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Hold'em A to Z: A is for Aces

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This is the first article of a new series called Texas Hold’em A-Z. Each article will cover a topic relating to Texas Hold’em and there will be one for every letter of the alphabet from A to Z. Since I will start with the letter “A”, it’s only fitting that A is for Ace.

Pocket Aces
A pair of Aces is the most powerful starting hand in Texas Hold’em. The nickname for this hand is Pocket Rockets or American Airlines. No matter which name you prefer it is the most desired starting hand in the game. But don’t plan on seeing it too frequently. There are 1326 two cards combinations that can be made from a 52 card deck and there are 6 combinations for each pocket pair. 1326/6 = 221 so your odds of being dealt pocket aces, or any other pocket pair, are 220 to 1.

If you were playing a game of two card showdown, you pockets aces would win every time. However in Hold’em there are still five more community cards to come. Your pocket Aces will win about 80% of the time when you are heads up with just one player but will only win about 35% against ten players. Getting beat when you have pocket aces is known as getting your aces “Cracked.” For this reason you want to narrow the field when you have aces. You will do this by raising and re-raising the pot. Too many times a player will try to slow play their pocket Aces and just limp in with then allowing other players to get into the hand cheaply. They then get drawn out on and then complain about the bad beat they took. In reality it’s their own fault for not narrowing the field with a rasie. The other reason to raise is to get the most money in the pot for the times that your aces win. This swill make up for the times the hand does not hold up.

Pocket aces just about play themselves. You can play them from any position. There is not much thought involved, as the only decision you have to make pre-flop is whether or not to raise. Playing single aces need a little more thought.

Single Ace
Many players look down and see a single ace as one of their starting hands and get all excited. They think they have found a winning lottery ticket that they need only to bet tow cash in. This is partly due to the fact that you will only have an ace in your starting hand about 15 percent of the time. But a single as is not as strong as some players think it is. Many losing Hold’em make the mistake of playing a Single ace from Any Position. In my logbook I put the acronym SAP for this type of player and that is actually what many of them end up being when they play a single Ace.

If you are in a ten handed game and hold a single ace the probability that no one else holds an ace is about 25 percent. In other words, when you have an ace there is a 75 percent chance that someone else also has an ace as well. The second card that is with your ace is the kicker. When you play a single ace with a small kicker this is known as playing a weak ace. Playing a weak ace from early position is incorrect as you can be raised and re-raised. If you don’t flop an ace you will probably lose money. If there is another player in the hand who has a bigger kicker you will be a loser if an ace comes on the flop and your hand does not improve.

If you start with a single ace you will pair one or your cards on the flop about 32 percent of the time. Half of the time it will be your kicker rather than your ace. If you have a big kicker you will sometimes be better off matching your kicker on the flop. If it gives you top pair you will also have the top kicker to go with it.

As a good player you will not be playing a single from any position however there are many players, especially in low limit games, who will. If an ace flops and you don’t have one you have to be prepared to fold if you can’t beat a pair of aces or have a good drawing hand that can improve. We all know that sinking feeling when we rasie with pocket Queens and Jacks only to see an Ace fall on the flop. With a few Single Ace Players in the game we usually have to let it go and save money.

Laying Down Aces
It’s not only smaller pairs that you will need to lay down at times. Occasionally you will have to release your pocket Aces. If you have two black Aces and three hearts come on the flop, you are probably up against a flush if there is a bet and a raise. Many players refuse to lay down pocket Aces no matter what cards are on the board. A good player will accept defeat and toss the Pocket Rockets before it costs them more money. It’s not fun to dump a hand that only comes about every 220 hands or so but that’s what a winning player does.

Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever!"

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