Thursday, April 16, 2009

Should You Slowplay Pocket Aces?

The Countdown to the WSOP continues....

"I lose all the time with pocket Aces. I should just muck them!"
-the whine of many poker players

When I hear players saying they lose all the time with pocket Aces, I know that these players are doing something wrong.

Maybe they are playing too tentative and giving free cards.

Maybe they don't know how to lay down Aces when they have four opponents, the flop is 9-10-J suited, and they get raised on the turn when the 8 hits.

Maybe they have been spooked by the the expression that you will either win a small pot with Aces, or lose a big pot.

I don't know what it is, but let's see if we can improve the value of pocket Aces when you get them.

Pocket Aces Pre-flop
You are not going to get this hand too often in a tournament. When you do get them you want to maximize their value.

If it is early in the event, you need to determine how opponents are dealing with limps and raises. If everyone folds to a raise, then you may want to limp. But, if there are a lot of players limping pre-flop, you want to raise to narrow the number of opponents. You also need to assess your chip stack compared to the blinds and your opponents.

If it is the start of the WSOP where everyone gets $4,500, you want to raise. Why? Because you know players are going to be getting the right implied odds to call your raise. You may as well try to limit the competition.

If it is online and the start of an event, you may have only $1,500 and the levels may be $25-$50. You can raise if players are calling raises. Or, you can limp and hope to get only one or two callers. The one thing you will find online is that players are getting more aggressive, which would make me lean towards raising.

If it is online and the middle of the event, let's say with $200-$400 blinds and you have only $3,000 in chips, while most of your opponents have 20 times the big blind. Here, consider a call. Why? You need chips to win. You may as well take a chance and try to double up. Sure you may be knocked out, but take the risk. A raise should be all-in, and you may not get any callers. And, a raise to $1,200 looks fishy. Play weak and hope to get lucky.

Aces on the Flop

Let's say you limp and get four callers. If the flop is coordinated you want to keep the pot size small. If you get a lot of raising and re-raising, consider a fold. Your trap didn't work.

If you raise pre-flop and get one or two callers, you need to make a continuation bet. If you get resistance, you will need to assess the situation and decide the best play. Pros sometimes fold the winning hand. So don't be afraid to fold if you know or suspect your beat.

Again, you need to evaluate your opponents and how they play, their chips stacks, the betting action, and your own table image.


There is no right or wrong answer to whether you should slowplay pocket Aces. Sometimes I slowplay Aces and win a big pot, when a player calls with K-Q and the flop comes Queen high.

If you don't feel comfortable limping with Aces, don't do it. Just make sure you recognize the flop texture, the number of your opponents, and their and your own table images.

I love pocket Aces. I wish I was dealt pocket Aces every hand! I once was at the card club and was dealt pocket Aces five times in the space of 4 hours! That was huge. Four times I raised pre-flop and got no callers. The fifth time I re-raised an early position raise pre-flop--but my opponent folded. Oh well. I did end up taking down 2nd place at that event.

1 comment:

Mark Sweeney said...

With pocket Aces, How I play them also depends a lot on position, the size of the blinds and my chip stack: In first or early position with low/medium blinds, I always raise, otherwise nearly everyone will limp and your chances of winning with AA drop drastically.

With a big chip stack I can afford to slow play or semi slow play, depending on the number of players in the hand and position. With a short stack, it's going to be a bigger raise. The more limpers already in the hand, the bigger the raise to reduce pot odds for several callers.

However, when the blinds are getting much bigger (400/800+), then I consider smaller raises, as more players tend to play tighter.

If I'm on the button and no one has called, I'll consider slow playing, but with 4 or more players in the hand, I find AA to win only about 30% of the time.

What's Your Poker IQ?