(Distributed Dec. 5, 2006)
SHOULD YOU EVER FOLD POCKET ACES IN NO-LIMIT HOLD’EM?
Looking down at pocket aces is sure to get your poker juices flowing. But is there ever a situation when you should fold A-A before the flop in no-limit Texas hold’em?
The answer is yes!
The best possible starting hand should be dumped pre-flop in a satellite or qualifying tournament when playing it would risk your chance to advance to the main event.
The conditions for making this unorthodox move must be just right:
* You’ve made it deep in a qualifying event as the chip leader or with a very tall stack.
* Only one opponent needs to be eliminated to send the remaining players on to the main event — AND there is one very short-stacked opponent left at the table.
In this situation — let’s say five main-event seats are up for grabs and six players are left in the qualifying tournament — there is no reason to gamble if you have lots of chips. Sure, with pocket aces you’d be a favorite, but the reality is those beautiful bullets don’t always win.
Remember, you’re not trying to win the satellite outright. All you have to do is finish in the final five to win a seat in the big tournament.
A much better strategy is to protect your chip stack with super-conservative play. Let someone else, if they dare, take the risk. Besides, blinds and antes will put extreme pressure on the short-stacked player anyway.
The worst thing you can do is get aggressive with your pocket aces against another player with a tall stack. If you get unlucky, you’ll lose a ton of chips and be left with a short stack yourself. You could even be knocked out!
One exception to mucking pocket aces late in a satellite is if you are assured of playing your monster hand against only the short-stacked player and your chip stack won’t be damaged if you lose the hand.
Recently I had to decide what to do with a premium pocket pair late in a $120 satellite tournament at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. There were six of us left out of 52, with the final five players guaranteed seats in the $1,000 buy-in championship event.
I was one of two tall stacks with about $22,000 of the $78,000 chips in play. Three players had roughly $10,000 each and one was short with $4,000. I knew my strategy should be to avoid gambling. I didn’t need to finish first; I only needed to not finish sixth.
With blinds at $2,000-$4,000, everyone was eyeballing the short-stacked player in seat 2, waiting for him to enter a pot with his few remaining chips. No doubt he was hoping someone would make a gambling mistake and he could sneak through.
I was in the big blind ($4,000) in seat 5 when the player on my left moved all-in for about $12,000. Everyone folded to the small blind on my right, who called all-in for his last $6,000.
I took the first look at my cards and saw pocket jacks. I was the only player left to act. This was my thought process:
If I played and the small blind won, he would triple-up, no one would be eliminated, and my stack would be damaged. If I played and the other guy won, that would eliminate the small blind and I’d still win a main-event seat. If the player on my left beat me but not the small blind, my $12,000 chips ($4,000 blind and $8,000 call) would be split between them, no one would get knocked out, and I’d have $8,000 left, facing the $2,000 small blind the next hand.
I knew that the seat 2 player’s final chips were coming into the pot in one of the next three hands. I didn’t need to risk my advantageous chip position, so I folded.
The two remaining players exposed their cards: K-8 offsuit for the guy on my left, pocket sixes for the small blind. No king, eight or six came on the board; my jacks would have won. As it was, no one was eliminated.
Things worked out as I’d hoped, however. Seat 2 committed his last chips two hands later, three players called and then checked down the hand (no additional betting). The player in seat 10 made a winning six-high straight, eliminating seat 2 and sending the rest of us through to the main event.
Had those pocket jacks been aces, folding still would have been the proper play.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 RUSS SCOTT
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