Yet, even Hellmuth has stated that players "...moving in with little pairs [are] crazy. If their little pairs win, they get a lot of chips. If they don’t win, they go broke." But of course, the Poker Brat is a true aggressive player--not a maniac. That's really the gist of what he means with his uber lucky sevens aggressive tactics. Also, Hellmuth was talking there about Sit'n'Go playing. With pocket sevens, what's right in cash games (where Hellmuth is being aggressive) may not be right in tournies.

According to Colin Marshman, you should fold pocket sevens in a Sit'n'Go unless:

  • You're in middle or late position.
  • The pot is unraised when it's your turn to bet and there are at least two limpers.

Marshman will not hold pocket sevens on a re-raise in a tournament.


Let's take a look at how you want to include chip stack considerations into your hold or fold pocket seven strategy.

You find yourself with a chip stack that is about 150% as large as most other players', and you find yourself with two sevens in the hole. A guy you have some playing experience against from earlier today raises three times the BB pre-flop from the under the gun position. You're in a late position, and the three players in the middle position after Mr. Aggression all fold. Being true to Hellmuth's advice, you re-raise the size of the pot.

All of the other players fold except Mr. Aggression. He thinks carefully for several long moments, then re-raises you the size of the pot again.

Now--how aggressive do you want to be here? Consider the following:

  • You have position advantage and, unless Mr. Aggression has an overpair, you've got the better hand; even if he has something like A-K unsuited you've now got a 55% chance of beating him on the flop. You also have chips committed and the pot is not too small now. That may be an argument for at least calling and holding.


  • The odds are better than 7-to-1 against you hitting a set on the flop.
  • There is that very high probability of flopping an overcard--and if Mr. Aggressive is confident for any good reason at all, he'll then be likely to be ahead of you unless you do get the unlikely trip-up. If he is holding that A-K he has a 33% chance of flopping an overpair and the same chance of getting it on the turn.
  • Raising from under the gun is a sure sign of good reason to be confident unless he is stone-cold bluffing, which at this point is highly unlikely since he is at a disadvantaged position.
  • If he is this confident from under the gun, there is an uncomfortably good chance that he has been dealt an overpair.

So, you probably want to fold here.

How to play pocket sevens? I say start out with aggression but fold quickly against counter-aggression pre-flop or if you don't hit your set on the flop.

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