How I Misplayed a Pocket Pair of Aces

by Lou on September 5, 2005

Here’s a hand I misplayed in an online cash game a few days ago. It started off nicely. I raised in middle position with a pocket pair of aces and was called by a guy in the cutoff seat. The big blind called and the small blind folded, so we were three handed when we saw the flop, which was Q-9-4 of mixed suits.

It appeared completely safe for me. I bet when the big blind checked and was called by both opponents. The turn was another benign card, an offsuit deuce, which meant no flush, no flush draw, and a straight or a straight draw was very unlikely too.

I bet the turn when the big blind checked, only to find myself raised by the guy in the cutoff seat. I did not want to lay down aces to a board that was now Q-9-4-2. After all, what could the raiser have? Two pair was pretty unlikely, and even if he did have two pair I had a redraw of sorts to a set or a bigger two pair.

He could have flopped or turned a set, but would he have cold called with a pair of fours or a pair of deuces before the flop? I don’t think so. He probably would have cold-called my initial raise with a pair of nines, but a pair of queens seemed unlikely because reraising with a pair of queens is almost mandatory in order to define your hand and provide an opportunity to get heads up with a player who is a lot more likely to have A-K, A-Q, J-J, T-T, or 9-9, than he is to have a pocket pair of kings or aces.

Still, this board was so unthreatening that I should have completely discounted the possibility that my opponent was bluffing into a board with a straight draw, and a flush was no longer even a remote possibility. The board was so unthreatening that my opponent could not logically be representing any hand other than one that would be way ahead of my aces, regardless of how much a longshot it might have been.

Nevertheless, I called, and I called another bet on the river too, only to look at a set of queens at the showdown.

He played his queens a lot differently than I would have. If I were in his position — in the cutoff seat and facing a raise — I’d have made it three bets in a heartbeat to drive out the big blind so I could play heads-up against the original raiser. And if the original raiser made it four bets, I would have a much better idea about the quality of his hand as long as I had some clue about his playing style.

In other words, if he played like I do and made it four bets, I’d have given him credit for a big pair — aces or kings — and played accordingly. If he were a maniac, I’d have discounted his hand quite a bit and figured that it was probably even money at that point as to who had the better hand, and if that were the case, you could argue all night about whether checking-and-calling or betting and raising would be the best way to play the hand from the flop to the river.

I think my opponent erred in not reraising with a pair of queens because he did nothing to define his hand while allowing the big blind to see the flop for a bargain price of one additional bet. He got lucky and flopped a set, and once he did that, his preflop reluctance to three-bet the pot worked to his favor because his set of queens was completely disguised.

In hindsight, I should have released my aces on the turn. With the quality of that board, the only hand he could have was one that could beat me, unless he was just taking a stab at the pot with nothing, and representing nothing at the same time. I had not played with him before, but in the short time we were at the same table, he did not impress me as someone who raised on inadequate values – another reason to credit him with a hand when he made what I considered initially to be an unlikely raise with an improbable hand.

Oh well, it cost me two bets I should not have lost, but it’s another one of those poker lessons you have to learn over and over again, or so it seems.

Would any of you have played this hand differently?

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