Few reactions at a poker table are more humorous to me than the reaction of someone who loses with a pair of Aces. The reaction of a recreational player who somehow lost with the best possible starting hand is priceless. It’s often classic meltdown theatre.
Two things I have to remember about two aces in any Texas hold’em game:
- At a full table two aces win roughly one-third of the time. So for every three times you are dealt pocket aces, you should LOSE with them twice.
- The reason is because pocket aces are just ONE PAIR.
The second point is the one that is often lost on recreational players. One pair is the second lowest winning hand in poker, ahead of only high card.
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Four of a kind (Quads)
- Full House
- Three of a kind (Set)
- Two pair
- One pair
- High card
Of the top six winning hands, five of them use all five cards, while the other one uses four cards. That’s because the more cards used to make a winning hand (not counting a kicker), the more likely the hand is going to win. Pocket Aces — any pair for that matter — is a two-card hand. And, two-card hands are easy to beat.
The main reason players get upset about losing with a pair of Aces is the player struggles to fold the hand after the flop, regardless of the texture of the board. Recreational players get locked into their hand.
Here are five scenarios and my thought process. In each scenario I am holding:
In each scenario, I raised preflop because I am holding pocket aces. No one re-raised me.
Scenario #1, two players called my late-position raise in a $2-5 NL game. The flop is:
Player A leads out for the size of the pot, player B folds. It is my turn to act. I like this flop. Anyone holding a king and made top pair, but is still beat. Even if we are out flopped (K-J, J-J, 2-2 being the most likely) we have a redraw to the top flush. I am likely just calling Players A’s bet because the board doesn’t scare me and I want to disguise by pocket Aces and redraw until I make a raise (or bet) on the turn.
Scenario #2, in a $2-4 limit game six players called my early-position raise preflop. The flop is:
Our dream flop in a low-limit game. I flopped a full house. Since this is low limit, there is a good likelihood that the case Ace is in one of the other hands. That player is drawing dead, but will be unable to release their hand because of the low bet amounts. Any player holding a four has made trip fours, but is drawing dead to the case four. There is also two straight card and two flush cards on this flop. Low limit players love draws like this, and they have no idea they are drawing thin-to-dead. I like this flop and I am going to happily pound away and get as many bets in the pot as possible.
Scenario #3, three other players called my raise preflop in a $1-2 NL game. I continuation bet the flop, and the other three players all call. On the turn, the the board is:
My hand is in bad shape. It would make sense that anyone calling a flop bet was probably drawing to a straight or a flush. On the turn, both scenarios picked up a card that helps. With the Aces of spades I have a redraw to the top flush. The questions is whether I am getting the right price to call. The pot is $30. On the turn, Player A bets out $30, Player B folds, Player C raises to $100. I have $120 left in our stack. It is going to cost us 83 percent of my remaining stack to call. It is almost a given I have to hit a spade to win, and there are nine spades left in the deck (not counting our Aces and the three on the board). However, I have to discount that 9 of spades and the 4 of spades, and both those cards make a possible straight flush. That leaves seven likely winning cards. I don’t want to leave myself with just $20 left if I miss the spade, so I am folding pocket aces.
Scenario #4, in a $3-6 limit game, five of us take the flop. The board eventually runs out:
I am beat. I was probably beat on the flop. The classic mistake a recreational $3-6 player makes here is calling on the flop, the turn and the river, losing an additional $15 along the way. Low-limit players tend to “announce” their holdings by leading out with bets or check-raising. The bettor here leads out into your raise, representing a King. I cannot beat three kings in this scenario. There is no reason to call after the flop, the turn or the river. The hands I cannot beat after the river: 10-10, K-K, Q-Q, K-10, Q-10, A-J, any K-x, any Q-x, any two clubs. There are dozens of hands I cannot beat with my A-A. It’s an easy fold during any street of this hand.
Scenario #5, I am heads up with one player in a $1-2 NL game. I bet the flop and he check-called. I bet the turn, and he check-called. On the river, he leads out for a pot-sized bet. The board is:
Although I am likely to be ahead on the flop and the turn, especially when our opponent was check-calling, I am probably not ahead after the river. Check-calling is a sign of someone drawing to a hand. Not only did four to a flush come on the river, but three to a straight. I am holding the wrong Ace here, as the Ace of diamonds would be a winner. This is a fold.
Aces are a great starting hand. Often times they can win big pots. But don’t get discouraged if you lose with them. They are just one pair, and like any other hand in poker (save for a Royal flush), they can be beaten.