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by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is an advantage blackjack player and skilled poker player. He is the author of the best-selling book, "Get the Edge at Texas Low Limit Hold’em", available at 10% discount from the BJI online store, and the guide at


The biggest mistake that many losing Holdem players make is to play any two suited cards from any position, which I refer to in last month’s column as ASAP. The second biggest mistake is 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.

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.

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 percent of the time. But a single ace is not as strong as some players’ think it is. You can’t play a single ace with a low kicker from any position if you want to be a winning player especially if it is unsuited.

You’re Not Alone

You will be dealt at least one ace about 15 percent of the time before the flop, which means that 85 percent of the time you won't have an ace. Maybe that is the reason that players get so excited when they see an ace. The chances of one of your opponents holding an ace at the same time you do is directly related to the number of players in the game with you.

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. Playing a single ace from early position is incorrect because you can be raised and re-raised. If you don’t flop an ace you will probably lose money and even if you do flop an ace you could be beat by a higher kicker.

The second card that is dealt with your ace is the kicker. If you play a single ace with a small kicker this is known as playing a weak ace. 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. For example hold Ace-five and the flop is: Ace –Queen- 8.

If one of your opponents holds an ace your chance of winning with your five as a kicker is very slim. Your opponent would have to hold a four, three or deuce in order for you to win. There are only 12 cards that he could hold that would make you a winner. If he held any of these low cards or Ace-five as well you would split the pot if the turn cards were higher than five. If he held a higher kicker you would lose.

Suited Aces

Suited aces play well against a large filed. In late position in an unraised pot you can play a suited ace because of its flush potential. If you do make a flush you will have the nut flush but you have to remember that you will only make a flush about 5.77 percent of the time when you start suited. This is why you want to play your suited ace in a hand with many players. Playing a suited ace from early position is not advisable.

A Profitable Opportunity

If you are in a game and notice that many of the players are playing a single ace then you have the opportunity to make some money from them if you only play an ace with a strong kicker. Many players will refuse to fold a pair of aces even if they have a weak kicker. These players will call you all the way to the river only to be beaten by your strong kicker.

When there are five or more players in the hand a pair aces will only hold up about 35 percent of the time. A single ace will win even less often but still many players will stay in the hand with a single ace and call all the way to the river. If you want to be a winning player you will avoid playing an unsuited weak ace from any position.

Don’t be a SAP! Learn to throw away those single aces when you are out of position. You will see a big improvement in your game and your wallet.

Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.



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