Pocket Aces – How To Play It To Boost Your Winnings
Pocket Aces – How To Play It To Boost Your Winnings
Image from Pixabay
Even if you’re entirely new to Texas Hold’em, one of the first things you learn is how awesome it is to be dealt pocket aces.
It is the absolute powerhouse of Hold’em, the best possible starting hand, and you should always be more than happy to get all your chips in the middle pre-flop when holding pocket aces.
This is all nice in theory, but it starts to crumble after you lose a few times to someone just gambling it up with 8-9 (they were suited, of course) or to pocket kings hitting their set on the river.
You will have it happen to you much more than a few times. That’s just how poker work, and there is no way to avoid it.
However, you might start wondering maybe there is a better way to play pocket aces? Perhaps you should be able to fold them preflop now and then after all?
If you have these and other similar doubts about how to play pocket aces, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will tell you all you need to know about the best possible starting hand in Hold’em, including when you might be right to fold them even before the flop without any regrets.
Odds Of Being Dealt Pocket Aces
First thing first, let’s talk about the odds of being dealt pocket aces in the first place. Unless you’re a fortunate person who hasn’t been playing poker for too long, you’ve probably noticed that this particular hand doesn’t make an appearance nearly as often as you’d like it to see.
You’ve probably gone through entire tournaments without ever seeing that beautiful AA in the hole.
It’s normal to feel you’re out of luck on such occasions, but what is the actual math?
Well, in Hold’em, the odds of getting dealt any pocket pair (22 – AA) is right around 6%, so you can expect to have some pocket pair once every 17 hands or so. That’s not that bad, right?
However, the odds of pocket aces are much lower than that. There are 1,326 total combinations of all starting poker hands in Texas Hold’em, and any particular pocket pair makes up just 6 of those combos.
So, the odds of being dealt pocket aces are 6 in 1,326 or 1 in 221. That comes out at just under 0.5%.
So, to sum it up, you don’t get pocket aces all that often so you want to make most out of them when you do.
However, many players, especially those new to the game, struggle with this part as they’re not sure how to play pocket aces correctly and how to adjust there strategy based on the number of players involved in the hand.
How Strong Are Pocket Aces?
There is no doubt that pocket aces are the best starting hand in Hold’em. They’ll beat any other hand straight up preflop, so that’s not up for debate.
But you might seem to lose too often, right? So what is the deal?
Well, first of all, they don’t lose nearly as often as you may think with pocket aces.
One of the big problems with pocket aces is that you’ll tend to remember all those times you got your money in good and lost. When you win with them, it’s not a particularly momentous event because you were supposed to win.
If you look at the database from poker software of any player out there, good or bad, if there are enough hands in that database (even only a few thousand), you’ll struggle to find a single example of pocket aces being a losing hand.
They’re that strong that it’s quite hard to find a way to mess up so bad that you ruin their equity entirely. That’s all talk, of course. How about some actual numbers.
Well, against any random hand, you’ll be an 85% favorite, so you’ll win 8.5 out of every 10 hands on average.
Of course, you can still lose with them five times in a row (and it’ll probably going to hurt), but the numbers in poker tend to even out in the long run.
However, you’re not going to be all-in before the flop against a random hand very often. So, instead, here are some realistic odds of winning with pocket aces:
- Premium pairs (KK, QQ, JJ..)
- Odds of winning with Pocket Aces
Against all of these hands, you’ll be a handsome favorite when you’re dealt pocket aces. But what do you think is the best hand you could have against aces? If you knew your opponent had rockets and you still had to play them for stacks, what would be your best option?
The best hand against pocket aces is 78s, where no suit is covered by the ace.
Against this particular holding, aces are “only” around 77% favorite, which is quite low when compared to other premiums. The reason for this is that this particular combo gives you most options to win – all trips, two pairs, and flushes, but also all possible straights.
There is no single potential hand that aces block in any way, shape, or form when you’re holding 78s.
Of course, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to go up against big hands with your middling suited connectors. You’re still going to lose a majority of the time, but it’s the best worst-case scenario you can get into.
Pocket Aces in Multiway Pots – Should You Ever Fold Pre?
Most players do quickly get their heads wrapped around heads up pots against a single opponent. However, have you considered how to play pocket aces in a multi-way scenario? Does this change things, and should you ever consider folding them if there is simply too much “heat” going on?
Imagine the following scenario in a 6-max game (as unlikely as it may be). You’re in the big blind and get dealt pocket aces. Sweet, right? UTG player moves all in, then the UTG+1 looks at their hand and call, then the UTG+2 also put all of his money in the middle, etc. By the time the action gets to you, there are five players all-in.
I’ve often heard arguments that you should fold aces here because “there is no way you’ll win against that many players.” And, yes, you’re an underdog against the entire table, but not as big of an underdog as you might think. However, you’re still a favorite against every individual player.
