Sometimes, the decisions are easy with Aces. If you are short stacked, or if an opponent moves all in before you preflop, making the decision to call is automatic and no real thought is required. Other times, when you're not short-stacked you might raise and no one calls making things very easy, although maybe not as profitable as one would like. Then there are those times when you've got some tougher decisions. Up until you see a flop you know where you stand because, after all, you've got Aces and you know you're in the lead. After the flop is when the fun begins with Aces. Once again, sometimes it will be easy because you'll hit an Ace to make a set of Aces, but more often than not you won't so you'll be put in that situation of "What do I do with this great hand now?" and that's where it gets interesting.
I had one of those situations very recently in a tournament I was playing and I thought I'd go over it here. I was in the Big Blind with a stack of about 3400 and blinds at 100/200. There were six players left in the tournament. An opponent in early position had raised it to 500. That opponent had approximately the same amount of chips as myself. The player on the button, we'll call him naD because I don't want to use real names here, had a stack of about 9000 to 10000 chips and decided to call the 500. The small blind folded and I looked down and saw Aces. I could have just shoved for all my chips, but I was pretty sure that both players would fold and I was hoping to get a call out of one of the two players, preferrably naD because his decision to call instead of reraising had already indicated that his hand wasn't super strong. I decided to reraise and made it 1450 to go. If the first raiser had raised with a very strong hand he was going to reraise all in anyway and naD would then get out of the way and I'd get it all in. If the first raiser didn't have a strong hand he'd fold, and then naD would have a decision to make. Well, the first raiser folds, and then naD decided to call, so I got the scenario I was looking to get. The flop came:
Q T 7 (2 clubs, 1 spade; or 1 club, 2 spades, I don't remember which)
Now, there are a couple of scenarios that are going to be possible here as far as naD's hand is concerned:
- Scenario #1: He's hit this hard. Possibly two pair with Q-T, maybe a set of Ts or a set of 7s, or maybe A-Q for top pair top kicker. A set of Qs seems unlikely as we probably would have gotten it in preflop. If he's hit it this hard, he's going to get his chips in the pot no matter what I do.
- Scenario #2: He's semi-connected with the board. Maybe he played KQ, QJ, AT, KT, JT, or something else that has given him either top pair with a medium kicker or second pair. He also may have a straight or flush draw.
- Scenario #3: He's completely missed with a hand like A-K or A-J, or he has a pair less than Tens that hasn't connected with the board. Considering my reraise this board is a whiff for him in those situations. If he's got AK or AJ he does have a gutshot straight draw, though.
Because I'm the big blind I have to act first. I thought about it for a minute. My options are pretty much going all in or to check it to naD. Running through it in my head, if I move all in and he's got Scenario #1 he's calling 100% of the time and I need to get lucky. If he's got Scenario #2, he might call, depending on his hand in the range. I would guess he would call about 60-75% of the time because he's got possibly the best hand and he can afford the chips. He might fold, though, and I don't want that either, because I'm the favorite and I want those chips in the middle. If he's got Scenario #3, he's probably not calling if I go all in. He might call with AK or maybe with a lower pair if he thinks I'm bluffing, but I didn't think so, so let's say he calls 10% of the time here, in which case none of his chips are going in and what's in the pot is mine.
Now let's look at those same scenarios if I check. If he's got Scenarios #1 or #2 and I check he's probably going to set me all in. He might check with Scenario #1, but considering the pot size and my stack I didn't think that the flop would go without any action. If he's got Scenario #3 he's going to check 90% of the time because he's whiffed, but he might take a stab because he can put pressure on me, and I really like my chances in that scenario, anyway.
Basically, I saw no upside in betting this flop since he'd be able to avoid getting his chips in the middle if he had Scenario #3 and he might fold with some hands that are part of Scenario #2's range of hands. If he's got Scenario #1 I'm dead no matter how you look at it, and I was willing to accept the risk that he didn't out-flop me there. If I check, he's getting his chips in the middle with Scenario #2, and maybe, although chances are slim, with Scenario #3. In both of those situations I'm in the lead and the chips are in the pot.
After all that thought I decided to check. With the action on naD and the pot at 3500, he set me all in for the 1950 I had remaining, as expected, and I called. He tabled J-9, giving him the open-ended straight draw and about a 35% chance to win. The turn card was an 8, giving naD the straight and the win since I was drawing dead going to the river. Sometimes, no matter how you draw it up, the cards just don't always cooperate. I thought it was an intersting hand and would share my thoughts about it with you here. Obviously, I don't enjoy losing, but I was glad that I worked the pot and my opponent in to the situation that I wanted with the hand that I had. I guess I should have just tried to take a small pot and moved all in preflop, right? Ha!