Pocket Aces

Pocket Aces [Bullets, Pocket Rockets, American Airlines, Weapons of Mass Destruction, or whatever name you want to call them] remind me of a first date with a beautiful woman, present wife excluded.  When you first see them, you’re really excited and have high expectations, but then you often suffer a big disappointment.  Who doesn’t get excited (hopefully not giving off any tells :) ), when we look at our hole cards and see AA.  And, doesn’t it seem that more often-than-not we suffer a huge letdown later when we realize that she (I mean they) were just a big tease?  Phil Helmuth has been quoted as saying he can “dodge bullets” – but then again, who can’t?

If you read my WSOP Tunica blog, you may remember that the one hand that haunts me the most is the one where I eventually folded pocket Aces after loosing a sizable portion of my chips to what I suspected was at least three Queens.  Not long ago, I was playing in a local cash game, where after being up and down, I was about even for the night.  I announced that I was playing my last hand for the night, then jokingly asked the dealer to give me a good hand.  He did, in fact, deal me pocket Aces, which eventually lost a sizeable portion of my buy-in to 5-6 suited.

According to my Poker Odds app, AA vs a “random hand(s)” preflop, are: an 84.9% favorite against one player, 73.4% favorite against two players, 63.5% to win against three players, 55.8% favorite when played against four players, and so on.  AA vs 22 (where the Aces and Twos are the same suit), are a 83.0% favorite to win.  If they’re different suits, the Aces are an 81.4% favorite.  It doesn’t matter much what the lower pair is; for example, Aces against Kings (same suits), are 82.3% favorite, Aces vs Tens (same suits) are 81.1% to win.  And, against suited connectors, like QJ, Aces are 81.4% favorites.  Again, it doesn’t really matter much what the two suited connectors are; AA vs 78 is about a 78% favorite.  And, statistically, you will get pocket Aces once every 220 hands.

Awhile back, Andre’, one of The Boblagio’s regular players, sent the email below to a couple of us, asking our opinion about how he played his pocket Aces.  Would you have played them the same, or played them differently in this situation?  The game was $1/$2 (I think):

Guys, I wanted your opinion on this scenario that busted me out last night:
-  I have $155 in chips.
-  I sit two places to the left of the big blind.
-  I am dealt ace of diamonds and ace of clubs.
-  button straddles for $5.
-  callers are:  big blind, me and 3 people behind me. 
-  question #1:  is it a mistake not to raise the straddle?  I think it goes either way……
-  when the option returns to the button, he raises to $12.
-  the big blind calls.  he has about $180, just slightly covering me.
-  I raise the bet to $36 (3x).  good pot and i’m happy to take it down and i assume someone on a draw will fold and i’m happy to flip a coin with another pocket pair holder.
-  question #2:  is this a strong enough bet?  i think so…….
-  the big blind calls my bet.
-  at this point, i’m thinking my opponent has a pocket pair or perhaps ace king, maybe ace king suited.
-  flop comes as follow:  2h, 4h and 9c.
-  after a minute of thinking my opponent goes all in.  i have about $125 left, he has about $140 left.
-  i am thinking he wouldn’t overplay two pair or trips, so i put him on kings or queens.  i eliminated a flush draw from consideration but left room for ace/king of hearts.
-  i call the all-in bet.
-  my opponenent shows 5h and 7h.  no kidding.  he called the $5 straddle, the $12 raise and my $36 re-raise with a flush draw and loose shot straight draw. 
Actually, he called preflop, before a flush or straight draw was on the board.
-  question #3:  was he really pot committed at that point and had to make the all-in bet?  i don’t believe so.  wouldn’t any decent player have thought i was strong with my betting?  
-  you can guess the rest. 
- the turn comes and its a 6h. 
- i’m done;  and to add insult to injury, the river is the other black ace.
-  i really wanted to ask my opponent some of those questions, but i wisely left before i could make an idiot of myself. 
what do you think?  i think i played it just fine and got unlucky.  perhaps i could have bet the straddle but i don’t believe that would have changed the outcome much. 

Here’s what I think is an excellent and well thought-out response from Randy, one of our other regular players:

Ok like I said, I really like these discussions. This is how I get better.
Lets put ourselves in his shoes. After you made the $36.00 bet, the pot
would have been about $70.00. So he would have to call and additional
$24.00 (he already had $12.00 in the pot).

So from his perspective his pot odds are ($24/($24+$70.00) or 25%. Now we
calculate the pre flop percentage of your hand versus his hand.

Ad-Ac vs. 5h-7h, With this scenario you are a 78% favorite. So from his
view, his call was not that bad. I am sure with the amount of your
re-raise, he put you on a big pair.

However, he did not know if you had a heart as one of your cards. So let’s
do the math and assume you had an Ah instead of Ad. You are a 79% percent

Let’s do the math if you have Ah-Kh. You are a 63% favorite.

So in summary his call seemed to be a donk play and it was to some degree
but not the degree I thought it was.

Let’s take a look after the flop:
You AdAc. Him 5h-7h on a flop of 2h-4h-9c. You are a 61% favorite.
You Ad-Ah. Him 5h-7h on a flop of 2h-4h-9c. You are a 66% favorite.
You Ah-Kh. Him 5h-7h on a flop of 2h-4h-9c. You are a 80% favorite. 

So in summary any way you slice, you were ahead and got caught. However,
his play was not as bad as I initially thought. I don’t think you played it
wrong at all…In a game with a bunch of donks…you might want to bet a
little more pre-flop

On your question about flat calling the straddle with Aces. Given how
aggressive the player on the button was, I think it was an excellent play.
He did actually what you wanted; he three bet…giving you an opportunity to
four bet…good job.

So, in conclusion, despite usually being at least a 3 to 1 favorite, as I stated in the beginning, why do Aces seem to disappoint us so often?

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