TEXAS HOLDíEM A TO Z:
A IS FOR ACES
by Bill Burton
Bill Burton is the author of "1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets" (available at www.billburton.com), and "Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em" (available online in the BJI e-store). He is an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: www.thecrapsclub.com
This is the first article of a new series titled Texas Holdíem A-Z that will be appearing in the Blackjack Insider. Each monthly article in this new series will cover a topic on Texas Holdíem, and there will be one article for every letter of the alphabet beginning with the letter A and ending with the letter Z (i.e., 26 articles). Of course, I will start with the letter A, and itís only fitting that my first article is on Aces.
A pair of Aces is the most powerful starting hand in Texas Holdíem. 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 donít plan on seeing it too frequently. There are 1,326 two-card combinations that can be made from a 52-card deck and there are six combinations for each pocket pair: 1,326/6 = 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 Holdíem 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 other 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 them allowing other players to get into the hand cheaply. They then can get drawn out on and, of course, they complain about the bad beat they took. In reality itís their own fault for not narrowing the field by raising. The other reason to raise is to get the most money in the pot when you have a good chance of winning with pocket aces. This swill make up for the times the hand didnít 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. However, playing a single ace needs a little more thought.
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 to cash in. This is partly due to the fact that you will only have an ace in your starting hand about 15% of the time. But a single ace is not as strong as some playerís think it is. Many losing Holdíem players 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%. In other words, when you have an ace there is a 75% 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 donít 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% 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 ace from any position; however, there are many players, especially in low limit games, who will. If an ace flops and you donít have one, you have to be prepared to fold if you canít beat a pair of aces or have a good drawing hand that can improve. We all know that sinking feeling when we raise 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
Itís 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. Itís not fun to dump a hand that only comes around every 220 hands or so but thatís what a winning player does.
Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever!"
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