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Did I make a Mistake by Slow- Playing Aces in this Spot?

Cash Game: Blinds (10/20)

  • UTG (2000 - 100BB ) 
  • UTG+1 (2000 - 100BB)
  • LJ (1000 - 50BB)
  • HJ (2000 - 100BB)
  • CO (2000 - 100BB)
  • BU (2700 - 135BB) - HERO
  • SB (4000 - 200BB) - VILLAIN
  • BB (3000 - 150BB)

Preflop: UTG+1 limps in, Hero raises from the BU to 80 with AcAh, Villain is in SB and he 3-bets to 260. UTG+1 folds. Hero calls. 

Flop (Pot size 560): 9c6dTh

Villain bets 400, Hero calls.

Turn (Pot size 1360): Ks

Villain bets 2040 putting Hero all-in, Hero calls.

River: 2s

Villain shows KhKc and wins the pot.



Even though the question asked is 'Did I make a mistake slow-playing Aces?', we don't think it is the biggest mistake in this hand. Let us explain.

Our first critical decision comes pre flop when we are facing a 3-bet from the villain in the small blind. We have an option of whether to 4-bet or to call slow-play our aces and just call. There are merits to both, and your decision should be based on the following factors:

  1. Is the villain aggressive post flop? 
  2. Does the villain play fit or fold?
  3. Is the villain likely to bluff often when he whiffs the board?
  4. Is the villain exploiting the fact that you are on the Button and thus your perceived range of hands is not that strong, especially when you are isolating a limper?
  5. Does the villain have it in him to bluff 3-bet wide?
  6. Does the villain call a 4-bet lightly pre flop or 5-bet shove with a worse hand often?
  7. How deep are we?

If you think that 1, 3, 4 and 5 are very likely, then you can consider slow playing. This is because villain will often do the betting for us with his weaker hand. On the other hand, if we 4-bet, he might be able to fold a lot of his bluffs and worse value hands.

If you think 2 and 6 are likely, then you can 4-bet for value. This is because post flop, the villain might not give us a lot of value with his worse hands, but pre flop he is likely to make more mistakes and shove with hands like TT, JJ, AK which we are well ahead of but which may not pay us off post flop.

Also, consider the 7th point. If we are very deep, say 200-250BB deep, you want to put in more money in the pot with a premium hand. Your intention is to get all the villain's money, so building the pot in position is good, because otherwise, being this deep, it may not be possible to stack him off post flop.

Another reason to slow play here could be to balance your range. For example, if you always 4-bet your Aces and Kings, then when you flat, your opponent can discount these hands from your range; and you can be put under a lot of pressure post flop.

Let's talk about the flop.

We like the decision to flat. By raising, we force him to fold his bluffs. And there is no fear of missing value from worse hands since we are in position and can bet if villain checks to us. Moreover, the flop is quite dry, so there are not a lot of draws that we are afraid of. The only possible draw that could be there is QJ and maybe a gutshot draw like KJ, KQ.

On the turn, when the King comes, the villain jams putting us all-in. The pot is 1360 and the bet is 2040, so it is a big overbet. Usually, overbet signifies polarised range- i.e. either the villain has a very strong hand or a very weak hand. We don't expect the villain to do this with a medium strength hand like AT or QQ.

A. What hands are beating us? TT, 99, KK, QJ (25 combos)

B. What worse hands is the villain betting for value that we beat? AK (6), maybe KQs(3). If the villain is crazy and is 3-betting us light with hands like KT, 9T then those too but it is very unlikely.

C. What bluffs can the villain have? AJ(8), AQ(8) - assuming he pulls the trigger with them.

If we compare A vs B+C, the answer isn't conclusive. Next we need to see the odds we are getting. Since it is an overbet, we need to call with fewer hands and can fold a large part of our range. How do we decide which hands to fold? 

We should fold the bottom of our range. What hands can we have in this spot? We can have all the sets - 66, TT, 99, KK; two pairs 9T, KTs, K9s (if we decide to flat that pre); straights 78s (we might call this pre given we are so deep), QJs.

As we see, we will have much better value hands than Aces in this spot. So, we can fold especially when the villain doesn't have a lot of bluffs (unless he is a complete maniac and can bluff with a wide variety of hands like A5s).

Another reason to fold is that we are blocking some of the hands that our villain can be value-shoving with (AK).

So, even though it sounds weird to say, but Aces are nowhere near the top of the range of hands that we can have in this spot. It is in the middle part of our range (along with AK that we decide to float the flop with, KQ, KJ). It is a tough spot and so much of this hand is villain dependent. And although we don't fault the hero for calling, a fold is better against an unknown opponent.

Lastly, never think of a poker hand based on its result. The outcome of a single hand should never direct the way you think about that spot. So losing this pot shouldn't mean that you never slow play aces. And for what it's worth, the outcome would have been the same even if you had played it fast pre flop.



Prashaste Sinha

Prashaste lives to eat and write. She's our very own homegrown poker sceptic who's gone on to enjoy her stint with poker and loves writing and interviewing people who are passionate about poker and life.