Should You Ever Fold Aces Preflop?

aces

Pocket Rockets, American Airlines, Bullets, whatever you want to call pocket aces, you will be delighted to look at your hole cards and see two big “A” staring right back at you. They are the strongest starting hand in Texas Hold’em by a long margin which can lead to you winning a substantial pot. If they are so powerful, should you ever fold aces preflop?

You will be dealt a pair of aces in the hole while playing Texas Hold’em a mere 4.5 percent of the time, or approximately once in 221 hands. When your starting hand is eventually pocket aces, you are almost certainly thinking about how many chips you are going to win during this hand. It is likely you are sat hoping for a raise and even a re-raise before you, aces are that strong. Yet there a situation where you should consider send those aces into the muck before a flop is dealt!

Pocket aces math

Let us take a look at some math before we explain this quite common scenario. A pair of aces have approximately 85.2 percent equity against a completely random hand, which is huge, but it also means that even against a random holding, aces will lose one in five all-in confrontations. How many of you reading this have backed a horse or placed a wager at longer odds than +500?

Most poker players will not be moving all-in preflop with a totally random hand, they will have a legitimate hand of some sort. Aces perform well against all other holdings. They have a shade under 82 percent equity against a pair of kings, a huge 93 percent equity against an unsuited ace-king, and against a range of hands such as TT+, AQs+ and AKo, aces will prevail 83.2 percent of the time.

Aces in cash games

You should never fold aces preflop in a cash game. Cash games are all about taking advantage of the smallest edges because if you can simply buy back in and potentially win your chips back if you go bust, so long as you have the bankroll for it that is. Even if you have a pair of deuces in the hole and your opponent moves all in and accidentality reveals ace-king or ace-king suited, you should al as you have 52 percent equity in the hand and not many poker players have the skill to continually give up two-percent edges on a regular basis.

Even if you are seated at a six-handed no limit Hold’em cash game online at PokerStars and five of your opponents go all in and all of them say they have a pair of some sort, you still have almost 37.5 percent equity with your aces and the pot odds will dictate a call from you.

Tournament poker and aces

Tournament poker, however, is a different beast entirely. While there is a need to accumulate chips, there is also an element of survival, especially in freezeout tournaments where you cannot rejoin the event once you have lost your starting stack.

It is often correct, in poker tournaments, to turn down a small edge if you believe it will prolong your tournament life and allow you to commit your chips with a greater edge at a different time. There will not be many situations you can apply this to in a major tournament such as the World Series of Poker Main Event but imagine on the first hand three of your opponents go all in and say they have a least a pair of queens each, you have around 54.5 percent equity. Winning all three stacks here would be great in the short term, but there are hundreds of millions of chips in play so this situation actually does not massively increase your chances of finishing first, but you will bust from the tournament on essentially a coinflip. Plus, how likely is this going to happen in reality?

Folding aces preflop

The situation where you could consider fold pocket aces preflop is in a satellite tournament. Satellites pay a set number of players a ticket, seat or package to a higher buy-in tournament. You may recall Chris Moneymaker famously turned an $86 satellite entry at PokerStars into the $2.5 million World Series of Poker Main Event top prize in 2003.

In a satellite that has say 10 tickets in the prize pool, it does not matter if you finish first or 10th, the prizes are the same. Now imagine if there were 11 or 12 players remaining in this 10-seat satellite and you are in the middle of the pack in terms of chips, almost guaranteed a seat. Now an opponent, who has a larger stack, moves all in and you have aces. If you call, you win the hand around 82 percent of the time and almost certainly win a seat, but the other 18 percent of the time you bust and go home empty-handed. Folding aces preflop in this exact situation also essentially guarantees you a seat with no risk of being eliminated.

It is quite rare that you should find the need to consider folding pocket aces preflop in Texas Hold’em, but as you can see, these scenarios do occasionally crop up.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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