“Security! Floor to table 21!”
“You called my raise with that piece of crap hand? I can’t believe it! I hate pocket aces! Every time I get aces, they get cracked. This game sucks.”
“Calm down sir, or we’re going to have to ask you to leave. Calm down.”
If you’ve been playing poker for a while, you’ve most likely been a witness to this scene or one like it quite a few times. In fact, you may have been a participant in this scene on one side or the other. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.
Pocket Aces get cracked all the time. But there’s a respectable way to lose that hand and a way that makes people lose their minds.
If you’ve been playing for several hours in a poker tournament, and you raise with AA, then someone re-raises, you end up getting it all in preflop. Your opponent turns over KK, and you’re feeling pretty good about this situation.
That is, until you see a King in the window when the flop comes out. Ouch, that stings, but “what are you going to do?” That’s poker.
Both people played the hand “the right way.”
However, in the same scenario, when you raise with the exact same AA, and someone just flats behind. Then the flop comes out 3-5-J rainbow. In this scenario, you end up getting it all in on the flop. When your opponent turns over 3-5 suited and cracks your pocket aces, it feels totally different. For many people, this hand can trigger an incredible amount of anger. There have been fist fights–and worse–over aces being cracked in this manner.
What’s really going on here? Why does the first hand elicit a “what are you going to do” type of response, and the latter elicits a “I’m going to slash your tires” type of response?
In a word, tilt.
Tilt can come in many forms, but in this instance, the tilt comes from a feeling that we are entitled to win that pot because “we played it the right way.” In our mind, we’ve been patient, we finally got a big hand, and this bozo cracks us by playing total garbage.
Let’s unpack this a bit further.
There are a lot of details that are left out of this story. Let’s rewind and pick things up from the other person’s perspective.
Now let’s say we’re the person with the 3-5 suited. We have position. We also have a big stack, over 200 big blinds. We’ve been paying attention to our opponents, and have noticed when this guy to our right has a big hand, he raises. When he has a marginal hand, he limps.
So back to the hand in question. Things fold to middle position, and our neighbor opens for 4x the big blind. He has about 100 big blinds. Immediately, we narrow his possible starting range to Tens or better and maybe AK. We are one seat off of the button and we have a suited one gapper.
This is exactly the type of hand that will get our opponent’s entire stack when we connect, and it’s a super easy hand to get away from when we don’t.
Because we are so deep-stacked, a 4x open represents about 2% of our stack. We realize this is a speculative hand, but we’re fairly confident of the strength of our opponents hand range.
When we flat call, our opponent starts to eyeball us intently. He seems really eager to put more chips in this pot. Maybe he’s even stronger than Tens.
The J53 flop hits the board, and without much hesitation, our opponent leads out with a pot sized bet. There’s no way he’s folding, and we’re only behind exactly pocket jacks. We raise a decent amount and he snap shoves all-in. Of course, we call, and he rolls over his Aces. The look on his face when we show our hand is priceless.
This is exactly what you would hope would happen when if you speculated with your 3-5 hand. Your opponent can’t believe that you have 3-5!
If you pull this off, it can be tragically funny to see how mad your opponent gets.
You may have to hold back laughter, because cracking up would only pour gas on the fire.
But if your opponent has pocket aces, they’ll often pretty much play their hand face up. And if you play your 3-5 right, then preflop, it may only cost you 2% of your stack. And if you didn’t crush that flop, you would get away super cheap.
Have you ever had your pocket aces cracked by a much “weaker” hand? Or have you played a “weaker” or “speculative” hand correctly and destroyed someone else’s “strong” hand?
Let us know in the comments below.