Home Poker Starting Hands in No-Limit Hold’em: How to Play AA

Starting Hands in No-Limit Hold’em: How to Play AA

by Paul Hewson
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No Limit Texas Hold'em

There are a thousand different nicknames for pocket Aces, and they’re all kind of lame – except for bullets. When you get dealt the strongest starting hand in No-Limit Texas Hold’em, you feel invincible; if you want, you can just blast your opponents by raising every single time the action falls to you. It’s the easiest poker strategy in the world. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Or you could delve into the dark arts of trapping with Aces. There are times where it makes sense to call instead of raise, and let your opponents put the money in the pot for you. But now you’re inviting danger into the room. You’d better know what you’re doing if you want your trap to be successful. 

I did say during my introduction to this series that we wouldn’t be doing any pre-flop calling. I lied; if you’re a relative beginner, I do recommend always open-raising with Aces, or 3-betting, or raising in general when it’s your turn pre-flop. But this particular hand is strong enough for intermediate poker players and aspiring pros to wield with a bit more savvy.

When Should I Raise With AA?

Beginner or not, you should consider raising every single time with pocket Aces – when you’re in position. For the trap we’re going to lay in the next section, you’ll want to be out of position, which will probably happen when you’re in the blinds and someone else open-raises.

Raising with AA can never be that wrong. You’ve got 85.2% equity versus any two cards, meaning if you and your opponent go all-in preflop, you’ll win 85.2% of the pot in the long run. That’s worth piling all your chips in for.

Not that your opponent will be going all-in with trash very often. Most likely, they’re going to fold to your first raise, and that’s fine: You won a small pot uncontested. But maybe they’ll have pocket Kings or Queens, in which case they’re probably going to play for stacks, and you’ve got about 82% equity in that situation. Or maybe they’ll have AKs (88%) or AKo (93%).

As a beginner, you want to let these premium hands get their money in now, pre-flop. If you call and the flop doesn’t hit your opponents well enough, they may get cold feet. Plus, you’re inviting all sorts of complications that could lead to mistakes on your part. Minimizing mistakes is much more important than extracting value when you’re just starting out.

When Should I Call With AA?

You may have heard this chestnut from Sun-Tzu before: All warfare is based on deception. When you’re developing a poker strategy, you want to find ways to disguise the strength of your hand. That could be by throwing off fake tells, but only do that if you’re really, really good at that kind of thing.

Instead, focus on the actual plays you make at the table. If you call an open-raise with AA from the blinds, and your opponent happens to make Top Pair on the flop, they’re probably going to respond to your check (always check here) with a continuation bet, thinking they have the better hand. So you can call again, then rinse and repeat on the turn and river if the board doesn’t get too scary.

You could also try trapping with Aces when you’re out of position by opening, then calling someone else’s raise instead of re-raising. This will be trickier, though, since the 3-bettor in this example should have a much stronger range of hands than the previous open-raiser.

Finally, if you’re a real scamp, you could limp in with Aces and hope someone raises you – then you can re-raise, or continue to call and play it slowly. Don’t try this for real money unless you’re very comfortable wading through the weeds post-flop. Again, your dream scenario in Hold’em is to get all the money in pre-flop with Aces versus a premium hand, so let those bullets fly, and we’ll see you for our next episode: pocket Kings.

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Paul Hewson
Paul Hewson (not that one) is a poker player/writer from the Pacific Northwest, appearing on the World Poker Tour, MILLIONS Tour and the WSOP Circuit series. Hewson is the senior writer for the Bodog Poker family; Texas Hold’em is his specialty, with side hustles in 8-Game and Badugi. He’s an Abe Limon Guy.

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