how to play pocket tens

f you want to play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in...uh, I mean, if you want to play Texas Holdem to win, you gotta know how to play pocket tens. And it's important that you master this knowledge deliberately instead of wing in on feel, because just like pocket Jacks, getting dealt the 10-10 is both potentially better and worse than you are likely to think it is.


You got the highest of the middle pairs (although some players consider J-J to have that status), and so you already have a strong probability of having the best hand pre-flop. But, there's a reason why it's a poker proverb that you aren't supposed to bet a middle pair. You could very well get yourself bad beat and losing a lot of your bankroll post-flop if you aren't careful and other players have started calling you.

You see, pocket tens are too strong of a hand to play just for set value in most cases, and yet at the same time raising is quite hard. You want to try to win with them but you want pot-size control also since you've got a 60% chance of being stared up at by an overcard on the flop. See, you never want the pot to grow large when you've got a marginal hand, and even though it's at the top of the list of such hands that's all that pocket tens is.


Well, this is a tricky one, given the exciting and yet dangerous nature of 10-10. What I do with this deal is raise and often re-raise no matter what position I'm in. This aggressive style of play with these cards is intended to get as many people to fold pre-flop as possible so I have more control over the pot-size and diminish the chances that an opponent has me beat when an overcard flops. I will try to win with a continuation bet on the flop. Personally, with pocket tens I am hoping we never see the Turn.

But what do I do when I've got a strong (or is it bluffing?) opponent who keeps giving me a raised pot after the flop? Position matters more to me now. If I'm in L and someone before me raises the pot I want to see if other players call before me--and the more the better. I've switched my thinking to go for pot value (let's assume here that I don't trip-up to a set on the flop, of which I have just a one-in-eight chance of happening for me). If the pre-flop betting didn't clear out that many players, and that overcard is flopped, I'm ready to fold right away if I don't see a lot of people calling before me--and if more than one person in an earlier position turns into an aggressive raiser. A lot of callers now raise the pot value and they also hint that I've still got a very good chance of having the best hand.

But this has to do with my style of play, and it's by no means the same way that top poker playing professionals all play this hand.

Some people always play pocket tens for value. Period. End of story. According to highly respected poker theorist John Vorhaus, "The only good thing that can happen if you raise with mid pairs is that everyone folds." He limps in with this hand.

On the other hand, the most renowned poker theorist of all, David Sklansky (a hugely-used resource by top poker players), says that you want to make other players fail to play correctly--that is, you make them play differently than they would if they had perfect knowledge of everyone's starting hand. He calls pocket tens a "bread and butter" hand because they are ideal for causing incorrect play in deep-stack games. His rules are: a) Definitely plan to see the flop with pocket tens but only if you aren't going to pay too much for it; b) If you're getting a lot of re-raising pre-flop, fold; c) just call a standard raise when you have position so you can try to disguise your hand and go for the big money if you see a favorable flop.

Then on the other other hand, Poker Brat and 11 World Series of Poker bracelet holder Phil Helmuth lists pocket tens as his fifth favorite starting hand. You know what that means, eh? He says sweeten up that pot pre-flop when you have this hand--even, if you think you're reading others' right, go all-in!

So, what's the answer on how to play pocket tens? As with anything, it partly depends upon your poker image and upon the situation you find yourself in against other players. But yes, it's a good, if tricky, hand.

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