Thursday 1 August 2013

Playing Pocket Aces in No Limit Hold’em by Joseph Falchetti

While getting dealt AA sends a rush down most players’ spines, getting dealt AA is a double edged sword. How one plays the best hand in poker is entirely up for discussion. Some opt to play more clandestine and trap their opponents later while others like to come out guns blazing.

In this article, we will look at the different ways to play “Pocket Rockets” in No Limit Hold’em, and some key factors players cannot forget about when playing aces.


Aces are best against playing heads-up or preferably three handed. AA’s odds diminish rapidly as more players enter the pot.

Hard Numbers

Aces are around an 80% favorite depending on suits against any other pocket pair heads-up. Things get worse for hands like Aces and other high pocket pairs when there are a large number of players seeing the flop. Hands like suited connectors go up in value tremendously as players look to hit that perfect flop for a monster pot.

Pre-Flop Position and Game Factors

Depending on the play of the game and the position, players can decide to play aces a number of different ways. Most players would advocate offering up a healthy raise if you are acting UTG, but that may not be necessary if the game is loose and aggressive with players raising often pre-flop.

This gives the player with AA a chance to limp in early position, and then re-raise when the action swings back around to him. The player holding AA can then isolate the raiser(s) and hopefully extract a little dead money as he thins the field for the flop.

This is an ideal way to play Aces, but it does not always work out that way. Many games are limp fests and players will happily limp without raising the field to take a large number of players to the flop. In these passive loose games, it is imperative that players open AA in early position with a strong raise. It does not necessarily need to be bigger than your standard opening raise, but if the game is crazy loose and full of poor players who hate folding, it is reasonable to make the amount higher.

Also, the amount of limpers in the pot is a decisive factor in how much you should make your raise, as well. The standard rule is to normally add 1-2 BBs for each limper in the pot. It is vital to factor in how many players you think will call your raise and adjust accordingly. You are trying to thin the field while also making them pay a premium price to see the flop with their weaker hands. Players will be shocked at some of the calls people will make with junk hands.

Now the reverse, say your game is extremely passive and players are regularly folding to the blinds, and there is plenty of folding. No one has even limped into the hand; the action comes to you with AA? Do you limp or open raise?

Since the game is quite passive, limping is fine here, but raising certainly would not be a mistake. Limping will likely still guarantee you a small field of players, and if one of them raises you, you could make the decision to re-raise or simply call the bet and see the flop.

Also, position is still important when playing AA, just like it would be in every other hand. Even though you have the best possible pre-flop hand, your position should determine how much you raise and how you decide to play your aces both pre and post-flop.

Table Image and Player Reads

Your table image should be an influential factor in how you decide to play your Aces. Have you been raising a lot and splashing around in a lot of pots? Do the players at your table know your style of play or have your stats overlaid on the table?

Knowing how well your opponents know your game is as indispensable as your reads on what they might have. If you are a tight player, it might be harder to get away with raising too large pre-flop without giving away your hand. If you have a tilty image or have just had a lot of good cards that day, it might be easier for you to coax out some more calls.

Post-Flop Play

Pre-Flop is the easy part of playing pocket aces. What separates the best players from the average or losing players is the ability to play well with aces post-flop.

Playing AA is not an exact science, but there are some key things to think about when playing the hand post-flop. Sure, you’ll win some large pots with aces, but you will also win some small pots and lose some gargantuan ones.

After all, if you are behind when the flop hits, you have little chance to improve, aside from at best two other aces or perhaps hitting a rather obvious flush. When the pot gets large, and you only have one pair, it is likely time to fold. Of course, this depends on the read you have on your opponent, but for the most part going broke with one pair is a terrible idea, even if it is the best pair.

If the board is paired or there is a potential flush and money is coming into the pot or you are facing aggression, again, you’re likely beaten. Of course, if the board is dry and uncoordinated, it is tougher to get away from aces, but against tight opponents it is quite hard to put a lot of money in with the marginal hand of just one pair.

Stack size is probably the most crucial factor when deciding how to play a hand with aces post-flop. When a player sits down with 100 big blinds or fewer, he essentially has no decision on how to play his aces pre-flop and for the most part post-flop. If the board is non-threatening, then his stack is going in the center of the table the vast majority of the time.

However, that scenario changes a lot when players are 200-300 BB deep. Now, a mistake with aces could cost a player a massive stack of chips. This is where post-flop play becomes especially dangerous with aces. Keeping your hand value in perspective post-flop is extremely important.

You do not need to get too aggressive if you do not have anything just because you were dealt aces pre-flop. It is not your duty to bet big with aces. Sure, if you hit then make your opponents pay, but do not get in over your head with a marginal hand on a scary board.

