Not all Ace high flops are the same

Dara O’Kearney shares an error a lot of players make, which is treating all Ace high flops equally.

Dara O Kearney
Dara O’Kearney 

When it comes to poker study I think the best approach, especially for new players, is to study the spots that come up the most often. That means things like Button vs Big Blind, but it also means different types of flop textures.

You can learn a lot by studying, for example, paired boards or wet boards in general, rather than looking at them from the perspective of the hand you were dealt. Of all the flops you come across in poker, perhaps the ones that come up most often when students have questions is Ace high boards.

Some people think that the presence of an Ace trumps everything else about the board and makes the game simply a question of which one of you has, or can represent, the Ace. Usually that means that the in position opener is more likely to take the hand down, compared to the Big Blind, because their range tends to be more Ace high heavy.

That isn’t the case, however, there are a lot of different types of Ace high boards and they all have a different strategy. Ace-middle card-low card is a lot different to Ace-low card-low card, for example.

Range advantage vs nutted advantage

Dara O Kearney
A possible opener range 

Let’s say the opener raises from MP1 and is called by the Big Blind. If the flop is A-9-3 then the opener has a significant range and nutted advantage here. They have all the Aces and they also have 99 for the set. Their range might be something like the image on the right.

We can usually discount AQ+ and maybe the bigger pairs, sometimes even 99, from the Big Blind because they have a capped range, they would usually have 3-bet those hands preflop.

With such an advantage the opener can usually be aggressive in position and use larger bet sizings in the 2/3rd pot region.

Be careful on low Ace flops

Dara O Kearney
A possible BB defence range (greens are flats, reds are reraises)

If, however, the flop is A-4-5 then they cannot be as aggressive. While the opener still has the range advantage here of all the strongest Ax hands, the Big Blind has the nutted advantage. They have hands like 23, 45, 44 and 55. Their range might look like the picture on the right,

The solvers will still be aggressive as the in position opener but you will see more check backs and smaller bet sizings like 1/3rd pot. The solvers know what you should, that you have to be a lot more careful on these flops as the opener.

You can study other similarly tricky flops with an Ace on when the board is paired (A-J-J) or very wet (A-K-Q all hearts). To simply reduce a situation to whether an Ace has flopped or not is a very one dimensional way of playing that will get you into trouble.

If you want more insight like this, Dara has a regular newsletter where he gives free tips like this all the time. 

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