how to play pocket aces - mistakes to avoid

How to Play Pocket Aces (5 Mistakes to Avoid)

After hours of looking down at hands like T♠ 5♣, it finally happens. You get dealt the beautiful pocket aces.

But getting dealt the best hand in poker doesn’t entitle you to win a big pot — or even a small pot.

To extract max value with your pocket aces, you have to avoid the many common and costly mistakes that people make when holding this monster hand.

In this article, you will discover five mistakes to avoid at all costs when you have pocket aces.

Fade these mistakes so you can win as much as possible from your opponents:

Mistake #1: Slow-Playing Preflop (Especially Against A Single Raise)

We can all remember the famous Rounders hand from the opening scene where Teddy KGB successfully traps Mike McDermott and wins Mike’s entire bankroll. But while his slow-play worked in that instance, it is almost always better to fast-play your strongest hands before the flop. 

(If you don’t remember or haven’t seen the hand, check out this article where I analyze both players’ strategies).

When holding pocket aces, your best option will almost always be to build as big of a pot as possible as fast as possible. This entails raising if no one else has raised, 3-betting if someone else has raised, and 4-betting if someone has already 3-bet.

This way, over time, the average pot that you win with pocket aces will be larger.

A Quick Caveat on Slow-Playing Aces Preflop

If you’re facing a 4-bet with typical 100 big blind stacks, slow-playing with pocket aces can actually be a great play.

This is because the stack-to-pot ratio is very low in 4-bet pots, so it will usually be quite easy to get the rest of your money in after the flop. Additionally, you give your opponent the chance to do something crazy on the flop — and you’ll be waiting to snap them off with your aces.

That said, if your opponent is a very tight player who you suspect only re-raises with monster hands, you may as well go all-in preflop to ensure that all of their money gets in the pot.

This caveat also applies to other situations in which the stack-to-pot ratio will be low on the flop if you call. Other examples of such situations include:

  • Facing a 3-bet when you’re short stacked (20-50 big blinds).
  • Facing a raise when you’re very short stacked (under 20 big blinds).

Related reading: Fast-Playing vs Slow-Playing Revealed.

Mistake #2: Increasing Your Preflop Raise Size

Players raising to larger-than-usual sizes when they have a strong hand is a mistake I’ve seen both online and live.

While it is your goal to play a big pot with aces, you should keep your raise sizes consistent with the other hands in your range. This consistent sizing approach will make you significantly tougher to play against.

For example, let’s say you’ve been open-raising to $15 in a $2/$5 game all night. Then, you look down at pocket aces and decide to raise to $25. When your attentive opponents see your larger raise size, alarm bells might start to go off in their heads.

Seeing your larger raise size may cause them to become more alert, and they will oftentimes respond by folding hands with which they would normally call. They may also decide to just call with a strong hand that they would usually re-raise.

Note: Want to get better at poker without spending a lot of time or money? Get the $7 crash course that will help you win more often. Grab your Postflop Playbook now!

Mistake #3: Being Too Willing To Go Broke Postflop In Multiway Pots

Multiway pots are a different animal.

As more players enter a pot, the complexity of the situation increases exponentially. Here’s why:

  • You have much less equity vs two opponents than you do against one opponent.
  • The more players there are, the more likely it is one of them outdraws your aces on the flop.
  • The pot will be roughly 50% larger on the flop, which will make it surprisingly easy to play enormous pots.

For these reasons, when you see your opponents very willing to put a lot of money into the pot, especially on scary boards, you must be willing to make some heroic folds.

Remember that your relative hand strength is significantly lower in these situations!

Related reading:

Mistake #4: Playing Too Passively Postflop

This goes hand in hand with mistake #1.

When you flop a strong hand, as you usually will with aces, you generally want to fast-play in order to build the pot as fast as possible.

When you have a chance to bet, you can increase the size of the pot to your desire. Checking gives that power to your opponent. He may choose to increase the size of the pot with a bet of his own, or not. More often than not, players will bet less often than they would’ve called versus your bet.

Another benefit of betting is that you force your opponent to reveal information about his hand. If he calls, for example, you know he has connected with a piece of the board (unless he is floating).  Compare this to if you check and he checks back, in which case you didn’t learn much about his hand.

Keep in mind that I’m mostly referring to heads-up pots here. In multiway pots, it is often reasonable to play passively on the flop with aces. Then, you can look to extract value on the turn and river.

Mistake #5: Over-Valuing Your Hand On Scary Boards

Generally speaking, wet flops with a lot of low or middling cards favor the preflop caller. As a result, you should play more passively with your entire range, including pocket aces.

For example, let’s say you raise A A from UTG and get called by the big blind. Then the flop comes:

6 of clubs, 5 of clubs, 4 of hearts flop when you have pocket aces

On boards like this, your opponent will have a higher concentration of sets, two-pairs, and even straights. Since you raised UTG, your range is concentrated more towards high cards and medium-high pairs. As the caller, your opponent can have a bunch of hands like 44, 87o, or 65.

This advantage at the top of the ranges (aka ‘nut advantage‘) allows them to put a lot of pressure on you, should you choose to c-bet.

In these cases, a nifty option is to check back with your pocket aces and look to bluff-catch on the next streets. One pair hands are generally not strong enough by the river to bet 3 times for value on these boards anyway, so checking back doesn’t even sacrifice much value.

The main reason why checking the flop works well is that aces will always be top pair on any turn, and thus will almost always be able to call a bet (or bet when checked to) on the next street. Compare this to a hand like pocket tens, with which there are many possible overcards that you don’t want to see. 

Related reading: Checking Flops with Overpairs: When Should You Do It?

Wrapping Up

Everyone has a positive, visceral reaction to getting dealt aces.

You are now equipped with five powerful tips to getting an even bigger high when you get dealt this hand.

That’s all I have for now! I hope you enjoyed the article and that you learned something new from it! If you have any feedback, let me know in the comment section and I’ll do my best to follow up.

Here’s what I recommending reading next: 5 Tips to Stop Bleeding Chips from the Small Blind.

Til’ next time, good luck, grinders!

Note: Want to get better at poker without spending a lot of time or money? Get the $7 crash course that will help you win more often. Grab your Postflop Playbook now!


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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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