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Every once in a while, beginning players will ask if they should fold pocket aces before the flop. There are a few times when you should, but they are incredibly rare. Before discussing what they are, let me answer this common question:
Poker novice: Suppose a well-known pro is in a big multi-table no limit Texas hold ‘em tournament. On the very first hand, she is dealt AA. Much to her surprise, four players raise all-in before she has a chance to act! Should she fold? Wise expert: Folding here would be virtual poker, as in “That's virtually the dumbest thing I've ever seen!”
It's true that the pro will be knocked out of the tournament over 50% of the time if she calls. But when she does win, she'll have five times the starting stack. No one is good enough to pass up that kind of gamble. In the next tip, I'll discuss a few times where it actually is correct to fold AA before the flop.
It's hard to deal with a player who raises a lot. In order to do, you're going to need to figure out (or guess) whether they're “slippery” or “stubborn.” This can be hard if you're playing virtual poker.
Suppose you're playing a free virtual poker game on the internet. There's a player who has raised before the flop many times, so you know he's raising some marginal hands. If you think the player is slippery, go ahead and reraise him with a marginal hand yourself, like 55 or 67s or what have you. Since he's likely to have a bad hand, he'll usually fold.
*If a player is stubborn, it means they won't throw away their junk hand. Against this player, just wait for a real hand. They'll raise, you'll reraise with your big pair, and you'll get all of the chips against their mediocre hand.
If you watch high-level players in a no limit Texas hold ‘em tournament, whether it's a virtual poker game or a live one, you'll see that the action often looks like this: everyone folds to someone in late position, who raises and everyone folds. This is a very common occurrence, especially once the blinds are big enough that they are worth stealing.
If players are stealing blinds that often, it means that sometimes they're doing it with marginal hands. If you're in a blind and you suspect that the raiser has a poor hand, the best play is often to reraise. If you just call, even if your hand is better before the flop, you risk letting the raiser improve her hand. Also, it will be harder to extract money if you do have a good hand since you'll have to act first in each betting round. So you often want to reraise before the flop, and raise enough that you have a good chance of winning the pot right there.
As I've said in another tip, it is almost always wrong to fold AA before the flop in no limit Texas hold ‘em. But here's one case where it's correct:
Suppose that for whatever reason, you're down to just one chip in a tournament, and the blinds are 1000/2000. You're in the money. If you're dealt AA, you should fold! You're not going to be able to build your stack back up. Even if you tripled up four times, you'd still have just 81 chips. The best plan at this point is to hope to get lucky on your blinds and survive, and maybe you'll be able to inch your way up a few spots in the money. You're barely going to be playing poker at this point – it's almost like playing virtual poker game for you – but it's the most profitable way to play this (incredibly rare) situation.