It is always nice to look down at your cards and see that first “A” followed up with a second “A”. You have the best starting hand in poker, and you’re going to win everyone’s chips at the table right? Not so fast. Playing pocket aces can be fun, and it can also be very tough. You want to maximize the amount of money you can get in the hand, but also want to make sure that you don’t get it in behind either, or get in too much money post flop when you are behind. There is a bit of technique behind playing pocket aces, and it does vary a bit by game.
The first thing to do is raise it up some. Nothing too crazy, but raise it maybe 2 times or 3 times the size of the big blind (if no one has raised before you). If someone has raised before you, I would re-raise in a cash game. In cash games, the re-raise isn’t likely to get the original raiser to fold most of the time, as long as it isn’t a monster raise. The next thing to remember is to read the flop, obviously if an ace comes on the flop, it’s time to start moving towards getting that money in there. Especially if it’s an incredibly dry flop. If the flop comes with all diamonds and you hit a set, I’d still be betting fairly big, hoping to push the other player off of a diamond even if he or she has one. A lot of it depends on how the betting goes, but if your opponent is betting at you hard, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get a good amount of money into the middle either pre-flop or after the flop.
An important thing to remember is to be able to fold pocket aces. It may sound crazy to some, but you have to have a feeling for when you’re beat. If the turn card comes with a board showing 8d 9h 10h Jd and you have aces and your opponent is betting at you hard; it’s time to let it go. Don’t give away free money even with aces, just because you get dealt pocket aces doesn’t mean you are going to win the hand every time.
Playing pocket aces in a tournament is a bit different than in a cash game. Tournament play is typically a lot tighter than cash game play is, and if one player raises, you’ll typically be heads up after the flop; or against 2 other players at most normally. If someone raises early here, and you aren’t in one of the blinds, I would just flat call with hopes of getting one other player to call potentially. Play the hand accordingly after the flop though. Remember that if you allow 2 other players in the hand, that’s two ways that players can out flop you. If you want to avoid that happening, then pump up a small re-raise on the original raiser. Players have different styles when it comes to playing this situation with pocket aces. One thing that I would do regardless on the flop, is if it doesn’t feature anything crazy like a straight flush draw; I would three-bet the original raiser if he or she throws out another bet. Put some pressure back on their site, and make them make a tough decision; you don’t want to spend the entire hand just calling off your chips.
In tournament play it’s just as important to know when to fold your aces. Don’t get lured in by the fact that you have two A’s hidden next to your chips. Aces get cracked, it happens every day; so be willing to fold them in order to keep your tournament run alive if you feel that you are behind.
Playing pocket aces in sit-n-go’s is actually fairly similar to tournament style. The main difference is that since you start with only 1,500 chips, you want to try to get it all in pre flop if at all possible. It’s not always as easy as just “push it all in pre-flop though”, but if someone raises you and you push out a small three bet, that’s not a bad idea. Of course the best case scenario is that you raise early with pocket aces, and someone in late position three bets you. At that point, you’re just pushing your chips into the middle with most likely the best hand (unless he or she has pocket aces as well, and in that case you’re set up for a split). After raising pre-flop, you’re most likely able to get the money in on the flop or the turn in the worst case scenario. Getting to showdown with pocket aces in a sit-n-go is what we are always aiming for.
Now folding in a sit-n-go after the flop can be very tough. Especially if you three bet your opponent and are called. Depending on the size of the blinds, will make the difference as to whether or not you can fold. If you are still at the 15/30 limit blinds and you still have over 1,000 chips in your stack and the board shows something along the lines of a straight, or 4 of one suit that you don’t have; just drop it. You have plenty of life left in this tournament, and it’s not worth risking to see if your opponent is bluffing (which they usually aren’t on those gross boards). Now if you have 1,000 chips and the blinds are 50/100 and the flop has three diamonds (but you don’t have one), I’m still getting it in. If your opponent wants to race you to the finish with a mediocre diamond, let them. Most of your opponents won’t call off their chips when they need one more of a suit unless it’s above a queen typically. Even if they do have the diamond and call, you still have the best hand to this point, and just need to dodge a few cards.