Handling A-x suited

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Playing Texas hold’em, it’s always nice to be dealt an Ace in the hole. But what is the best way to play such hands? Of course, the obvious answer to that question is “it depends.”

Most important is the Kicker that accompanies the Ace – how high its rank and whether it is the same suit.

Let’s focus on A-x suited, where x is a small card, 7 down to 2. Many, if not most, players are prone to stay to see the flop with such hands – no matter their position or how many opponents stay in. That’s most likely to occur in small/medium stakes games. Usually, we recommend against that investment; muck your hand, and save your chips for a better opportunity – unless you are one of the blinds and there has not been a raise.

Rationale: Most likely, if your hand improves on the flop, it will be to pair one of your hole cards. A pair of Aces is fine – but an opponent who also has an Ace in the hole most often has a higher Kicker. It could be very costly to find out if you stay all the way to the river after you flop that pair of Aces. Alternatively, if you flop a pair of 7’s, you have a great Kicker, but a pair of 7’s is too easily beat by a bigger pair or better. (In that case, your Ace-Kicker won’t help.)

As for your A-7 being suited, the odds of flopping a flush are about 120-to-1 against you – a huge longshot. More likely would be flopping two more cards of your suit; but, here too the odds are about 8-to-1 against you. And then you still need to catch the fifth suited card on the Turn or the River to fill your flush. If there has been any raising pre-flop, folding your hand is usually the wise decision. (Of course, should you stay to see the flop and it brings two more cards of your suit, then you have a good chance of filling your flush on the Turn or the River. At that point, your card odds are bound to be favorable.)

There are two possible exceptions – there are always exceptions – when you might choose to see the flop with such a hand: (1) From the Big Blind, you get to see the flop for “free” if there is no raise pre-flop. Never refuse a free card; or (2) From the Small Blind, there is no raise and it’s a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop), so it costs just half a bet. In this latter case, you are hoping to catch a four-flush on the flop. Then you have a decent chance to catch the nut (Ace-high) flush. And, it could be a big pot.

But, what if you are not one of the Blinds? You can only guess whether there will be a raise after you call to see the flop. A raise – a two-bet – would make it too costly. Here’s where looking for a tell can come to your rescue. Before committing, look to your left. If an opponent is picking up a large bunch of chips (enough for a raise), you know it’s best to fold that hand.

I have often said, “a dollar saved is worth more than a dollar won.”

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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