Can folding Aces ever be correct?

You do not see it often, but it does happen. Most poker players would say that they would never fold a pair of Aces preflop, but is that correct? Let’s look at some different scenarios.

Aces in a cash game

Now in the cash game, there is certainly no situation where you would fold the aces before the flop. Even if 3.4 or more players see the flop, Aces still have the advantage. In 4-handed pots, Aces’ equity is still nearly 53 percent (versus 1 player: 85 percent), so folding is always wrong here. It should be noted, however, that playing Aces (or KK, QQ, JJ) against 3 or 4 opponents is not an ideal scenario. You should always try to reduce your opponents by an aggressive re-raise or all-in with your hands.

Aces in a tournament

Here the situation is different. Why? Well, in a cash game, every $ won is worth exactly $1, but in a tournament, the value of the chips you might win depends on the situation. If you already have a large stack of e.g. 90 big blinds, then the profit of another 10 big blinds does not affect the chances of ending up deeper in the tournament quite as much.

In addition, there are situations in which one simply has to rate survival in the tournament higher than the gained chips. This is especially true in situations in the bubble phase and when you are already in the money and survival means that you secure significantly higher prize money if you simply wait for other players to be eliminated.

Here are some typical scenarios in which a fold with aces can make sense:

Scenario 1:

You’re in a tournament with a  $ 100 buy-in and 500 participants. There are still 52 players in the tournament, the 50th place cashed $ 250. You are in the big blind and have 20 big blinds. Player UTG goes all-in with 15 BB, two players in front of you (both with about 25BB) call.
Although you have the best hand preflop, because of the opposing stack sizes there is no chance to make one of the parties to the fold. This means you will play against three opponents after the flop, and the hand is definitely going to be played for all of your chips. At the same time, there is a strong chance that the “bubble” will burst and you will be “in the money” after that hand if you fold.

Here you have to consider whether you want to risk your tournament life in a hand that is not ideal for AA due to the many players seeing the flop. Of course, a profit of at least 45 BB would be wonderful. It all depends on whether your goal is winning the tournament, or whether you would be satisfied with a min-cash (with the prospect of getting further ahead after the bubble).

Scenario 2:

As above, but this time you’re in a tournament with a buy-in of $ 3000, you’ve earned your ticket through a $ 50 satellite tournament. Getting in the money means a $ 6000 win. Your total bankroll before the satellite was $ 500. Getting paid means you can increase your bankroll tenfold – perhaps a crucial step forward in your planning. Do you really want to risk all this on one hand?

Scenario 3:

You’re in a $ 1500 buy-in tournament and it is the final table with a total of 6 players remaining. You have a stack of 30 BB in the big blind, the sixth place pays $ 9,000, the fifth $ 14,000, the fourth $ 19,000. The UTG player (5 BB) goes all-in, UTG + 1 folds with 6 BB, the player on the cutout has 50 BB and raises to 15 BB, everyone else folds.

Here you have to ask yourself the following question: UTG probably goes all-in with a wide range of hands, and the big stack probably has a strong hand. There is a big chance that the first short stack will be eliminated. The second short stack has to pay blinds a short time later and could also be eliminated. In a situation like this, the UTG player because of his short stack does not matter. If you lose against him, it costs you 5 BB, but by calling or going all-in yourself, you are playing against the cutout 50 BB stack. And against him, you are an 85% favorite. Personally, I would just go all-in and be happy with whatever he may decide to do (he will probably call an all-in).

Scenario 4:

Like above, but you only have 15 big blinds. If you win, your stack will increase from 15 to 35.5 BB – a significant improvement over 15 BB. At 15 BB, you’ll soon be in a situation where you have to gamble (at the latest after the next increase of the blinds); With 35.5 BB after the hand, you are in good shape. In this scenario, it would be a blatant mistake to fold Aces.

I hope these examples make it clear in a simple way that the value of won chips is not always the same – it just depends on the consequences of your actions.