How Should Pocket Aces Be Played?

Published on February 24th, 2005, 11:06 am EST

AA, believe it or not, can be a troubling hand to play. It is said that with pocket aces, you either win a small hand or lose a big one. There is a lot of truth to this statement. I can't count the number of times that I have seen someone slowplay their pocket rockets, only to get killed when someone catches a favorable flop and bets big.

First off, I don't subscribe to the theory that you should slowplay your aces. In my opinion, if you look down and see pocket aces, you should either:

-if you are in late position and someone has already raised, re-raise. If they have made a large raise (5x BB or higher), go all-in.

-if you are in early position, throw out a raise of 3-5x BB and see what type of action you get. If someone re-raises you, go all-in. You are trying to eliminate as many hands as possible in the pre-flop round of betting.

A big mistake people make is just going all-in without putting out an initial bet, if they are the first to raise. By doing this, you are probably going to scare out all of the hands and not get any action. A raise is the smarter choice.

After the flop, be weary of someone hitting a set or is someone may have hit either a flush or a straight. Obviously is the flop is QQ6, etc., you should proceed with extreme caution. Put out a feeler bet, if someone re-raises you aggressively, you are probably beat and should give up the hand. Most people will go right to the river with AA even if the board is not favorable, and this is the wrong move.

A "feeler" bet is exactly how it sounds; feeling out an opponent with a bet to try and judge the strength of their hand. Here is an example of a hand.

I get dealt AA in early position. I put out a 5X BB raise and get one caller. The board comes down, QQ6. I'll put out a feeler bet of say, 3-4x the BB. Maybe the other player has nothing and folds. If they call, then maybe they are a crafty player holding an ace, or maybe they are holding a high pair, like 10/10. If they re-raise me, then either they are bluffing or they are holding a queen. In a case like this, you should be observant of their earlier play: do they bluff a lot, or are they a tight player who generally plays solid hands? If it's the latter, then there is a good chance they are holding something like AQ, and you should fold.

Like I said, you usually either win small pots with AA, or lose big ones. In the scenario listed above, you could easily lose your stack if you aren't cautious. Careful with AA.