How to Play Pocket Aces

written by: John

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Playing AA incorrectly is a difficult thing to do in poker. In fact, as long as you don't fold the hand pre flop you're generally ok. It is the best starting hand in poker after all.

With that said, there is more than one-way to play a hand, including AA. Some will just be more optimal than others will be. Knowing how to play AA depending on your current situation will make the difference between you earning a tiny pot or a large one.

Slow Playing Aces

I almost titled this section, "How Not to Play Aces: Slow Playing," but decided that there might be a time that slow playing aces is ok, although I feel that this situation is very far and few between.

Most people like to slow play aces because they don't want to get folds pre-flop. They just don't want to take down the blinds. This is understandable since a hand this strong only comes around every couple hundred hands. No one wants to see it go to waste.

Other players like to get tricky. They're hoping that they look weak so that someone behind them will raise them so that they can re-raise them or put them all in.

These are definitely sound arguments for why slow playing aces might be a good idea. However, slow playing aces do come with a few consequences.

To begin with, if you were in early position with AA and decided to limp in, you will surely see others limp in behind you. The more players that limp, the bigger the pot becomes and the better the odds that each player will have. This will mean that hands like small pocket pairs and suited connectors will have the odds to see a flop. This is dangerous for your hand. Suited connectors can hit the flop in so many ways, and both suited connectors and small pocket pairs are disguised when they hit the flop hard. You just won't know what hit you when you get your stack in and see a flopped 2 pair, set or straight.

The other huge downside to slow playing aces is that if you don't start to build a pot early on, the pot you win will more than likely be very small. The goal with AA is to win a large pot, not a small one. Otherwise, your hand might as well be KQ off suit or 22.

The one situation where I might play aces a bit slower is when I'm in the cutoff or on the button and I have a very aggressive opponent to my right raising a ton of hands. In this scenario, I might just flat his raise preflop in order to try to trap them.

But other than that, I generally stay away from slow playing my aces for the reasons given above.

Playing Aces Preflop

When I play aces preflop, I raise my standard 3 to 4 times the big blind. In a $.50/$1 game, this would be a $4 raise. Since I raise all of my hands to this amount, no one will be able to differentiate whether I'm raising with AA or 98s. On the button, I always raise 2.5x the big blind. I keep the size the same on the button as well because it looks like an everyday steal which is more likely to be played back at lightly than an abnormal raise size would. 

If I'm not the first one to enter the pot, my raises will depend on who was, if they entered with a raise or if they limped and they're tendencies as a player.

All players who limped in will be re-raised. My standard would be my normal 4x times the big blind plus 1 big blind for every limper. If the limper is super loose and/or a calling station I might bet a little bit more. The reasoning for this is that if they're calling all of your bets, why not get as much out of them as possible. 

If a player in front of me raised, my default play is going to be a 3-bet. How much I 3-bet will normally depend on the villain's stack size. The smaller the stack size, the smaller my 3-bet is in order to induce them to shove over me or to flat my raise. Then I can get the rest of their stack in on the flop.

If the villain has a fuller stack, I will 3-bet my normal amount or a bit more in order to try and build a pot that allows me to get my stack in on the flop or turn comfortably without having to over bet the pot. So, in a $.50/$1 game, if someone raised it to $4 preflop, I would raise it to $9 to $12 depending on my opponents stack size. I might even go as high as $15 if I think the raiser will call.  

The situations where I might not 3-bet is somewhat similar to the reasons I gave for me considering whether to slow play my aces or not. If I have someone that is very aggressive I might not 3-bet in order to trap them, but just flat their raise. I might also flat an opponent from a tight-aggressive player that raises from early position in order to get value from them on the flop.

Playing AA on the Flop

Playing aces on the flop is a bit trickier than preflop because now there are 3 cards that could've helped your opponent's hand.

My approach to playing aces post flop is determined on how wet or dry the board might be. In most cases, I'm more than happy getting my money in on the flop as long as there aren't 3 cards to a flush or straight. On these types of flops, I play more cautiously and will bet the flop to take it down immediately, or will check/call all streets in order to keep the pot small.

On boards with draws, I will always bet. This will accomplish a couple things. One, it will charge for draws while at the same time protect my hand. Two, it will get value from those draws while still trying to get as much of my money into the pot as possible by the time I get to the river.

On a super dry board, like maybe a king high board with cards like K-8-3 rainbow, I might be more inclined to slow play the flop in order for my opponent to catch up on the turn. Most times, I will only do this on the flop and will start betting the turn because I want to try to build a pot and get some value for my hand. I will definitely bet if the turn card presents a ton of draws.

How to Play Aces

Hopefully by now you have some ideas on how to play aces as profitably as possible. In most cases, you'll find that your pocket aces just play themselves.

With that said, you should always remember that poker is purely situational. You should never play your aces in the exact way I outlined above, but use what I outlined above as a guide to decide what the best approach to playing your aces will be depending on the situation you find yourself in and the flow of the table you're playing at.