Folding A-A on the River

This hand is from a $5,000 buy-in WSOP event I played in Las Vegas last summer. I looked down at As-Ac from first position, under the gun, at 100/200 with a 25 ante and raised to 600 out of my 20,000 stack.

While limping has some merit against the absolute worst opponents, against the competent players who are willing to buy in for $5,000, I prefer making a standard raise with all of my playable hands to disguise my range.

A strong middle aged player called from middle position out of his 16,000 stack, as did the small blind and big blind. Both players in the blinds were reasonable players who had 20,000 stacks.

The flop came Kh-8h-2d. Both blinds checked and I bet 1,500 into the 2,625 pot. Only the good player from middle position called.

The caller’s range is likely somewhat wide, including any pair (besides pocket pairs worse than middle pair) and all flush draws. I can discount K-K, 8-8, and 2-2, as those will usually feel obligated to raise the flop. K-8, K-2, and 8-2 are unlikely because those hands would not call my initial preflop raise. This led me to believe that I am either against a worse made hand or a flush draw.

The turn was the (Kh-8h-2d)-3s. Given this card is highly unlikely to improve my opponent to a better made hand than my pocket Aces, and I thought my opponent could easily call a turn bet with most pairs and flush draws, I decided to bet 2,600 into the 5,625 pot. My opponent called.

Looking back, I should have bet a bit larger on the turn. In my opinion, any decent pair or flush draw will call a bet of 3,500 or so. I left a bit of value on the table.

The river was the (Kh-8h-2d-3s)-6h, completing the obvious flush draw.  While it is unlikely that my opponent’s made hands improved on the river, the flush draws improved to beat me. If I thought my opponent was the type of player who would call a small bet with top or middle pair, even when an obviously scary card arrives, I should make a small bet of 4,000 into the 10,825 pot. Given I thought my opponent was good (and unlikely to pay off a small bet), I decided to check.

After some thought, my opponent pushed all-in for 11,275 into the 10,825 pot. That was not what I wanted to happen! At this point, I have to figure out my opponent’s river pushing range and see how my A-A fares, which implies I had to figure out which hands he is checking. Most players would not go all-in with top pair in this situation, opting instead to check and win at the showdown most of the time. Many players would also not turn a hand like 9-9 or 8-7 into a bluff, although some excellent players would (because those hands are now at the bottom of their range). Notice that there are very few other hands in my opponent’s range that could be turned into a bluff, given I rarely expect my opponent to get to the river with an unpaired hand that didn’t improve to a flush.

Because of this, I decided to fold to my opponent’s all-in. Of course, my opponent may have made a sophisticated bluff with top or middle pair, but I think I am beat most of the time. It is important to constantly assess opponent’s range and see how your hand fares. In this spot, I think folding is the only play that makes sense. Just be sure you structure your river checking range so you can call the all-in in an unexploitable manner. If you fold to an all-in every time you check, you are ripe for exploiting.

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12 Comments

  • Sander says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Doesn’t your check on the river scream your fear of your opponent making a flush? isn’t this the perfect bluff card? Shouldn’t a river bet by you of 1/3 pot manage the pot better? If you get raised, you could always fold. If your opponent thinks you may have a better flush, he is likely to just call or fold (rarely). Don’t you think you were a bit conservative on your fold?

  • Phil says:

    Thank you for showing that you actually can fold aces. I recently had a similar situation – only against 2 opponents and I did fold my aces because I believed that one of my opponents had at least two pair. I did receive some criticism from other players for folding aces but I still felt that it was the right decision.
    Again , thank you for all the expertise you give . Please keep going with the podcasts. I look forward to them every week.

  • Christopher says:

    Excellent blog as always. One of things that I infer from your article is that you trust your hand reading and intuition in this circumstance (and others).

    I’d like your input on a personal hand. I feel like I level myself in certain circumstances. I am a very cerebral person although I am a recreational player.

    $1/$3 NLH Live
    Full ring
    Hero (effective stack $350) UTG open limp (rarely open limp but table was limp happy so I was limping UTG, UTG+1 with my entire range). Ad10d
    UTG+3, LJ, HJ, But call
    Villian #1 BB raises to $25
    Hero flat call hoping to get multiway pot with hand that can flop well. Huge raise by other rec screams 99-QQ +AK because people “hate seeing flops with these hands” at this level.
    Villian #2 UTG+3 calls
    Pot $84

    Flop: 6c6d4s
    Villian #1 Bet $60
    Hero- Call. Floating as I felt in live read he was uncomfortable. Backdoor flush draw. Plan to steal if he slows down.
    Villian #2 calls

    Turn : 8h
    Villian checks
    Hero Jams all in $265 (pot $195)

    Villian tanks but calls after 1-2 minutes with Q. River hits K villian says “well I lost”. He shows QQ. I muck. I tend to go with my gut but when I am wrong it knocks me back down to reality. Maybe I think I am a better player than I really am. I study a lot for fun and play when I can (demanding job so not as often as I’d like). I don’t know if I am actually good or not. I am usually around break even but realitively small sample size.

    Thanks. Love your books!

    • Given your read that the opponent has a premium range, you have an easy fold due to your terrible pot odds and implied odds. On the flop, you also have an easy fold. Once the turn arrives, it is likely close between bluffing and giving up because the turn did not improve your equity at all. Just because someone checks or is uncomfortable does not mean they are folding.

    • Christopher says:

      Thank you for the reply! I think blind aggression against passive players is a huge leak in my game. I am generally a tight aggressive player but I go full on maniac in certain spots. I used to play so passive and timid that I adjusted too much.

      I have finished binge listening to two of your books on audible. I just won my first tournament in quite a while. Coincidence? I think NOT!

      Take care.

  • Joseph Dorrington says:

    Would you consider the check shove on turn if he is the donk type to a missed c bet on turn ?

  • Ryan Lewis says:

    Hi Jonathan what do you think of checking the turn and river. He’s unlikely to push all in then on the river and you can call a river bet if he makes one. Barreling the turn can make our premium hands vulnerable on a wet flop?

  • David says:

    How would you have played AhAc in this situation? Assume the blocker to the nut flush would have changed your bet sizing on the flop and turn and possibly allowed a call on the river if it got that far?

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