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Chances are you are already familiar with the Aces-Cracked bonus offered by many casinos in limit hold’em games. (See May 24 column.) It’s a great feeling to see A-A in the hole, even more so during a bonus hour. But, there are two situations that require special thought.

Ace falls on board

Holding pocket Aces during the bonus period, what do you do if an Ace hits the board; and, now you have a powerful set of Aces? Study the board. Is it possible for anyone to have a straight or a flush – a hand that would beat your set of Aces (assuming you don’t fill up to a full-house).

If not likely, you must change tactics. Since you are almost certain to win the pot, you want it to be as big as possible. Now is the time to become aggressive and deceptive.

If you are in a late position, and there has been a bet from an early position with a few callers, your raise may help to build the pot. Hopefully, the original bettor and the callers will call your raise. Here’s what you should not do: When making your raise, do not use the Esther Bluff tactic, which could discourage callers.

From an early position, having caught your set of Aces, now is the time to use deception. A Check-Raise would be ideal. In a limit game, it is best at the turn when bets are doubled. Just be sure an opponent will make the bet if you check.

After his bet is called and it’s your turn to act, make your raise, calmly. You are building your pot. If there is any doubt an opponent will make the bet, you must do it, hoping for some callers. In addition to opponents holding made hands, those with half-way decent drawing hands are likely to call, and your pot gets bigger.

Pot is too small

Suppose you get to the turn with your unimproved A-A and the pot is quite small, with no raises, just lots of checking. So, as you go to the river, there is less than $20 in the pot.

Chances are your pocket Aces will win this pot, but possibly a tight or conservative opponent has a small or middle two-pair, and is not likely to bet out, but will certainly call your bet. Also, players with reasonable drawing hands are likely to call to see the river. Remember, the pot needs to have at least $20 for your Aces-Cracked to win the bonus. After it has been checked to you, pause a bit, then make the bet. Hopefully, there will be a caller or two, so the pot is big enough to qualify for your bonus.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [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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