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Mastering the Art of Playing Pocket Tens in Poker

Dominic Field

Jun 17, 2023

How To Play Pocket Tens in Poker

Pocket tens can be a confusing hand to play. It sure looks like a premium hand, but it’s essentially a mid-sized pocket pair. You’re almost always going to see an overcard, and it isn’t always easy to know where you stand. 

In this article, we’re going to look at some common scenarios to help you play pocket tens more effectively. 

Playing Pocket Tens In Common Situations

In many poker situations, there is no definitive right or wrong strategy. And although pocket tens is clearly a good hand, it’s not of Aces- or Kings-type strength. So, a lot of the time, knowing what to do simply depends on the exact spot.

With that in mind, we’re going to run through a few common scenarios to help you understand what to do with this hand. Then we’ll reveal a few general tips for playing tens. Let’s start with an easy one.

No Preflop Raise

Pocket Tens Pre-flop strategyTwo tens in the hole is a great hand, there’s no doubt about it. So, if the pot is unopened pre-flop and you look down at tens, pump it up. 100% of the time. Even if the table is 9 or 10-handed and you’re under the gun, T-T is always a raise.

Ditching such a strong holding is simply out of the question. But if you limp, you tempt more speculative drawing hands into the pot to try and outdraw you. And on average, you’re going to end up with a smaller pot even if you do win.

Against A Single Raise

If you’re looking at a single raise, the right play is usually to 3-bet. Against a standard 3-betting range, you are in good shape. Even if you are re-raised, you’ll still have a good amount of equity. Against a tight range of A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-Ks, and A-Ko, you’re only a 36.43% underdog. And think of the implied odds if you make a set!

Although 3-betting is preferable, you can justify mixing in some calls, because like all pocket pairs, tens play well in multi-way pots. You’ll make a set roughly 11% of the time and you’re likely to get paid when you do.

Against 3- And 4-Bets

If you are facing a 3-bet, it’s most likely better to call. As we mentioned previously, your hand is in good shape against this sort of range. And if you’ll be in position after the flop, even better.

However, you can certainly 4-bet some of the time if you’re going to be out of position post-flop. Particularly if the opponent is an aggressive one; it might be better to try and get them to fold. Otherwise, you’re going to play a big pot out of position against a tough player.

When facing a 4-bet, you should likely also make the call. Against the aforementioned tight range, you’ll probably be getting the right pot odds a lot of the time. You should only really think about folding if the 4-bet is extremely large against a very tight player. For instance, if you’ve made $20 to go and they’re 4-betting to $100 having done nothing all game, ditch the tens.

General Advice For Playing Pocket Tens

Let’s now look at a few rules of thumb for dealing with tens in the hole.

Don’t Fall In Love

Pocket tens with an over card on the boardTo be honest, this applies to any pocket pair. Sure, it’s a great holding pre-flop, but if the board brings two overcards and a flush draw, you’re no longer in a great spot. You have to be prepared to ditch it when the odds are not right.

Avoid Slow-Playing Sets

Particularly if the pot is multi-way! Don’t try to get tricky when you flop a set of tens! If it checks around, not only are you giving players free cards to draw and beat you, you’re keeping the pot size down for when you do win.

The only exception to this would be in a heavily-raised pot, where you’re out of position and with the top set. This hand blocks your opponent’s calling range, so you may want to give them a chance to catch up.

Slow Down With Second Pair

If you catch a dream flop that features three undercards but the turn brings a dangerous overcard, slow down. You have been in control so far, but the dynamic has shifted. Your relative hand strength is no longer as strong as before. 

You don’t have to surrender, but your aim now should be to prevent the pot from getting out of control.

Aces and Kings in 4-Bet Pots

If the pre-flop action was plentiful, you’ll need to accept that an Ace or King on the flop means trouble. Even if your opponent bets small and gives you some generous odds, you simply must get out of that pot. Those cards connect with basically everything in your opponent’s range for 4-betting. Give up.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of playing pocket tens in poker is a skill that can greatly impact your success at the table. By understanding the strengths and potential pitfalls of this powerful starting hand, you can make informed decisions that maximize your chances of winning. Remember to carefully assess the situation, consider your opponents' actions, and adapt your strategy accordingly. 

Whether you choose to play pocket tens aggressively or with caution, maintaining a balanced and adaptable approach is key. With practice, experience, and a deep understanding of the game, you can confidently wield pocket tens to your advantage and confidently navigate the complex world of poker. So, embrace the challenge, refine your skills, and let pocket tens be the catalyst for triumph at the poker table.

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