Every poker player loves to see an Ace in the hole

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Every poker player loves to see an Ace in the hole. Sure, playing Texas hold’em, two Aces in the hole would be even better! But, you can expect pocket Aces only one out of 221 hands.

You could play a whole session and never see it. On the other hand, one Ace in the hole is quite common. The odds are only about 6-to-1 against it. To put it another way, expect an Ace in the hole one out of seven hands dealt to you in the long run.

More to the point, at a full table of nine players, at least one will likely have an Ace in the hole. If you don’t have one, it’s even more probable one of your eight opponents does. It is often the case that two players have an Ace in the hole.

An Ace in the hole is so beautiful many hold’em players will stay to see the flop no matter the kicker; we call that playing any-Ace. Sure, it is so much better if you have a big kicker with it. King or Queen would be great! Combined with the Ace, these are premium drawing hands. Going one step further, being suited would substantially add to the luster; you would have a shot at the nut flush.

Playing Ace-rag

You might be surprised how many poker players will pay to see the flop with Ace-rag (7 or lower as the kicker). Such a player is bound to be a loser.

Starting with A-rag, if an Ace flops, he will have a badly dominated hand against an opponent with a bigger Ace. That could be very costly, as he calls all bets to the river – hoping his A-A with small kicker holds up, or that he pairs his kicker while his opponent does not. He can only suspect there are just three cards – 3 outs – that might be available in order to overcome his opponent’s higher kicker. By playing A-rag, he has plunged himself into that terrible situation.

And, if he pairs his kicker instead of the Ace (equally likely), it’s only a small pair – one easily beat by a bigger pair. There is one more hope: If he catches another Ace on the flop, but does not pair his kicker, he could luck out and have three cards higher than his opponent’s kicker fall on the board. In that case, he would win half the pot (better than losing).

All in all, A-rag is not the kind of hand we should usually invest in before the flop.

If A-rag is suited?

Now he has a chance to make top flush. But there is a problem. It is much more likely one of those hole cards will be paired up on the flop – the odds are only 2-to-1 against; whereas, the preferred alternative, catching two or more of his flush suit, is a relatively long shot. The odds are 8-to-1 against flopping a four-flush and then it still needs to complete on the turn or the river.

An Exception: A-rag suited is playable provided there have not been any raises, and it is a multi-way pot. We call this the Hold’em Caveat. Best would be if he is in a late position; then he can see if the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied before investing. (Of course, late position is always preferred.)

Hoping to catch the nut (Ace-high) flush, the odds are about 100-to-1 against it on the flop. More realistically, he might flop two more cards of his suit. The odds are still fairly high – about 8-to-1 against. That’s why it is best to invest only one small bet (no raises) to see the flop with such a hand. And, with a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop), there can be a significant number of chips in the pot if/when his hand does connect. (The potential reward is worth the risk.)

In summary, Ace-rag is best folded – with one possible exception when the circumstances are right.

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