Is there more than one way to play pocket aces? The simple answer is yes. But I’m guessing your first thought might’ve been, “No, you should always raise when you’re dealt the best hand in no-limit hold’em.
But how much should you raise? It depends. And isn’t amazing how often that answer comes up when you’re discussing strategy?
It depends on what you have observed about the table. If you think a moderate raise, like three times the big blind, would be a good choice, then you have a problem because you’re likely to get a few callers. Aces against a large field are unlikely to win. It works out to about 30 percent if everyone sees the flop. But when it’s heads-up, it’s closer to 80 percent that you’ll prevail.
So, you have two choices. Go all-in and just pick up the blinds or bet an amount large enough to tempt one or two callers in hopes of building a bigger pot. Then, even if you’re up against pocket kings, you wind up being a 4-1 favorite before the flop.
Is there a time when you don’t want to raise preflop with A-A? Yes. When you’re playing in a low-limit game and there’s an Aces Cracked promotion. You want to lose. But that’s really a unique situation and not worthy of any further discussion.
Here’s a strange situation where it might be best to consider folding pocket aces. I was once one of six winners in an online tournament and the prize was a one-week cruise and an entry into a tournament. It was a $9K package.
After eight hours of play, we were down to the final seven players and I didn’t have enough chips to cover the blinds, which were coming around in just two more hands. The likelihood of being the “bubble boy” at 3 a.m. was a horrible feeling.
A player was dealt aces. He didn’t get the big picture. He limped (I have no idea why) and a player with the 8D-9D called. The flop came with an eight and two diamonds. The player with aces made a mid-size bet. The turn delivered another eight and the aces made a sizable wager. The three eights just called, hoping for a huge opportunity on the river. When a blank hit the board, the aces went all-in and eight-nine had him covered. One player out and I was in the final six. What a way to win a cruise.
— Willy Neuman is a prop player at Ft. McDowell Casino in Arizona in the winter, but plays at Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Ill., most of the year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.