I love helping enthusiastic poker players improve their earnings and cracking aces can be one of the most pleasurable. Many players have countless sob stories of how their aces were cracked and they busted a tournament or got stacked in cash games. Some even question the RNG or complain to the gambling site about their misfortune.
Instead of being on the receiving end of a cooler or misplaying it yourself, I’m going to share some insight into how you can be the one cracking aces. Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll be better equipped to crack pocket aces in the future as you’ll recognize scenarios where you can take advantage.
The most basic way to crack your opponent’s aces are to set mine with small pairs. This is arguably the easiest way to win a big pot in cash games or early in tournament. You call a small raise with a hand like pocket threes, catch a set on the flop and ideally stack an opponent unwilling to fold aces on dry board like 3-5-8.
So, if you’re someone that discards small pocket pairs a lot, don’t! These are incredibly valuable hands and very easy to play. Most of the time, it’s a simple case of miss the flop, get out.
Sneak in cheaply
The best way to bust pocket aces is to exploit smaller raises and get involved for cheap. Expert poker players appreciate the importance of position and implied odds when it comes to hands like trey five suited. These types of hands can be excellent candidates to sneak in with multi-way or on the cheap and potentially bust an opponent. They have great deception value and people rarely hand-read you for something as unusual as trey five or four six.
Play against nits who open from early
Something I learnt from lots of hand history review sessions is people fold to nits too much pre-flop. I think it’s because they realise their hands will be stronger than our own but that isn’t always a good argument. After all, we know a narrow range is predictable so they are straightforward and easy to play against.
A nit opening from early position is likely to have an even tighter range. Therefore, we can speculate from time to time in the hope of catching a lucky flop that might make a hand that beats overpairs like pocket aces. In this scenario, we can profitably play almost any two cards, slowplay and extract value later in the hand if we hit or chase if the price is right and crack aces.
How NOT to crack pocket aces
To create a balanced post, I can’t just advise on the best ways to crack aces without offering some tips on how not to crack them. There is a right and wrong way after all. Just because your cracked them doesn’t mean you made the right play. For instance, chasing with bad odds all the way and getting a lucky river card for a two outer is not smart play. The tips below are some helpful suggestions on ways not to crack them.
Call down big bets
Not everyone is playing small ball poker in the 2020s. Some cash games have larger bets, especially in live games. This makes the game juicier but also more expensive to try and crack pocket aces. Whilst cracking aces is a lot of fun, I don’t want you to gamble foolishly hoping to best them. In other words, you need to avoid calling big bets before and after the flop in the hope of getting very lucky.
You want odds to be on your side when you go up against aces so don’t go chasing them recklessly as this is what the fishes do and not what you ought to do if you want to maintain a decent cash game win rate.
3 Bet too wide against TAGs
I know its popular to 3-bet wide these days and there is certainly merit to have a decent 3-bet percentage but there are drawbacks. If you 3 bet too much you’re wasting post-flop equity whenever your opponent has pocket aces and 4-bets you. In these spots you’re just never going to crack aces profitably as your opponent will almost always put in another raise and price you out or try to get commit you pre-flop. Therefore, you need to be selective about spots you try to 3 bet lightly.
Putting in a re-raise against a tight player who is has opened from under the gun can be costly and waste lucrative implied odds, so think carefully about hands you choose to 3 bet with.
Speculating with short stacks
Finally, this disclaimer is for tournament players and SNG enthusiasts; don’t take flops and hope to crack aces if stacks are short. It’s worth remembering that this is for relative stacks. If your stack is big and theirs are short, you can only win what they have. If you want to become a tough opponent, you must play in situations that favour you. Going up against tight ranges with short stacks is not one of them!
It still baffles me when I see people play suited connectors for four big blinds + in live games when they have less than twenty big blinds. If you don’t have the stack, you can’t speculate.