Finals Thoughts

There’s a reason why aces draw the ire of so many players while simultaneously giving them the dreams of winning a massive pot. It is because players can make some of their biggest mistakes while playing with pocket aces, but they can also hit it big.

No Limit Hold’em is especially cutthroat, where one big mistake can cost a player his entire stack. Understanding how to play aces effectively in NLHE can make you one of the best players in your games while playing them poorly can seriously cut into your win rate.

About the Author:
Joseph Falchetti is a professional poker player and gambling writer. Skilled in both cash games and tournaments, Joe also has an excellent knowledge of the ins and outs of the online poker industry. He has been published by and has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics. Joe resides in Pittsburgh, PA where he can found at the local poker room or spending time with his fiancee and dogs.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Playing Pocket Aces in Limit Hold’em by Joseph Falchetti

Pocket aces, the best starting hand in Texas Hold’em can be played a variety of different ways. In this article, we’ll go over the things players need to know when playing AA in Limit Hold’em. The strategy in Limit Hold’em differs wildly from its no-limit counterpart and so does the optimal way to play AA.

Limit Hold’em is not simply a game of stringing bets together when you think you have a strong hand. Instead, the game is much deeper on some levels than No Limit Hold’em and has been called by many of poker’s top players as the tougher game.

A Game of Small Edges

Unlike NLHE, Limit Hold’em is a game of small edges, one that you can punish your opponent by making him put in more bets with a worse hand. Many expert no-limit players hold large edges over the worse players in their games. While profitable LHE players also hold considerable over their opponents, the edges are a lot smaller due to the nature of LHE and the number of hands that go to showdown. Fold equity is normally lower in the game and players are often involved in more pots and more players see the flop.

LHE players have all been in games that nearly everyone sees the flop and where the action is crazy loose. This does not bode well for your aces as the more players that see the flop, and the worse your odds are to win with AA.

You Can “Protect” Your Hand

Many poker players scoff at limit poker and insist that, “You cannot protect your hand!” and constantly complain about suckouts. This could not be further from the truth. While aces are just a 30% favorite against all other hands if we played out a single hang out from flop to the river, this does not tell the whole story. 

Yes, you will lose with aces more than two-thirds of the time, but that does not mean you will not be making a profit off the hand. Every player is profitable long term with aces, and while you will lose often with the hand against a large field of players – the amount of bets you make in the hands you win will more make up for your losses. Your overall net should be quite high with aces, and if it isn’t you are doing something seriously wrong.


The vast majority of LHE games have a four bet max pre-flop betting limit. Normally, the betting is “capped” when the fourth bet or raise is put in, and the betting cannot be pushed any higher during that street. However, this normally changes when the betting is heads-up. Players can then bet and raise an unlimited amount of times or until one of their stacks is gone, and they are all-in.

There is not too much to say about the basics of playing aces pre-flop in Limit Hold’em other than to get as many bets into the pot as you can. Always open raise with aces and do not limp, and if it comes back to you reraise or cap the betting if possible. Building a large pot makes it more beneficial for others to join the hand and to draw at later streets, but when you take down the pot it also helps you take home a sizeable profit.

With aces,  we prefer 1-2 opponents rather than 3 or more, but we cannot stop them from entering the hand. So, we have to charge them as much as we can to enter the pot with their worse holdings.


Again, for the most part, if you have aces and you feel like your hand is the best you should be betting and raising. This does not mean you throw out your poker knowledge and reads because you have the best hand and simply blindly bet and raise. Use your own judgment, look at the board for possible draws and still try to figure your opponents range.

Experienced LHE players know that betting is not always the proper move, even if they feel they have the best hand. If you think your opponent has nothing and missed his draw, then you should still check to him on the river. Your mindset should not change just because you hold pocket rockets.

Pots in LHE can get big quickly if there is a lot of betting and raising, which can make folding a mistake even if you are almost certain your aces are beat. Sure, if there is a lot of betting action back and forth between other players in later streets and you only hold your pair of AA unimproved, then you must fold.

However, even if you think are you are beat, trying to make it to showdown is normally a smart idea in a large or even medium sized pot. For one, your opponent could be on a bluff. The board could also counterfeit a hand that has currently has you beat, such as two pair or you could end up drawing out on him. While your chances are slim to draw out or win at showdown in many cases, it helps make the decision to continue a lot easier if the post is large. 

This advice is appropriate for any hand in LHE, not just pocket aces. If the pot is large and it is relatively easy to get to showdown in the later streets, it is probably worth sticking around till showdown. Folding a winner in those situations is a much worse mistake than paying a few extra bets in a large pot but losing.

Slow Playing (Sort of)

There are few times players will want to slow play their aces in LHE, either pre-flop or post-flop. When a player hits a set on the flop with AA in a large multi-way pot, there is no better feeling. Most of the time, you will take home a sizeable pot in this situation and your best strategy is just to bet and raise as much as possible.

