Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Playing Pocket Aces

Sitting at the local poker room, you take a look at your hole cards and see pocket aces. A rush goes through your body. Now, what is the best course of action? How do you maximize your profit, and minimize your bad beats?

Generally speaking, raise with them. Raise and re-raise. If you are first to act, a good starting point is roughly 3-4 times the big blind. If you are behind a raiser, raise 2-3 times what he raised. The key here is to minimize callers. You don't want more than one or two. On the flop, no matter what comes out, put out a continuation bet. I like to mix it up from 75-100% of the pot. Usually you can take the hand down right here. If you get called or re-raised, then it is time to analyze your position, your opponent and stack sizes. Usually you aren't going to get out of the hand unless you are really sure you are beat. If your opponent out-flopped you then that is the breaks. But, the important thing is that you make them pay to see the flop. This will keep your aces on the winning side in the long run.

Some like to slow-play the aces. Although it is nice to mix up your play, typically you will have a chance at more money by raising. Let's take an example, and play the hand two different ways.

Let's say you hold aces, and a player across the table holds queens. You limp in with hopes that someone behind you will raise. The queens raise 3xbb, and you re-raise to 3x that amount. Now you have the queens suspicious. Your hand looks very strong from an early position check-raise, and they are right! You've basically given away the strength of your hand, and now the astute player may fold the queens right here.

Now lets rewind. This time we raise with our aces 4xbb. The queens re-raise 3x your raise. Now your re-raise again 2-3x his raise. At this point the queens have a LOT more money in the middle before they have determined the strength of your hand. Many times they will be committed, and call your raise, or move all-in. This is exactly the situation you want with your aces.

Regarding this whole raising strategy, it applies to most all of your poker play. Look for reasons to raise, and keep check-raises to a minimum. If you flop a straight, raise. If you flop a set, come out betting! You are likely to get more money out of those hands betting/raising than check-raising. Raising is a big part of winning poker, so don't miss that opportunity. About the only time you don't want to raise is if you have the board completely crippled, such as flopping quads or the nut boat. In that case, you may want to check and give your opponents a chance to catch a card or bluff at you.