This is where you should stop looking at the hand alone and start thinking in terms of how much you stand to win.
Your actual odds of winning with pocket aces will still be quite high, at around 48%, as you can see from the table, and you’ll have a shot at a much bigger pot.
For example, if everyone in front of you only put $1 into the pot and you had to put in $50 to call, there is no way you should call. You won’t win nearly often enough to make that profitable.
But, if everyone has the same amount as you (or close to it), then it’s an entirely different situation. Yes, you won’t win nearly as often as in a heads up pot, but every time you do win, you’ll win five times more.
Let’s do some quick math assuming all players start with $100 stacks.
- Against a single player with a random hand, you win 85% of the time, which equates to an $85 profit.
- Against five players with hands from the example, you’ll win 48% of the time. However, they put $100 each, so that’s 48% of $500, i.e., $240
If you were given infinite money and infinite time, you’d probably want to replay the second scenario over and over. It’s just more money per hand.
Of course, with so many players involved, you can expect the variance to do its thing, so you’d need a decent poker bankroll, but that’s not a realistic scenario.
It is just an example to illustrate that the number of players involved in a hand preflop doesn’t change how to play pocket aces.
If you can be all-in before the flop is dealt, you shouldn’t care about anything else. It will always be a profitable decision in a standard cash game or tournament setup. However, there might be some exceptions.
When Can You Fold Pocket Aces?
One of the best things about poker is that it’s such a situational game. Even some of the most basic and common-sense Texas Holdem strategies can go out of the window in specific scenarios.
When it comes to folding pocket aces, these scenarios are rare, but they exist.
Satellites are an exceptional type of tournaments where a certain number of participants are given the same prize, usually entry to a bigger event.
For example, you could have 200 participants in the event that awards the top 10 finishers with a $200 tournament entry.
A lot of the time, you should be using a different strategy in satellites.
You’re not looking to accumulate all the chips because there is absolutely no difference between finishing first and tenth.
In fact, it’s not even possible to finish first because once there are ten people left in the tournament, it will be over. There’s nothing left to play for.
Because of this structure, folding pocket aces in a satellite can someone be the correct decision even if it’s not the right play in terms of chips alone.
In the above scenario, if you had the stack of 200,000 with 11 people left and there were three other players with 20,000 stacks (and blinds being 2,000/4,000), you should be looking to avoid confrontation at all costs.
If a player who has you covered opens the action, you should probably fold your pocket aces rather than risking playing a huge pot that could cost you the tournament.
Remember, you get a very little extra if you win 200k chips more. Sure, you’ll be basically guaranteed to win the ticket, but you already are as long as you stay out of the harm’s way.
People tend to give too much significance to min-cashing tournaments, even to the point where they’ll advocate folding all hands when the bubble is near to make sure you get in the money.
Folding till the money is definitely a wrong approach as you always want to play for the first place, and you won’t get there by folding pocket aces.
It is exactly the stage where you should be playing aggressively and taking advantage of other players’ reluctance to go out, so you should be playing much wider ranges than just your premium hands preflop.
That said, there might be a couple of exceptions.
The first one would be where you’re a really short stack (one or two big blinds), so doubling up doesn’t change your situation much, and the bubble is very close.
If you only need to outlast a couple of players in a big-field MTT to make the money and your stack is severely crippled, you might consider folding aces.
You’re probably still supposed to play for the win as people have made comebacks from super short stacks and went on to win tournaments. But odds of that happening are very slim when you’re done to your last blind, so if you have a few hands to try and wait it out, it might be worth it.
The second scenario is if you somehow qualify for a tournament with a really big buy-in. Maybe it was a promotion of some kind, or you just got fortunate playing steps from $0.10 onwards and there you are.
You’re playing in a $10,000 buy-in event surrounded by professionals, and you’re just one spot away from the bubble. The min-cash is $15,000.
image from pokernews.com
From the poker theory perspective, you should play for the win. However, if you regularly play tournaments with an average buy-in of $5 and your bankroll is just a few hundreds, folding every single hand to make sure you cash makes perfect sense.
You make it past the bubble, you’ve already won; anything beyond that is a bonus!
Summary: Play Your Pocket Aces Right
There you have it – your guide to everything you should know about the big daddy of Hold’em hands, from odds of pocket aces to how to play them in different scenarios.
Hopefully, after reading this article, all your doubts have been removed about how you should approach pocket aces. Before the flop, you should simply always look for ways to get all your chips in the middle with very few rare exceptions.
The final word of advice is that you shouldn’t focus on short-term results.
Concentrating on decision making and improving your game should be the cornerstone of your poker training, and the results will naturally come.
The fact you had lost the last three or four times with pocket aces is irrelevant. It’s not any kind of indicator of what will happen the next time you get them.
Play your aces in the right way, and don’t delve on the past. As long as you do that and play enough hands, this will be your biggest winning hand in poker by far – that is guaranteed!