A pair of Aces in No Limit Texas Holdem is the best possible starting hand. Before the flop you are 80% favorite against the individual holdings of your opponents.
So why do so many new players get into trouble playing Ace / Ace? This article looks at three important factors in playing any poker hand and highlights ways of thinking about the situation to avoid going broke with that pair of aces.
1) Number Of Opponents In The Hand.
While you are typically 80% favorite against a single opponent before the flop when holding a pair of aces this number falls dramatically as more opponents are added. We will look at this for 4 opponents with various holdings to see how the number falls:
- 1 Opponent Holding KK - You are 82% favorite.
- Add 2nd Opponent with 78 suited - You are now 62% favorite
- Add 3rd Opponent with 55 - You are now 51% favorite
- Add 4th Opponent with JQ - You now win only 43% of the time.
So by adding more opponents you go from a strong favorite to win the hand to an actual underdog! The message here is clear:
* A Pair Of Aces Performs Best Against A Small Number Of Opponents Holding High Pairs. *
You should play that pair of aces in such a way as to minimise the number of opponents, this is usually achieved by putting in a good size raise before the flop. Many new players like to limp aces and hope to trap opponents later in the hand. This is often a big mistake and should only be attempted when you are very sure that someone yet to act will raise - allowing you to then re-raise to isolate them. Limping aces only to find yourself playing against 4 opponents is an easy way to go broke!
2) The Texture Of The Flop
Imagine the scenario where you raised with your aces pre-flop and got 2 callers. You are still a healthy favorite to win the pot but caution is still required. The key skill here is to analyze the 'texture' of the flop and adjust your betting correctly, some examples are below.
- Flop comes 7-8-9 of Hearts, you do not hold the ace of hearts. This is a dangerous flop, if it did not hit one of your opponents then they may have a draw to the straight or a flush.
- Flop comes 2-8-Q with 3 suits. This is a very safe looking flop for you with very few draws.
- Flop comes A-10-J, with 2 suited cards. This is a good flop but still contains dangers, since many people like to play high cards and suited cards someone could be drawing to a straight or flush. Fortunately if the board pairs on the turn or river you will have a full house.
The key with Aces is to bet enough to make sure that opponents with draws to not get the right price to call, yet not so much that would make any worse hands fold and get called by hands that beat you.
Using the 7-8-9 hearts flop as an example, if you go all-in on this flop you will mostly be called by flushes and straights but will get hands like K-9 or 10-10 to fold. Instead bet an amount that will be called by those hands you beat but deny the correct odds for people to draw... if they call with a straight draw anyway they will then be making an error which costs them money in the long run - regardless of the outcome of this particular hand!
Reads On Your Opponents
Reads on your opponents are as important a skill in No Limit Texas Holdem as choosing the right hands to play. With Aces this becomes even more important. Take the following scenario: You raise pre-flop and get 2 callers, the flop comes 8-9-K with 3 suits. You bet the size of the pot and get re-raised all-in by one of your opponents...
What to do?
This depends entirely on your opponent. Against the 'average' opponent in the lower-limit online Texas Holdem games you have an easy call. Ask yourself this question - what hands would this opponent re-raise all-in here? Some particularly tight or passive opponents would only ever raise 2-pairs or trips here. Other opponents may be raising with a straight draw.
All-in re-raises on the flop should not be a common sight in online texas holdem games - make sure that when this happens you make a note of what people are doing it with... it could make you a lot of money in situations like the one above (or sometimes even save you your entire stack!!).