When is it Time to Fold Pocket Aces?

John Mehaffey - June 12, 2012

Pocket aces are a dream hand in Texas Hold’em, especially when playing no limit. A big mistake players can make is not being able to fold them when they should. Pocket aces can be an emotional hand that is hard to lay down. Here are some times when it is good to get away from the hand.

Raise Big Preflop with Pocket Aces

One way to avoid getting into bad situations with pocket aces is to make a big enough preflop raise with them. This will scare off garbage hands so that it will be easier to put your opponents on bigger starting hands. If you raise at least four times the big blind, you are more likely to get suited connectors, little pairs, and mediocre face card holdings like King/Ten, Queen/Jack, and Queen/Ten. There are players that will still call those hands, and you want them to call with such a dominated hand, but they can make your decisions harder later in the hand if you get a bad flop.

All of the other players may fold when you raise big preflop, but that is better than letting players in for cheap and getting beat by an inferior hand. Take your small win and move on to the next hand; it is better than losing.

Big Flops with Action

If you raise big preflop and get callers, the last thing you want to see is a flop like King/Queen/Jack. If you see a flop like that, be careful. Another player can easily have flopped two pair, or even worse a straight. I think it is a good idea to bet in this situation, but if you get a caller be careful on the turn unless you catch a straight. If you get raised, you should seriously consider folding. You will also make two pair on the turn if the board pairs, but that could give your opponent three of a kind or a full house. These type of big flops are serious trouble for pocket aces.

Suited Flops

If there is a flop that comes all one suit, and you do not have a flush draw with one of your aces, you might be in trouble. I feel the flop is a good time to make a move, especially if the flop contains two cards ten and higher. This makes it less likely someone else flopped a flush. A big move here will scare away middle flush draws. If you get raised, it is probably time to let go of your aces. If someone bets in front of you, you should also consider laying the aces down if the bet is large enough.

Paired Kings, Queens, or Jacks on Flop

A flop that brings on a pair of face cards can be trouble. One of the more probable hands to call a big preflop raise is two face cards. Watch the action closely, and get out if it gets too expensive.

Bad Turn Cards

The hand can get progressively worse as the turn is shown. If the turn produces a four card straight or flush, or it pairs the top card, it is time to stop betting. If anyone bets with the four card straight or flush up, and you do not have it, it is time to fold. If the top card pairs, and the action gets big, it is time to fold as well. The assumption there is that you got called on the flop by the top pair, especially if the flop is one face card and two small cards.

The River

In addition to four card straights and flushes on the river, the board can make two pair without one of those pairs being aces. If that is the case, especially if the two pair are the top two cards on the flop, your aces are likely to lose here. Try to get to the showdown as cheap as possible, but be prepared to lay down the hand if it gets expensive. Another situation is if the board makes a three card flush on the river. It might be a good idea to check call here if the flop contained two of this suit. If your opponent goes all in, your aces are almost certainly no good.

How to Avoid These Situations

As you get more experienced, you will learn how to play pocket aces better. If you are still learning, I feel one of the best actions is to make a large bet on the flop if the board is not scary, especially if there is a flush draw on the flop. If your stack is close to the amount of the size of the pot on the flop, I think going all in is the right play. You might as well make your opponent pay to make his hand. If he out flopped you on a dry flop, he was likely to get your stack anyway.

Know Your Opponent

You will also need to know your opponents. If a player that raises every hand is raising you when you have pocket aces, you should try to get him all in, even if the board has some scare cards on it. On the other hand, if a tight player is raising into you, you might want to consider laying down pocket aces, even if the board is not that scary.