There are countless books and articles written about Texas Hold’em. The majority of these contain at least some mention of how to play pocket aces. Since there has already been a lot written about this subject, I do not wish to write another article regurgitating the same stuff that has already been said a million times before. What would be the point? Instead, this article will give you a new and valuable piece of information that, to my knowledge, is found nowhere else.
Here is the most useful secret you will ever learn regarding pocket aces. Read the following sentence carefully, and commit it to a deep place in your memory.
When you are dealt pocket aces, you will either: WIN A LITTLE OR LOSE A LOT. Read that sentence again so you won’t forget it.
Most players rejoice when they discover they have a pair of aces. But they should temper their celebration. They should balance their feeling of elation with the knowledge that, when the hand is over, they will either have won a little or lost a lot.
Of course, it is good to have pocket aces. They are the best hand you can be dealt, and they assure that you have the best pre-flop hand at the table. But do not assume that you are a lock to win that pot. And do not ride those pocket aces all the way to the poorhouse.
Winning a huge pot with pocket aces is rare. The reason is because the pot is not likely to get big if no player can ever beat a pair. And if the pot does get big, then someone probably has a better hand than one pair. Sounds basic, doesn’t it? Yet most players never apply this most elementary reasoning.
The chance of being dealt a pair of aces in the hole is exactly 0.45%, or 220 to 1 against. That’s not a high likelihood, but it is high enough that over the course of several hours of play, you should see the hand more than once. Now, the odds of actually ending up winning the pot with pocket aces is about 2 to 1 in your favor. In other words, you figure to win about 67% of the time you hold a pair of aces. That’s all. That’s probably not as often as many players assume. The way most players act, they must think they are at least a 9 to 1 shot to take down that pot. Not so.
Actually, the situation is even worse than that. Remember our secret: win a little or lose a lot. When this is factored in, it is easy to see that if you win a little 67% of the time and lose a lot 33% of the time, you could easily come out a loser overall, depending on the relative size of the big pots versus the little pots. And this is precisely what happens with many players; truth be known, a lot of players actually come out behind playing pocket aces over the course of many games. Obviously, that is not what you want.
When you get dealt pocket aces, you are correct to feel good about it. After all, you have the best possible hand. And you should raise aggressively before the flop. But the reason to raise is not the reason most people think. The reason is not to get the most money into the pot. The reason is to get the most players out of the hand. There is an important distinction here. You must get the number of players down to two (maybe, three) going into the flop. If you fail to do that, your odds of winning the hand become minuscule.
True, you will win a little much more frequently than you will lose a lot. And played properly, pocket aces can be a huge winner for you through all your games. But the trick is to avoid those costly and devastating times when you lose a lot, a real lot.
Based on this factual way of thinking, here is how you should play pocket aces. Always look at the size of the pot. This is key. If the pot stays small (relative to the size of the game), good. In that case, you can figure you are likely to end up winning, so go ahead and place your value bets and play your aggressive game. If no one calls you, that’s fine. If, however, the pot starts getting big, then beware and pull back. You should figure that the bigger the pot, no matter how it got that way, the less likely you are to take it down. If the pot becomes huge, consider giving up the hand.
If you play pocket aces with this one simple guideline — based on the size of the pot — you will do well playing aces over the course of your poker career.
When you see a pair of aces in your hand, go ahead and feel good. You should be pleased because you have the best hand pre-flop. However, keep in mind throughout the hand that you are bound to either win a little or lose a lot. And play accordingly.
Timmor L. White is the founder and president of Online Poker Systems. He is active in the study and reporting of online-poker playing strategies. He has also developed a system to Cheat at Online Poker.