A situation where you might want to cool your jets is when you’re out of position or heads-up against someone whom you think missed the flop completely. Checking in front of or behind a dry flop is fine in some situations, even if you have hit a monster hand like a set, particularly in heads-up situations. Especially, if your opponent is aggressive and you think they might stab at the pot if you they think you are weak. You can then raise them once they bet. If they had nothing, and were just looking to bluff, then you have gained a bet you otherwise would not have gotten if you had just bet into your opponent.

During the pre-flop betting round, higher level players have mixed up their games and have started to not cap aces pre-flop in heads-up pots. The reason for doing this is to add some deception to your hand. If you do not cap pre-flop, your opponent certainly cannot put you on aces.

This works especially well if he has a highly ranking second best hand such as KK or QQ. If by chance you both hit your set, there would be no reason for your opponent to suspect that you have aces, and with a second best set, he may put in a large number of bets in without the slightest inking that he might be behind. This move sacrifices an initial bet pre-flop but can earn the bettor several larger bets (or more) at later streets.

Final Thoughts

Playing AA in Limit Hold’em is not a complicated process by any stretch. Getting the most bets into the pot while ahead is the goal for the most part, but players still need to think logically about the game and not just bet blindly without thinking about other factors.

About the Author:
Joseph Falchetti is a professional poker player and gambling writer. Skilled in both cash games and tournaments, Joe also has an excellent knowledge of the ins and outs of the online poker industry. He has been published by and has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics. Joe resides in Pittsburgh, PA where he can found at the local poker room or spending time with his fiancee and dogs.

Friday 14 June 2013

Playing Pocket Aces in Tournaments by Frank Deesing

When you look down and see a monster hand like pocket aces, the main goal that you should have is to get your whole stack in the pot still having the best hand, and double up. Whether this occurs early on in a tournament or late in a tournament, it is important that you know what your main goal will be. To achieve this goal you need to first examine what stage of the tournament you are playing.

Early Stage

During the early stage of the tournament, you should be more cautious, but also look to build up a nice pot for yourself. During the early portion of the tournament many players overplay big hands like AA, and lose big pots because of it. Ideally, you always want to play small ball poker with AA early on unless your table dictates a different speed. It really depends on if you are seated at a fast paced table or a slow table.

If you are seated at a fast paced table where action is wild early on, you should look to play bigger pots pre-flop and try to get all the money in by the turn. If you are seated at a weaker table with a lot of tight players, it is difficult to extract value with AA early on, and you may have to limp into pots just to build up a worthwhile pot for yourself. Also, when you limp AA you are greatly disguising the strength of your hand, and it could cause even a tight player to bluff more than once at you. If that occurs then you are doing a good job playing AA at a tight table.

Middle Stage

When the middle stage of a poker tournament approaches, you will always want to raise pre-flop with aces, and hopefully get three bet. Almost never is it correct to limp in before the flop with a hand that big. The reason that it is not correct to limp is because the blinds are now worth stealing, and a miss step by your opponent can result in a massive chip gain for you. When the pots start to inflate before the flop, you can take down big pots with AA. The best way to achieve this success is by playing a wider selection of other hands before the flop. If you are an aggressive player and get categorized that way by your table, you will be able to win bigger pots with AA when you get them simply because of your table image. Your table image during the middle stage of a tournament may be the difference between you doubling up with AA or just winning the blinds.

Final Stage

The last and final stage of a poker tournament is after the money bubble and when you grind down to the final table. This stage of a poker tournament is the most important time to play AA correctly. When you get dealt AA after the money bubble, you should know your table very well by this point in time or at least have a good idea who is capable of making moves. If you are seated at an aggressive table or passive table should cross your mind, and what position at the table as well as chip stack should also be in your mind. If you have a massive stack later in the tournament you should always open the pot for a small raise before the flop. Most times you will get short stacks to shove at you and you can pad your chip lead.

If you have a short stack, your decision is difficult because most times you should just shove AA, but other times you can limp or min raise. It really depends on your image and position at the table with what the best play is with AA. If you are in early position, it may be best to limp and see what develops. If you are in middle position, the best play can be to min raise or shove, and in late position you should trend more towards a shove. Position and table image are everything late in tournaments with a short stack. If you can manage to have a loose reputation a good majority of the time, you will get called by weaker hands and double up.

Frank DeesingFrank Deesing is a 23 year old poker player who has battled through numerous online and live poker tournaments. His main successes have been whilst playing online poker tournaments under the name frankiebabs on Absolute Poker back in 2010. As well as pre-black friday on Full Tilt Poker under the name HIPPPPPHOOOOO.