Aces are such a strong hand, but they can find themselves in some tricky situations postflop. Especially if the board texture gets ugly and the action gets weird – it can be tough to figure out what the best line is. Today we will review a hand where AA gets a great price, but we still need to use some hand reading skills to determine if giving action is a +EV idea.
So this hand is from Pat who sent in this spot from a live $1/$3 game in which he picks up AA on the button.
There are two limpers and Pat decides to isolate with a raise to $16. That play is obviously fine, but I do have a couple of gripes. First, we’re playing $1/$3 but start the hand with only $190 in front of us. Let’s at least top-off to 100bb. You’re more likely to have a solid strategy at 100bb than some awkward smaller stack.
Second, and I know I can be nit-picky about bet and raise sizing, but I’d like to see a bigger raise here to at least $20. It may seem like a small difference, but that initial bigger sizing will often increase throughout the hand and can have a major impact on your bottom line. So ask yourself if you raise bigger here will you get called by the same ranges. If yes, go ahead and make a larger raise.
Pat gets called by the small blind, the original limper, and the second limper folds. The flop comes 5♦5♠Q♣ and it’s checked to Hero who bets $40 into $54. Clearly, we want to bet here since we’re getting called by Qx and possibly pocket pairs from 66-JJ. Those are our primary target hands in this spot and we expect to get at least one bet out of them. The original limper may not have the bigger pocket pairs, but the small blind could easily have this continuance range.
Only the small blind calls our flop bet and we go to a Q♦ turn. This is a pretty nasty card given the hands we expect to continue on the flop. It’s checked to us and we have a pot-sized bet behind. We choose to bet a little over half pot.
At first sight this bet may not seem to accomplish much, but let’s dig a little deeper. First, if the small blind happens to show up with a random 5 here, we’re now unlikely to get check-raised. If they have Qx we’re obviously crushed, but the appearance of the second Q on the turn reduces the number of Qx combos Villain can hold. In other words, the turn card increases the likelihood the small blind is in the 66-JJ part of their continuance range. Given that our value target is this 66-JJ range I really like the small turn bet, because we can get called and be fairly confident we are ahead.
If we get check-raised on the turn, is that ever coming from a worse hand than hours? It seems really unlikely. But we will get called by worse hands with this small bet. A hand like 77 will “put you on AK” here, because that’s what live $1/$3 players do.
The river comes the 4♦ putting three diamonds on board and the small blind leads out for $55 into $274. We don’t love being bet into here, but do we really need to fear the flush? Not only is it difficult to imagine how the small blind could get to this point with a backdoor flush draw, we have the A♦.
We do, however, have to be worried about 5x and Qx. So the question is, given that we are getting about 6-to-1, should we be calling or should we fold like Pat ended up doing in the actual hand?
It basically takes a crowbar to get me to fold anything getting this price. Do I think Villain would take this line with Qx? Sure. Do I expect this line facing 5x? Not so much. But even if we give the small blind all reasonable Qx and 5x, will he also make this river lead with other hands? How about JJ or TT and those other hands we considered earlier?
If Villain makes this river play with 66-JJ some fraction of the time, we likely have good enough pot odds to call.
After Pat folded his hand the small blind flashed KK. That’s not a hand we were really expecting in this spot given that Villain flatted our raise preflop, but this in itself brings up an important point. Just because you wouldn’t take a line with a certain hand does NOT mean someone else wouldn’t! It turns out Villain had more combos of hands we were beating in his range that we expected.
To summarize, I really liked the way Pat played the flop and turn in this hand a lot, but folding the river here is a mistake. You need to be super confident before folding top-end hands getting such good pot odds.
You’ll notice that besides the consideration of pot odds at the final decision point of this hand, much of the prior decisions come down to hand reading. So I’m inviting you to join my free e-mail course with daily hand reading tips so you can work on this crucial part of the game.