Pocket Aces on the flop: all-in or fold?
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Here is a hand that shows an all-in situation or a fold on the flop with pocket aces.
During a $1,500 buy-in event with 1,200-2,400 blinds, our Hero raised to 6,500 from his 105,000 effective stack from first place with A A. Only reasonably competent players in second and third position called.
Hero’s preflop raise was sized to play his entire playable range, which is ideal. It’s important that you don’t do anything out of the ordinary with any particular part of your range because this will potentially make it easier for your opponents to get reads on you and accurately pinpoint the strength of your hand.
For example, if you normally raise to 6,500 with most of your hands but suddenly make 12,500 with your premium hands, it will be obvious to your opponents that something is wrong. Likewise, if you hit a giant all-in or a minimum bet on the flop, alarm bells will also go off if those plays are out of the ordinary for you. So instead of being extravagant (or going crazy), just play all of your playable hands the same way.
The flop came 9 7 3. Hero bet 12,000 into the 23,100 pot.
The continuation bet is fine, but the check could potentially be ideal as the board is particularly bad for Hero’s range.
The player in second place folded and then the player in third place raised to 30,000.
It might not look like it, but Hero is in a tough spot facing this flop raise. On such an uncoordinated board, some players only raise with premium hands (two pair and better) and draws.
In this situation, there aren’t many obvious draws other than 10-8, which may or may not be in opponent’s range because many players fold all 10-8 hands preflop. Against the range of two pair and better hands and the 10-8 open-ended straight draw, Hero’s AA only wins 40% of the time. Even if Hero calls the raise on the flop and the turn misses the straight draw, he wins only 44% of the time.
While you might think these numbers mean Hero should fold, they’re essentially the worst-case scenario. In reality, many players raise unmatched flops with hands like overpairs and top pairs, hoping to evaluate hands with unmatched overcards.
For example, if you add only JJ, 10-10, A-9 suited and K-9 suited to your opponent’s range, Hero now wins 55% of the time on the flop by folding too tight. As you add more and more hands to your opponent’s range, Hero’s chances of winning keep getting better (not to mention your opponent may be bluffing).
So, either Hero is putting his money slightly behind when his opponent’s raising range is tight or decently ahead when his opponent’s raising range is wide. While it’s hard to know exactly what situation he’s in right now, on average continuing will be beneficial to Hero.
Once Hero knows he should continue, he has to decide whether to call the raise to 30,000 or go all-in. If Hero thinks his opponent’s range is mostly value hands, he should move all-in to make sure the money comes in immediately before the board gets scary so that the opponent can get away with his worst hands .
If he thinks he’s up against a range containing some junky bluffs, he should call to allow his opponent to continue bluffing. As you can see, this may seem like an incredibly standard all-in situation with pocket aces, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Hero decided to go all-in. His opponent called with K-9, for overplaying top pair.
Jonathan Little is a two-timer WPT champion with over $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 poker educational books and 2019 GPI extension Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to boost your poker skills and learn how to crush games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.