Passing aces

How to play Aces, what to do when a tablemate is cheating and why
coinflips aren’t always the worst situation to find yourself in


Should I just be folding during what I suspect is going to be a coinflip scenario and wait for a better spot?

I was in a £30 rebuy tournament recently with black Aces in middle position and 5k in chips. We were about ten minutes into the freezeout period, the blinds were 200/400 and the chipleader to my right had been doing a lot of raising pre-flop. He had over 12k in chips and made it 1,200 to go. I re-raised him to 2,400. The guy to my left took two minutes to push all-in – about 4k in total. My heart was going crazy; I just needed the chipleader to fold and I could go all-in. To my horror, he pushed all-in and I had to decide whether to fold my Aces. I figured that if I could win this pot, I’d be in a brilliant position to get to the final table – so I called. The guy to my left showed pocket Queens and the guy to my right flipped over Q-J. So far, so good. Then the board came 10-8-9, blank, blank. Did I make the wrong choice? Daniel Wright, via email

In all my years playing poker, I’ve never passed Aces – even three- or four-handed. It’s true that you lose more of your equity with more players in the pot, but you can’t pass unless you’ve got a crystal ball. The only time you pass Aces in hold’em is if you’re in a satellite tournament and trying to book yourself into one of a certain number of places.


I was playing in a cash game recently at my local cardroom. The lady next to me had just had a win on the horses and it was obvious that this was her very first poker game. Every time she looked at her hole cards, she’d bring them right up to her face. The guy to her right would subtly lean back in his chair and see what she had. On several occasions I accidentally caught glimpses of her cards – enough to see paint – and when I knew what she had, I felt so bad for her that I’d get less money from her than could have. Suffice to say, however, that after a few hours of play, the hefty bankroll that she had brought to the table had disappeared, shared out amongst the rest of the table. I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of fish over the years, but what would you have done in this situation? Would you have taken full advantage of the fact that she couldn’t look at her cards in secret or would you have offered her a bit of advice and risk the wrath of the rest of the players? Katie, London

Actually, a similar situation happened to me a few nights ago. I was in seat 1 and there was a wealthy guy sat in seat 3. The guy in seat 2 could probably see this rich guy’s cards and the chap in seat 4 could definitely see them. I politely told the gentleman in seat 3, ‘Sir, you should try and look at your cards in a way that no-one else can see them.’ If only the players either side of him can see his cards, then it’s to everyone else’s disadvantage, including yours. But even if you were the only one who could see his cards, you should always say something. It’s not in the proper etiquette of the game. Once people know you don’t play on a level playing field, you lose credibility.


I’ve been having a hard time of coinflips recently. I’ve lost Q-Q against A-K, A-K against 9-9 and about five other similar combinations. Should I just be folding during what I suspect is going to be a coinflip scenario and wait for a better spot? Ricky Morris, via email

Coinflips are an inevitable part of the game. If I could, I would avoid them every time and wait until I’m a bigger favourite. Accepting that they will happen again and again and again will make it a lot easier to stomach when they don’t go your way. It is, of course, still better to be in a coin-flip situation than being a 4/1 underdog – say if you have a pair of 4s and the other guy has a pair 10s – but this doesn’t mean that you should get involved in every single coin-flip situation that you come across. In a tournament, it depends on the blinds, your chipstack and the players at your table. If it’s the latter stages of the tournament, blinds are at $1,000/$2,000 and you have $10,000, then you have to put your money in and hope that you do get involved in a coin-flip. If it’s early on, then there is really no need to make such a call – why put your tournament life at risk unless you really have to?

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