Ace Rag

What’s Wrong With Ace Rag? Tony from UK

Dear Tony,

Thanks for your question. Ace rag is an ace with a number between 2 and 9 and usually off-suit in Texas Holdem. It is a hand group that is often associated with new players who often overplay it. They usually overplay it because they look at one ace and think they have a strong hand. The second card is known as the “kicker” and can be the key difference in winning or losing the pot. See below for example:

Board – Ah 3h 9d 9s 5d

On this board, a player with Ad 6d is beat by someone with Ac Jc because you are playing the best 5 card hand, in this case A-A-9-9-J beats A-A-9-9-6.

The Maths

To have a bigger kicker with your ace is quite a significant advantage in Texas Holdem. You will be at least 74% favourite if you both hold an ace and yours is larger. This is known as being dominated, this is particularly useful to know in tournament poker when you are all in before the flop. If you overplay an ace rag and are all in against an ace king, you are in a world of trouble and unlikely to win.

Playability

Remember, an ace is both high and low for straights. Therefore, a lower ace could be more of value than a middle kicker. This sounds counter intuitive but for the purposes of playability it’s true. I would much prefer to have an ace four than an ace seven. The ace four has straight potential whereas the ace seven does not. 

How Many People at The Table

The fewer players at the table, the wider range of hands you should be playing. In a full ring game, an ace ten is a mediocre hand at best from early position, four handed and it is a strong hand. In other words, the value of your ace goes up in value, the fewer opponents you have. If you are playing heads up, you will likely play every ace before the flop, with differing degrees of aggression, but you will play them.

Ace Rag Tips

Ace rag doesn’t have to be a problem hand. As long you are not wedded to it post flop if you catch an ace, exercise pot control well and are in position, the hand can certainly be profitable for you.

  • Open raise from cut-off or button if folded to you
  • Call a raise from SB
  • Limped pot and you catch top pair
  • 3 Bet a loose aggressive player in position as you have a good blocker.



Ace Rag
Everyone loves an ace. Image by Aditya Chinchure

I hope you found this answer useful. Remember to tread cautious next time you look down at ace rag.

Thanks,
Narciso

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Trouble Folding Pocket Aces?

When should I be folding pocket aces? I seem to lose a lot of pots with them. Ben from UK

We chose Ben’s question as our featured free question this month. Folding pocket aces is an issue many beginners and even experienced players have, particularly in cash games or early stage tournaments so we thought this would be a useful question and answer to share with our readers.

Answer

Hi Ben

Thanks for your question. Pocket aces are the best possible hand before the flop in No Limit Texas Holdem but they are also one of the most overplayed after the flop. Professionals  pick off beginners who have trouble folding pocket aces in cash games all the time. They will tap the table and say unlucky while raking in a 200BB pot.

To answer your question though, there are many occasions when you should be folding pocket aces. 

  • Facing a turn re-raise from a tight player is almost always 2 pair or better in cash games
  • Facing a check raise in a multi-way pot 
  • On a 4 to flush board (if you are lacking the suit)
  • On a 4 to straight board

The scenarios above are simplistic and obvious to experienced players but not always to a player new to the game.You also need to be careful on paired boards or boards where two pairs easily fit your opponents preflop calling range e.g KQx, KJx & QJx. 

Above all you need to think, as the pot builds, is your opponent the type to play a one pair hand for this much? If it’s unlikely then you need to step back and assess. Your opponents tendencies are just as important as board texture when choosing how much to commit to a hand with pocket aces.

Selective Memory

The other thing to remember with pocket aces is you always remember the times you lose with them. You expect to always win but the fact is you are not guaranteed to win, even in  tournaments you are about 80% against a lower pair. That’s favourable odds but you are expected to lose 1 in 5 in this situation. That’s not so rare is it?

Pocket Aces
Image by freepik.com

Final Thoughts

Pocket aces should be your most profitable hand to play but it is also just a one pair hand. In deep stacked games, the better players are manoeuvring and looking for spots to play big pots with better than one pair hands. This means you need to adapt. Consider the board texture, your image, your opponents likely range and their tendencies before playing a big pot. As you gain experience you will appreciate the value of pot control and effective bet sizing. You will also learn to hand read and have less trouble folding pocket aces.

Hope this helps.

Thanks

Narciso