going all-in with pocket pairs, playing pocket pairs
At a full table, if it's cheap to see a flop and the pair is smaller than a nine I will generally just limp in hoping to hit a cheap set. I will also sustain some light bets and raises. If there are no overcards to the pair on the flop then I will usually bet heavily to test the waters. If there is one overcard I will bet slightly less heavily; two overcards I might just check. If there is an aggressive at the table and I flop nothing, I will often put in a minimum blocking bet in an attempt to keep him honest and buy me more time. If a pair comes on the flop I will almost always bet... a paired flop has too much bluffing equity and significantly reduces the chance that someone has outflopped your pair. If someone hit a set or better, they will usually tell you eventually, if not right away then on a later street.
Betting after the flop with any pair can pay big dividends later if you hit your set on the turn or river and bet harder than you did on the previous street. You will appear more as if you are trying to push someone off a draw instead of having just hit a set. With blank or dry boards, often your opponent will interpret this as you having made two pair, and if they've made a stronger two pair, they may go all-in against you.
If a small stack goes all-in and I have them covered at least 4x, I will generally call with any pair.
Pocket pairs are strong when fresh but spoil quickly. Most don't rank very highly on the "premium hands" list designed by Sklansky because, against more than two players at a full table, they generally become worthless very quickly. But the fact remains that, against any other random hand, pairs are the thirteen most powerful starting hands you can be dealt. If even one of your pocket deuces is of the same suit as your opponent's AKs, for example, then it is a tiny favorite to win in a head-to-head (49.96% vs 49.37%, and they will tie .67% of the time). Outside of blocking straight range, the pairs become more powerful. If one of your pocket pair of sevens, for example, shares the same suit as your opponent's AKs, you are a 52.28% favorite to win. If they do not share a suit, they are still a 51.95% vs. 47.71% favorite (.34% tie). To me, that small margin justifies any odds
being offered me in a head-to-head, as very often you will be facing an ace with high kicker, or two
suited or unsuited face cards. All of these are slight dogs against virtually any pocket pair. If you call against a better pair, though, you're usually doomed, so try to get to know your opponent and his tendencies before your entire stack is riding on the decision to call with a pair of treys.
There is a great video on Youtube that demonstrates the power of a small pocket pair, as played by one of the greatest players of all time: Doyle Brunson. Google "youtube CybYR8dKQJM" and it will come up as "Doyle Brunson"