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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 Holdíem", available at 10% discount from the BJI online store, and the guide at


Playing 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 cards combinations that can be made from a 52 card deck and there are 6 combinations for each pocket pair. 1326/6 = 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 players. This is the reason why you want to raise with pocket Aces to narrow the field. I donít now how many times I have seen a player try to slow-play pocket Aces by limping in, only to complain later about the bad beat when he is beaten by a hand that would have folded if he had raised.

Itís their own fault for not narrowing the field with a raise. The other reason to raise with pocket Aces is to get the most money in the pot during the times that your Aces win. This will make up for the times the hand doesnít hold up.

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 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. Maybe it is because you will only have an Ace in your starting hand about 15 percent of the time. However, a single Ace is not as strong as some players believe, and many losing players make the mistake of playing a single Ace from Any Position without regard to their kicker. 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 percent. In other words, when you have an Ace there is a 75 percent 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 since you can be raised and re-raised. If you donít flop an Ace, you will probably lose money. Even if you hit your Ace, you will be a loser if there is another player in the hand who has an Ace with a bigger kicker.

If you start with a single Ace, you will pair one or your cards on the flop about 32 percent 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.

A good player will refrain from playing a weak Ace from an early position, however, there are many players who will play them especially in low limit games. If you detect that a player is doing this, you can save yourself some money if you are in a hand with them. 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

Donít get married to your pocket Aces because occasionally you will have to release your hand. 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 about 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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