One of the tougher situations you’ll find yourself in at the poker table is facing a raise with a smaller pocket pair. Until the raise your hand was strong, but against a raise it becomes very vulnerable. How you play in this situation will depend on the setting of the hand. Some situations will require that you fold. Others will call for a re-raise, and on a rare occasion, a call. Knowing which decisions work best in each situation will make this difficult position easier to manage.
When the raise comes from a middle positioned player, or from a player at the table who has shown a tight style, your small pocket pair is likely getting the worst of it. Even if your opponent made the raise with A-K or A-Q, you’re in a race at best. If they have a bigger pair than you you’re a huge dog. You’ll need to hit trips on the flop to be confident with your hand, and any big card on the flop could have you behind if the raise came from two big cards. Folding your pair in this situation would the best play, unless numerous players call it.
A raise from a player on the button, or from an aggressive player near the button, is often just a real estate raise. A re-raise will tell you if that player is only trying to steal the blinds, and you will often pick up the pot right there. If the raiser calls your re-raise, making a continuation bet should tell the story for the rest of the hand.
Calling a raise with a pocket pair should be done sparingly. If the raise isn’t too big, and other players have entered the pot, calling to trip hunt potentially could win you a big hand.