Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1987) in Poker Player Newspaper.
Rediscovered, updated, and added to Poker1 in 2017.
Here you sit in a $30/$60 seven stud game, impatiently waiting for something to happen. Now comes a new hand. New hope. A new horizon. Your exposed card is nine of hearts. The low card, which by the rules of your game will be forced to bet blind, is a deuce lying immediately to your left.
This fact, in itself, makes you eager to look at your hole cards. You’ll be last to act, and that always provides a dynamic positional advantage. What about the other five players who will act between the deuce and you? Their exposed cards, clockwise, are seven, jack, queen, three, king. Now you look at your cards and see…
A♥ A♣ 9♥
Wow, that’s a pair of aces buried! Nice hand. Now what? Well, the deuce bets $10 because it must. The seven passes. The jack puts in $30 (which is equivalent to completing the bet in this $30/$60 limit game) and the queen, the three and the king all call. What should you do?
Right or wrong?
Most everyone says to raise. Most everyone is right. Raise. Most everyone is smart enough to reason that you raise because you want to limit the field of opponents, ideally finding yourself one on one. Most everyone is wrong.
First of all, you shouldn’t expect to limit the field with this raise. Except for decreasing the chances that the deuce (who started the action for $10) will call, it will be rare that any involved player will surrender to your raise, unless someone else immediately re-raises. Certainly, you should raise, but not necessarily for the reason they tell you — not to limit your opponents. Unless you have a chance of winning the pot outright because NO players will call, you’d usually rather have MANY players compete against your pair of aces than ONE OR TWO players. (By the way, this is seldom true with say, a pair of tens. Then you’d usually prefer to be heads-up against a weaker pair, because the tens will win quite often without improving. In a five=handed contest, the tens will hardly ever win without improving. But that’s just another way of saying that the weaker your pair is, the more you’d rather be one-on-one or one-on-none.)
Hope they call
Contrary to common expert wisdom, OFTEN YOU’LL MAKE MORE MONEY WITH ACES IF YOU DON’T LIMIT THE FIELD! Many experts will tell you that you should raise and hope most of your opponents pass. Ain’t so. You should often raise and hope all your opponents call. Be warned that some very intelligent authorities just flat-out don’t agree with what I’m saying. And my conclusions, though based on extensive research, are speculative enough that I could conceivably reverse my opinion someday. But don’t hold your breath.
You’re probably thinking, “What difference does it make whether you raise for the right reason as long as you raise?” Well, not realizing that aces often earn more against many opponents can cause you to make the wrong decision. Listen I’m more likely to raise and limit the field if, by doing, so I can create a pot filled with forfeited money. If the action is bring-in for $10, complete bet to $30, call $30, call $30, raise to $60, you should definitely re-raise to $90 with your pair of aces because there’s a good chance you’ll chase everyone except the raiser out of the pot. Then you and he will fight over $100 in forfeited money.
Where the popular “limit the field” advice breaks down is in a situation like this: A deuce brings it in for a forced $10, the next player with a jack showing raises and now it’s up to you to act on your pair of aces with four players — showing ten, eight, king and queen — waiting behind you. Here, most experts routinely raise and I usually just call. Why? Because there’s no major money that will be forfeited if I raise and in most cases I’ll make more money in the long run if I play aces against many opponents.
That advice may be controversial, but it’s correct. Thanks for listening. Good-bye. — MC