Is there a better feeling during a poker game then peeling back your hole cards and seeing the fabled pocket aces? It's definitely up there. Despite the immediate rush most players receive from finding pocket aces it's actually a hand that gives players a lot of problems in terms of maximizing value. We'll take a closer look at the hand below and provide some of the basic odds involving pocket aces as well as some basic tips for playing the hand.
Pocket Aces Basics
Let’s get down to business.
Pocket aces are the strongest hand in poker and you’re always a favorite pre-flop. A pair of aces absolutely crushes premier pairs like pocket kings or queens and is essentially an 80% favorite against all other pocket pairs.
It sits at the very top of the five best hands in Hold’em, which also includes pocket kings, queens, jacks and ace-king.
Here's an overview of some of the notable percentages when it comes to pocket aces:
Interestingly middle pairs like pocket sevens and pocket sixes are slightly better because they have some straight outs against aces but those hands are really only a few percentage points better.
There is one premium hand that pocket aces absolutely dominates and that hand is ace-king. If the king in ace-king matches the suit of one of the pocket aces than the ace-king will win just 5.86% of the time. Any hand that has an ace against pocket aces is in huge trouble.
The very best hand against pocket aces is actually 8-7 suited because you get both straight and flush draws as well as the potential to backdoor trips or two pair. Still even the best hand against aces only wins 22.87% of the time.
Pocket aces are a very dominant hand pre-flop but keep in mind that 80% favorite isn’t unassailable. The numbers mean that aces get cracked roughly one out of five times. Still, you aren’t going to get much better odds than that in poker.
Of course you’ll get pocket aces roughly once in every 221 hands that you are dealt, which means it definitely won’t be profitable to wait for poker’s best hand.
Tips for Playing Pocket Aces
Let’s get one thing out of the way right away: You should be making money when you get pocket aces.
Players who discount aces because they either win a small pot or lose a big one have likely been hit by one too many bad beats.
The simplest strategy for when you get aces? Bet.
That’s obviously an oversimplification but it's quite common for new players to get tricky and attempt to trap their opponents by checking. This is one of the key ways that players get their aces cracked or just miss out on value. You want to be building a pot, not letting your opponent see free cards.
One of the main ways to make money on aces is to extract value from opponents who flop top-pair. You can also win big pots off pocket kings, pocket queens, pocket jacks and ace-king.
On the other hand pocket aces are a very strong hand in Hold’em but they are not unbeatable.
There are two key situations where the value of pocket aces starts to fade:
Being up against multiple players is a relatively easy problem to solve most of the time. Just raise enough that you’ll get a couple folds and isolate one opponent.
Occasionally this doesn’t work out and you’ll have to face three opponents but that shouldn’t change your strategy if the board is relatively safe.
The last thing you want is to face five other opponents as there’s an overwhelming chance that someone with a weaker hand pre-flop will have managed to hit something solid on the flop.
It’s for all the aforementioned reasons that you should generally never limp aces against multiple players. You want to get the money in the middle when you have the best hand.
The second issue — getting to dangerous flop — is more problematic. It can be very difficult to ascertain what your opponent has in these situations.
That said if you’re opponent has been calling your bets and a straight or flush hits on the turn or river then it might be time to let go of your bullets.
One tip that usually only works in games where all players are relatively new is to overbet your aces by going all-in or making a very large bet. You might be surprised by the number of players that call you.
Beware of Hidden Sets and Two-Pair
Because pocket aces are so rare it can be very hard to fold them but if your opponent has shown nothing but strength since the board paired, completed a straight or flush then you should indeed be concerned.
When the board gets scary it doesn’t necessarily mean you should fold but it also means you shouldn’t insta-call a 30X pot bet either. Be careful.
There is one more situation that players should always be aware of when they are playing pocket aces: The pesky set.
If a player calls with a marginal hand like pocket fives and manages to hit a pocket five on the flop than you could in for a world of hurt. In these situations you should be on the lookout for a check-raise that comes out of nowhere on a relatively safe board.
Two-pair can also function in the same way. Players with aces just need to be careful if their opponent is showing massive amounts of strength on on unconnected board.
One pro-tip for players who are just learning to play poker is to just bet a little bigger with pocket aces. It’s unfortunate when players fold pre-flop but it’s better than losing a huge flop.
Finally if no one is fighting back then you should just keep betting and making people pay to see another card.
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Odds Shark Staff Fri, Apr 29, 3:28pmPoker
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