Thursday Poker Blog! Playing Pocket Aces

Welcome back to the blog!  Today, as March Madness kicks into full gear, we return to the Thursday Poker Blog.  We have thus far shared a few poker stories and discussed the critical issue of bankroll management and game choice.  As promised, I want to start getting into some in-game poker concepts.

So why not start right at the top with the best pre-flop hand in Texas Hold’em?  Pocket rockets.  Specifically, I want to discuss primarily pre-flop play.  Modern day poker pro Dan Harrington has written several well-respected poker books on both tournament and cash play.  “Action Dan’s” mantra relating to pre-flop play of aces is to slowplay about once every five times.  Generally, Dan is against slowplaying aces except once in awhile to mix up your play.

In the arena I play, which 95% of the time is online multi-table tournaments, I do not believe there is a premium on mixing up your play.  In other words, while every major site has an application for note-taking, rarely do you actually see the same players.  Moreover, I use the note-taking app almost exclusively to report my opponent’s statistics, not to literally attempt to track their play of particular hands.  The short of it is, maybe 1 in 10,000 players out there is keeping tabs on how you play aces.  Instead of mixing up my play, I “disguise” my hands by playing them all virtually the same.  In other words, I don’t “min-raise” aces while 4x raising Q-K.  I raise all hands the same amount, varying only by position (we’ll discuss that more in another post).

With this backdrop, I hardly, if ever, slowplay aces.  In fact, if I’m the first player to enter the pot, I slowplay aces close to 0% of the time.  The only time I’ll “smooth-call” aces after a raise is 1) I am confident that, based on position and the size of the raise, no other players behind me will also call; or 2) I am in the first hour of an inexpensive re-buy tournament and I am therefore more willing to gamble and less concerned about a multi-way pot.

Here are the reasons I do not slowplay aces:

1) You are not hiding the strength of your hand nearly as much as you think.  Slowplayed aces are not that difficult to spot.  Here’s an example.  You’re 2 1/2 hours into a tournament and nursing a short stack of 5100 chips.  The blinds are 400/800 with a 50 unit ante.  This means that not only are you desperate for a double-up but, with only 3 trips around the table before you get blinded out, you also must steal blinds once in awhile just to stay alive and your table mates know it.  You get pocket aces in middle position.  If you call, and I am at your table, I know that you a) have AA or KK; or b) have no conception of tournament poker (when you are this short you have one move and one move only —  ALL IN!!).  I am not playing ANYTHING against you.  On the other hand, if you push all-in, I can put you on ANY pair, ANY ace, ANY two suited connectors, any two face cards, etc.  I will call you with a wide-range of hands assuming I have enough chips to gamble with.   By going against the grain, you gave away your hand.

2) You are now sleeping with the enemy — a multi-way pot with a hand most players cannot fold later on. I better explain that phrase!  Aces are extraordinarily difficult to fold later in the hand unless the texture of the board command it, such as a paired board (i.e., K-K-9-6-5) with two other opponents making large bets and raises, a double paired board (Q-Q-J-6-J) with a player playing it hard, or a board with 4 cards of one suit, and obviously a suit in which you do not hold an ace.   However, when you smooth call aces, you encourage a pot with up to 4-6 players.  In such a pot, while you have a better chance to win than any other single player, you are not a 50% or better “favorite” to win the hand.  Meaning, if you do not flop an ace, chances are someone will be beating you on even the most vanilla board (i.e., Q-10-6-5-2).  Someone is likely to have two pair.  Yet, you feel like your aces MUST be good, so you either call a bunch of big bets hoping your opponent has Q-K or, worse yet, you make the big bets and fall into your opponent’s trap.

3) You are more likely to get the big pot you are hoping for with a standard raise.  Big pots with pocket aces are typically won in the following ways:  a) Pre-flop all-ins vs. good players holding KK, QQ or, depending on the circumstances, JJ, TT and AK; b) Pre-flop all-ins vs. weak players holding any of the previous hands and other weaker hands like AQ, 99, or AJ suited; c) Pre-flop all-ins after raising with AA on the cut-off, the button or one of the blinds (a steal position often disrespected with a big re-raise with a marginal hand); d) Set of aces vs. weaker Set; OR e) post-flop all-in with AA over a weaker overpair (i.e., JJ on a 8-5-2 board) or AA over top pair strong kicker (i.e., K-Q on a Q-6-3 board).  These are a) a LOT of potential opportunities; and b) all situations where you got your chips in with a huge advantage.  Conversely, as discussed above, when you limp in and invite a lot of challengers, you really have no idea where you stand.

In conclusion, YES, sometimes when you raise aces, you pick up the blinds and nothing else, and YES, sometimes when you limp with aces, one opponent 4x raises you, another re-raises all-in, you get to 4-bet all-in and rake a huge pot, but in poker, it’s about playing the percentages.

Explore posts in the same categories: Poker Tips and Tales

3 Comments on “Thursday Poker Blog! Playing Pocket Aces”

  1. nodonk4u Says:

    Totally agree….

    2.5 x BB whether it is suited connectors or rockets.
    The only time I’ll limp with them is when I’m at a very aggressive table, and I am UTG – so I’m almost certain I’ll get raised, so that I can 3 bet.

    I am SO undisciplined in laying them down post flop, that I really want to get it all in pre-flop.

  2. For me the trouble with pocket aces is that I fail to see the building of a strait or flush on the community cards on the table. I mean it only takes three cards on the table to make a damn good case not to consider the option that you are going to loose with your superior pair. It usually can be told looking for ones betting style. My advice: go easy with the betting – they are not allmighty.

  3. Que dire de cette lecture qui ma veritablement subjugez … sublime ?

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