Rules for How To Play With an Ace in Your Hand

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a person is holding a pair of ace playing cards, a diamond and a club, in between their middle and index fingers
BetMGM Apr 18, 2024, 3:13 AM

Versatile and strong, an ace is the highest-ranking card in a deck. And unlike the rest of the pack, it has the ability to double as either the highest (ace) or lowest (1) ranking card. For instance, if the flop produces a 2, 3 and 5, an ace will put you one card away (4) from a straight. And if the community cards are a 10, jack or queen, all you need is a king.

However, it’s important to remember that being dealt an ace doesn’t mean you’re the favorite to triumph. Here lies the beauty of online poker: anyone’s hand can win. In fact, sometimes being dealt a strong hand, such as pocket aces (ace–ace,) can lead to a player’s biggest loss. 

Especially prevalent with novices, a recurring theme is becoming overconfident, betting big and losing to a weaker hand. Analyzing poker hands and the community cards, as well as understanding your opponents’ playing personalities, elevates your decision-making, allowing you to make the best possible bet. Here’s how to optimize your ace play with a sound strategy and the right mindset.

How Should You Play With an Ace?

Before staking your bet, there are several factors you should consider. These include identifying elements such as the community cards, opponents still active, nut hand possibilities and your bankroll (to name a few.)

It’s worth noting that although pocket aces are the top starting hand, their value during a round can deteriorate in a matter of seconds. So, even though having an ace in play is great, there’s endless information to dissect and dictate your next move. Below are six rules for how to combine an ace and strategy effectively.

1. Read the Room

If you were to ask a professional player for some guidance on how to improve your game, most would tell you to focus on the external information at hand. This means understanding the good players from bad, their playing styles, the size of their bet in relation to the number of chips they hold and how each opponent approaches various hand ranges.

For beginners, this may seem daunting, but to win consistently, it’s needed. By gathering information, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of success. For example, if you notice a player who often folds making a considerable bet, it suggests that they’re holding a strong hand, as they tend to fold when holding weak hands. So, unless you’re holding the nut hand, it would be wise to fold. 

2. Pocket Aces vs. Ace Rag

For beginners, it’s worth noting that the way you play pocket aces should differ from the way you play an ace rag. If you’re holding pocket aces, it’s important that you do not over-value your hand. Rather slow-play via small bets and wait for the community cards to appear in order to give yourself a clearer understanding of the hand possibilities and the opponents still active.

An ace rag is when a player holds an ace and a low-value card such as ace–3. When playing weak ace hands, playing passively, through bluffing and semi-bluffing, is a great way to stay active and maximize the pot without giving too much away.

3. Identify the Nut Hand

As strong as an ace in poker is, nothing beats the nut hand. Simply put, it cannot be beaten. For example, if the community cards are a jack of hearts, king of clubs, 10 of clubs, 3 of diamonds and 8 of spades, the nut hand would be an ace–high straight.

Throughout a game of poker, it’s crucial to constantly monitor the community cards to give yourself an idea of the possibility of another hand beating yours.

4. Knowing When To Fold

Knowing when to fold is crucial to success at the table. For beginners, it’s easy to become over-excited and bet big when holding a strong hand, such as pocket aces. However, it’s the community cards that should dictate the strength of your hand.

So, if you’re holding a strong hand, but the community cards aren’t aligning, it’s best to save your chips and let the rest of the field battle it out. And if you’re holding a medium hand, such as an ace and three-of-a-kind, understand that there is only one other ace available. If there is the potential for stronger hands, such as a straight or flush, most professionals would fold.

5. Slow Playing

When you’re holding a strong hand, your focus should be on maximizing the pot. Meaning you want as many players active as possible. Slow playing via small raises or checks is a great way to keep your opponents playing and deceive them into thinking you have a weak-to-medium hand.

This allows you to stay under the radar and divert the attention to other players. Although, once you get into the latter stages of a round (turn and flop,) most of the players still active are invested in the round, meaning it’s your chance to bet high and raise the value of the pot.

6. Avoid Overplaying

Throughout a game, your opponents will be analyzing you to gain an understanding of your playing style and how you approach weak and strong hands. This means spontaneity and not overplaying hands are crucial in making your playing style elusive to competition. Once they understand your betting behaviors, the game can become long and tedious — it’s like they’re always one step ahead.

Test Your Skills With BetMGM

With games available 24/7, playing poker online is one of the best ways to learn new strategies. Register today, play with friends and explore BetMGM’s extensive range of poker variations — from Texas Hold’em and Seven-Card Stud to Omaha.

Outside of poker, BetMGM gives you access to an endless array of online casino games. From themed slots and bingo to roulette and blackjack, play from anywhere and anytime.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.