You’re always safe raising pocket Aces preflop in no-limit hold ‘em. But a smart poker strategy will include the occasional smooth call. We’ll tell you when and why, and what to do when the flop hits.
Now that we’ve survived the perilous journey of what to do with pocket Jacks preflop in no-limit hold ‘em, let’s regroup and tackle a much simpler situation: What to do with pocket Aces. Life is always good when you’ve got bullets. You can open from any position on the table, whether you’re playing 6-max or 9-max, cash or tournaments, short stacks or deep. You can also raise to your heart’s content. Easy peasy.
However, instead of just going whole hog with those pocket rockets, there are times when it’s even more profitable in the long run to smooth call with Aces. Yes, you’ll end up having to make postflop decisions, which are almost always more difficult than preflop decisions. But you need to introduce a degree of difficulty into your poker strategy if you want to increase your profits. Besides, it’s not all that hard to learn what to do with AA – especially compared to pocket Jacks.
Once again, let’s set the table for a game of 6-max 100NL, with stacks 100 big blinds deep. As we said, pocket Aces are good to open from any position. The math says you’ll also want to 3-bet anyone who opens when you’re holding AA, no matter what position you and the opener are sitting in. If the opener decides to 4-bet, you can make a small 5-bet, not all-in, hoping to induce a 6-bet shove or a call. This maximizes your chances of getting your opponent’s entire stack.
The subtleties come in when you’ve opened AA and someone has 3-bet you. Now you have some decisions to make. If you’re out of position, it’s generally best to keep on raising. A robust pot-size raise is good for a 4-bet OOP; if you raise a smaller amount in this situation, you’re telegraphing that you’ve got a very strong hand. Better to mask that strength by raising the same amount with Aces that you would with, say, Ace-Four suited.
Stone Blind Love
Ah, but what if you open AA and get 3-bet by someone in the blinds? Now’s when you can dip into your bag of tricks and consider smooth calling. Since the 3-bettor is OOP, she has to act first when the flop hits, and she’s very likely to throw out a continuation bet no matter what cards hit the board. That’s at least one bet you can collect that wouldn’t have been made had you 4-bet preflop and she folded.
Once that c-bet comes down, you once again have the option of raising or calling – or folding, which you would hardly ever do here. If the flop comes out fairly dry, without a lot of draw opportunities for your opponent, you can call that c-bet and hope she fires out a second barrel. If she does, by now there’s about $100 in the pot and you’ve got maybe $160 left in your stack. Again, depending on the board texture after the turn hits, you can call again, or you can shove and hope she calls off the rest of her stack with the second-best hand.
Wetter Is Not Always Better
Of course, sometimes your trap will fail you. Your opponent will draw to a better hand on occasion, and if the flop comes out something like Ten-Nine-Eight, all diamonds, don’t even think about raising your AA – just call one c-bet and be prepared to fold to a double barrel if the turn is another diamond, and you’re not holding the Ace of Diamonds. Better luck next time. Watch out for turn cards that complete a straight, as well.
One last note: Smooth-calling with Aces is best done in moderation, ideally when you open early in the lojack or hijack. You should have a strong opening range here, so if your opponent 3-bets from the blinds and you 4-bet, she’s a lot more likely to fold, costing you money in the process. Your 4-bet from the button should look considerably more bluffy to your opponent, and she just might continue. Consider how tight or loose your opponent is before setting the trap, and as always, may the rectangles be with you.