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Pocket Aces - How To Play Them and How NOT to Play Them

Published September 26, 2008 - RSS/XML Feed RSS

By Sean Gibson


Having grinded the microstakes levels for the last nine months I’ve seen some good learning players play pocket aces in horrible fashion.  Some players just will not let go of them post flop even though an atomic bomb sized warning sign says to fold, while others will play them as passively as a Pollyanna.


Although many situations require different strategies, for the microstakes of online poker it should be very straightforward preflop.  It’s not much different than the local $1/$2 game at the casino where the chips usually fly all over the table.  For example, I recreated this hand that actually happened and shows how you really want to get your money in because the play is so loose.



This is just a strategy where I want to get my money in against bad loose live players and then avoid the bad beat and fist pump my way to the all you can eat buffet downstairs.  Easy right?  However life isn’t this nice all the time and you’ll find yourself winning only the blinds when you raise AA preflop and you have to be okay with that and not let the little value (this time) tilt you and play them passively the next time you get them.


Now let’s look at one of the worst played AA I’ve ever seen, thanks to the hand history of a friend that shared this hand with me.  We’ll watch the hand and then break down just how horrible the play was here by “Player 3â€.



Player 3’s first mistake was no raise preflop.  Ironically, this move made him money in just this hand but overall is the worst play he could have made.  The table wasn’t especially tight so this was a mandatory raise.  Instead he passively limps and only the big blind checks.  The flop is checked by the big blind and our AA player checks.  He had a big hand preflop and got no money in, and now on this board he checks behind.  It’s as if he is begging his aces to get cracked by garbage at this point.  With the villain having limp-checked our Hero throws out a modest $1 semi-bluff at the turn (he has 1 overcard and a gutshot) and instead of a raise (uh HELLO!) our AA just calls … again.  Sadly, our Hero’s luck turns bad as he hits one of his perceived “outs†and leads out with his top pair.  Now our AA player will hopefully throw in a raise at this point right?  No again!  He flats.  His passive and bad play was slightly rewarded with a pot (which should have been MUCH bigger)… this time.  In another hand, he’s simply playing with fire and either not getting even close to expected value for his hand or begging to get his AA cracked.


We do know that AA isn’t invincible and will be outflopped.   Here’s a great example of someone that couldn’t read what the board was telling him.



At a fairly solid table we have four way action and the flop comes 427 with two clubs.  Our AA player does make the right move of making a raise with position against the hero (for the wrong amount incidentally).  Our hero stacks off against the raise.  The villain is looking at his AA thinking they are just not beat in this situation.  He justifies to himself this must be some sort of flush draw or even a straight draw.  I mean, what else beats AA right?  Well against three other players you have to think that 44, 22, and 77 are all in their ranges and unless the villain is shoving an overpair (unlikely considering he’s a good solid player who has shown no history of shoving without the nuts) this just isn’t a great situation to have AA and shove if you’ve properly been paying attention to the opponent.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a really tough marginal laydown, but it’s an example of how AA can be beaten at the flop and reduced to a 2-outer underdog.


For those of you that play the 6max game you know it tends to be a bit looser in the preflop action than the standard full ring games.  Here’s a good example of playing aces at a loose table effectively.  Again, this is simple stuff and an example of someone with AA properly not over-thinking the situation.



Our hero knows in this hand that this is a LAG (loose aggressive) opponent that likes to bully people around.  The hero squeezes nicely from OOP (out of position) and we see the villain’s second min-raise preflop.  Our hero raises again sensing that the villain is absolutely overplaying his hand and won’t let it go … and sure enough he makes a horrible call with a very marginal/bad hand.


So what you should take away from this if you’re a microstakes player and somewhat new to the world of cash game poker is:


1. Don’t ever slow play your AA hand preflop.  At the 50 and 100nl levels there’s some merit in flatting a 4bet with AA and then shoving the flop, but more often than not you’ll get much better value by playing them aggressively (like the rest of your hands) preflop.


2. At the flop you have to consider your opponent’s range.  In a 4-way pot and all rags come with some really weird draws and you see one of them suddenly stack off, chances are your pair of aces isn’t any good anymore and you’re against a set … it’s just something to keep in mind so that you aren’t the guy that simply *never folds aces* and bemoans his/her bad beats. 


Check Sean's blog for updates on his poker journey at:

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