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Since writing my book “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision” several years ago, I have identified several exceptions to the algorithm. As we all know, there often are exceptions to rules.

Ace is best

The best card in the deck is easily an Ace. Whatever variety of Texas hold’em you are playing, an Ace in the hole is to be treasured. (Two Aces in the hole are rare – on average, only one out of 221 hands; whereas, a single Ace is quite common – more than one out of seven hands.) But, the other card in the hole – the “kicker” – also plays a key role as to whether those are suitable as starting-hands.

Half of the hole cards containing one Ace are defined as A-rag (where a “rag” is a 7 or lower). Some of these satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm point-score requirement, and would be considered as marginal (borderline) drawing hands.

Like all other marginal drawing hands preflop, the caution here is they must also satisfy the Hold’em Caveat: It must be a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop); and it must be an unraised hand before the flop. Let us briefly explain with a typical example.

Using the scoring system of the Hold’em Algorithm, A-7 offsuit adds up to 23 points (that is, 16 for the Ace + 7). This is a marginal (mediocre) drawing hand, barely exceeding the point-score requirement for hands playable only in a late position – but not playable in early or middle positions.

If A-7 suited?

In a late or middle position, suited hole cards earn a 2-point bonus to the Algorithm point score: A-7 suited becomes: 23 + 2 = 25. Now, that hand is playable in both middle and late positions (requires 24 or more points for middle position; 22 or more points for late position), but not in an early position where being suited gains only a 1-point bonus for a total score of 24 (requires 25 or more points). Widgets

However, as with all other marginal drawing hands, these still must satisfy the Hold’em Caveat, as noted above, to be considered playable starting-hands from middle or late positions. So, these hands are really not exceptions; they satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm point-score criteria.

Other Ace-rag suited starting-hands? When you are in a late position, under the “right” circumstances, some A-x suited holecards may be viable exceptions to the Hold’em Algorithm – hands that do not satisfy the point-score requirements. Examples are A-x suited where x is a trey or a deuce.

As a general rule, any A-x suited is playable so long as the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied. You don’t want to find yourself faced with one or more raises after you have invested in your A-5 suited to see the flop. That’s why a late position – preferably the Button – is best. You can see if anyone raises before you must act. Fold it if there is a raise! Otherwise, you must depend on the texture of your table: Prefer loose-passive games.

You are hoping to connect to an Ace-high flush – the nut flush! The odds are against it (over 16-to-1 against, before the flop), but the potential reward can make it quite attractive. Your Ace-high flush usually will win the pot.

So, if the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied, stay (one bet only) to see the flop, hoping to connect with at least two more cards of your suit. The odds against it are about 7.5-to-1. But it does happen sometimes. Then, the odds of catching another of your suit on the turn or the river, are much more attractive – less than 2-to-1 against.

With several opponents staying in the hand when you catch the nut flush, there is a good chance you can build a huge pot and win it (assuming no one gets very lucky and makes a full-house or better – very rare).

This is a realistic exception to our Hold’em Algorithm. Can you think of any others? In our next column, we will offer two other exceptions.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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