Pocket Aces On The Flop: All-In Or Fold?

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Here is a hand that demonstrates an all-in or fold situation on the flop with pocket aces.

Somewhat deep in a $1,500 buy-in event at 1,200-2,400 blinds, our Hero raised to 6,500 out of his 105,000 effective stack from first position with AClub Suit ADiamond Suit. Only the reasonably competent players in second and third position called.

Hero’s preflop raise was sized in the way he would play his entire playable range, which is ideal. It is important that you do not do anything out of the ordinary with any particular part of your range because that will potentially make it easy for your opponents to get reads on you and accurately pinpoint your hand’s strength.

For example, if you normally raise to 6,500 with most of your hands but all of a sudden make it 12,500 with your premium hands, it will be obvious to your opponents that something is awry. Similarly, if you make a gigantic 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 getting fancy (or losing your mind) simply play all your playable hands in the same manner.

The flop came 9Club Suit 7Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit. Hero bet 12,000 into the 23,100 pot.

Continuation betting is fine, but checking could potentially be ideal given the board is especially bad for Hero’s range.

The player in second position folded and then the player in third position raised to 30,000.

It may not seem like it, but Hero is in a tough spot when faced with this flop raise. On such an uncoordinated board, some players only raise with premium made hands (two pair and better) and draws.

In this situation, there aren’t many obvious draws besides 10-8, which may or may not be in the opponent’s range because many players fold all combinations of 10-8 preflop. Against the range of two pair and better made hands and the 10-8 open-ended straight draw, Hero’s A-A only wins 40% of the time. Even if Hero calls the flop raise and the turn does not complete the straight draw, he only wins 44% of the time.

While you may think these numbers mean that Hero should fold, they are essentially the worst-case scenario. In reality, many players raise uncoordinated flops with hands like overpairs and top pairs, hoping to price out hands with unpaired overcards.

For example, if you add only J-J, 10-10, A-9 suited, and K-9 suited to the opponent’s range, Hero now wins 55% of the time on the flop, making a fold way too tight. As you add more and more hands to the opponent’s range, Hero’s chances of winning continue to improve (not to mention, the opponent could be bluffing).

So, either Hero is getting his money in slightly behind when his opponent’s flop-raising range is tight or decently ahead when his opponent’s raising range is wide. While it is difficult to know exactly which situation he is in this time, on average, continuing will be profitable for Hero.

Once Hero knows that he should continue, he has to decide if he should call the 30,000 raise or go all-in. If Hero thinks the opponent’s range is mostly value hands, he should go all-in to ensure the money gets in immediately before the board becomes scary such that the opponent can get off the hook with his worse made hands.

If he thinks he is against a range containing some junky bluffs, he should call to allow the opponent to continue bluffing. As you can see, this may look like an incredibly standard all-in situation with pocket aces but there is more going on than initially meets the eye.

Hero decided to push all-in. The opponent called with K-9, for an overplayed top pair.

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.