A common misconception in poker is that it’s the proper play to fold small pocket pairs in the face of a raise that looks to be a bigger pocket pair. In this spot your smaller pocket pair will surely be dominated, but this situation provides bigger opportunities than many understand. It will often be the right play to call a raise pre-flop with a pocket pair because if you do hit a set, you’re likely to get paid off in a big way, especially if your opponent is on an over pair.
A pocket pair will turn into a set 12.5% of the times you have it, which translates to about one in eight times. Calling a raise with a small pair will be the right play as long you’re getting 8-1 implied odds. You basically look at your opponent’s stack and ask yourself if they have 8 times the amount of the raise in their stack? If they do, you then ask yourself if your stack is eight times bigger than the amount of the raise. If the answer to both questions is yes, you should make the call.
You want to be playing your pocket pairs at least 90% of the time. There will be situations where it will be best to put down a pocket pair. For instance, if a player makes a raise and another player re-raises, you might want to consider getting out of the way because there are so many cards that can hit the flop and beat you. If you’re in a tournament, and it makes more sense to step aside because some players are running the risk of getting knocked out of the event, folding a small pocket pair to let some other players leave the tournament can out-weigh the value of remaining in the hand.