Poker > Poker Strategy > Pocket Aces AA

Playing Pocket Aces

For the Love of the Poker Gods, Don't Misplay Aces!

The following poker strategy article has been provided to us by Jason at Basement Project.  Jason is a freelance poker writer and can be reached at basementproject[at]hotmail.com.

One of the biggest mistakes low stakes players tend to make online is misplaying their pocket aces. It's actually amazing to see the wacky ways players ruin their rocket profit. Even more amazing is that none of them ever seem to learn- the same mistakes keep getting made at the tables over, and over, and over again. You're only going to be dealt aces once every 220 hands, so you need to know how to maximize the value you get from them when they come. Aces should, and will be your most profitable hand, if you learn how to play them properly, and avoid making the following mistakes.

1. Don't limp. Ever.

For some reason, online players love to limp aces preflop. This is possibly the worst line you can take with this hand in an unraised pot, for a couple different reasons. First off, you're letting way too many players into the pot extremely cheap- you're basically screaming, “hey guys, outdraw me with some weird hand!” To put it into perspective, if all 9 players at your table are allowed to limp in and see a flop, your aces are only a 34.5% favorite to win by the river. That means someone's going to beat your hand 65.5% of the time, if you let them. And by limping, you're letting them. Don't do it! Just raise. Don't be worried about the table folding around to you- it rarely ever happens. There will always be one or two fishy players to pay you off, at low stakes, and if you're lucky you'll end up against somebody holding AK, or KK. The second reason limping aces is horrible,  is that you lose control of the hand. When you have the best preflop holding possible, don't you think you deserve a bit of control?  You want to be able to control the action- if you're in late position at the table this is especially critical. Your main source of profit from aces as you move up in the ranks will result from deceptive postflop play, and it's hard to be deceptive, or play postflop at all for that matter, with 8 other players in the pot. To reiterate, RAISE YOUR ACES in unopened pots.

2. Learn when to cold-call a preflop raise, and when to 3-bet.

Many players, as mentioned above, will never raise aces preflop. As you now know, this is bad in unopened pots. But what about pots where somebody has already raised in front of you? Many beginners in this situation simply believe that since the pot has already grown fairly large because of the raise, they should just call. That's correct in certain situations, but not all. For instance, if you're playing against a player you know raises a ton of his hands, you can cold call for deception. Chances are a loose player will be firing a barrel on the flop regardless of what comes, and depending on the texture of the flop you can either call a bet to induce another bluff on the turn or check-raise right there to take down a decent sized pot. Against a player you know to be super-tight preflop, you should 3-bet. If he's raised the pot, you can be pretty sure he likes his hand, and at least wants see a flop. You might as well extract as much value as you can while you know you're ahead in this situation, so that when his AQ+ misses the flop and folds to your continuation bet, you take down a 30-40bb pot instead of an 8bb pot. If he's holding QQ or KK and misses the flop, a lot of the time he won't be able to get away from the hand, figuring he invested a lot preflop and deserves to win. AA vs. JJ+ showdowns are common online, and are a great source of profit at low stakes. Which brings us to our next point...

3. Learn to fold them postflop.

It may sound crazy, but aces aren't always going to win you pots. You need to learn to recognize boards on which you might be beat. For instance, if the board contains 4 suited cards (you hold none of the suit) by the turn and there are 3 players plus yourself in the pot, chances are pretty good that someone's got a flush. Likewise, if by the river the board comes 4 to a straight, and two players are betting very aggressively in front of you, you should consider folding. Paired boards are also dangerous. Not only could an opponent have hit trips, tripped broadways if you're playing a raised pot, but the doors are open for a full house to sneak your stack from under your feet. In situations like these, you want to avoid building a huge pot if you think there's even a slight chance your opponent could have hit the scary board. If there's aggressive betting going on, you want to evaluate rationally how likely it is your opponent hit a big hand. The possibility of ridiculous boards being dealt are an excellent example of why you want to raise aces preflop- at least with only one or two players in the pot, you can reasonably evaluate where you stand in the hand.

4. Remember- aces unimproved are still only one pair.

The best pair you can have sure, but don't overplay them. You've got to know when to play for stacks, and know when to fold as well.