By: Victor “Vegas Vic” Royer
Simply put, whenever you have pocket Aces and decide to make a play with them -- which you should almost always do -- be prepared to go with them all the way. Remember that whenever you are the aggressor, especially when you hold this big pocket pair, you should make your move as boldly and as early as possible, not only to isolate yourself against preferably only one opponent, but hopefully to win the pot right then and there – especially if it had been re-raised by your opponent, or perhaps a second player coming in thereafter, or when the blinds and antes are high enough, or when such a move is likely to force a short-stacked opponent to commit to the pot with an inferior hand.
When you have pocket Aces now is not the time to try to be fancy. Especially so in the early rounds of the poker tournament, because you should always remember that sophisticated plays are often quite lost on mostly unsophisticated opponents. So when you have a hand like this go for it with the gusto that such a hand demands, unless -- and this is its only caveat -- you have made other determinations subsequent to the flop in which it becomes plainly obvious that your hand is no longer the best, and is unlikely to become the best.
This is a difficult judgment to be made especially in circumstances where the play continues to the flop, because no matter how good your hand may be at the beginning before the flop happens, each time there is an opponent facing you after the flop it is quite possible that he or she can out flop you and thereby completely destroy or invalidate your good hand and good play prior to the flop. But those are situations and considerations that you will have to make if and when you actually do get to the flop without having gone all in prior to it.
In all circumstances where you hold pocket Aces and you make a raise prior to the flop and are subsequently re-raised by another player, always be prepared to move all in right then and there.
Most of the time this will result in you either winning the pot immediately, or, which may be preferable but is nevertheless dangerous, you will get that player committed to playing the pot with you. In such circumstances it is usually the case that your opponent has another big pair, or at least another pair, and sometimes even a drawing hand such as Ace-King, suited or offsuit. In all of these circumstances your pocket Aces are of course always the favorite, until the flop.
But in each of these situations there is always the possibility that no matter what hand your opponent has chosen to play against your pocket Aces, his or her hand may actually hit the flop while yours does not, or perhaps hit the flop better than your hand possibly can. That is the vulnerability in playing pocket Aces, and indeed any pocket pair, although pocket Aces are the most vulnerable to lucky flops by opponents who have decided to take action with you.
Consequently, pocket Aces is a hand that should be played for big pots, and not a hand that should be nickel-and-dimed. Even though there are many cases in which a situation will dictate that you use the hand for the purposes of trapping your opponents into overcommitting, those circumstances are such as you will be able to decide and determine based upon your observational skills as they apply to that particular play in that moment and at that table and against those opponents.
Of course the second caveat to all of this is when you are in situations where the play of your pocket Aces will be more profitable as a trapping hand. Most of the time such situations will present themselves when you receive pocket Aces in early and middle positions, or the blinds. More on this next time.