It's less about the poker cards you hold than the way you play them. I have often said that the cards break even, but the chips don't. That said, it's always nice to start with aces.The game is really more one of people than of cards. And while this is especially true in no-limit, it's true in limit poker, too. Players who understand their opponents' thinking and who read hands well make plays that give them extra edge in nonstandard situations. The fact that they are capable of making those plays gives them the opportunity to play more hands, as the extra edge makes marginal hands for standard play more valuable, therefore more playable. I opened the pot with a raise in a $30-$60 hold'em game with two black aces.
A player who was trying to play well, but lacked experience, called my raise cold behind me. He played solid starting hands, but often appeared unsure of where he was relative to other players' holdings. The big blind, an aggressive player, also called. We took the flop threehanded.The flop came 8-5-2 with two clubs. The big blind checked, I bet, Mr. Try-To-Play-Well called, and the big blind check-raised. This, of course, required a moment or two in the "Roy Huddle."As a general rule, I reraise with big wired pairs and a player(s) yet to act behind me. One pair is not an easy hand to have hold up with many opponents. I ran the current situation through my brain to determine if this was a situation I wanted to play in the "conventional wisdom" manner.The big blind was an aggressive player who would check-raise with any pair. He wouldn't play any hand that made two pair with that flop for my raise coming in. He had a set or a pair, or was making a play on the pot. His range of hands was such that it was highly likely I had him beat.If he had a pair, the correct play on the flop would be to raise me and blow out the player in the big blind. If he had a flush draw, he should semibluff-raise me. He knew enough about poker to know that both of those plays were correct. Therefore, I did not put him on having a pair or a flush draw. There was some chance he had flopped a set and was slow-playing.
He also could have a hand like A-3 suited or A-4 suited, although the chances of that hand were greatly reduced, as I held two of the aces. From my previous observations of his play, he seemed to always take one off with overcards, but I believed he would likely fold overcards if I made it three bets.With the range of hands he could hold, calling would be a better play with all of them other than the A-3 suited or A-4 suited, which was his least likely holding. Calling would give him an opportunity to catch a pair, or better yet, a club draw (with which he would be drawing dead, as I held the ace) should he hold overcards. Also, not reraising minimized my risk if he happened to be slow-playing a set.I flat-called the raise, as did Mr. Try-To-Play-Well behind me. The turn card was an offsuit queen, and the big blind led into me. I now was faced with calling once again to trap the player behind me or raising.When the queen hit, I noticed that Mr. Try-To-Play-Well stiffened a bit. I felt the queen had hit him. I took a moment to think if he would raise with one pair on the turn, and decided he was unlikely to do so. Therefore, I raised, thinking he would call the raise if he hit and hoping the big blind would not three-bet.Things went according to plan. Mr. Try-To-Play-Well called the raise, as did the big blind. Notice that if the big blind had a draw or top pair, I could have chosen to flat-call the turn if a dangerous-looking card came, thereby saving equity. I am not saying I would have chosen to do so in this spot, but playing my hand in the manner I did gave me that option.The river was an offsuit deuce. The big blind checked and I bet once again.
I was called by Mr. Try-To-Play-Well, and the big blind folded. I turned over my aces, and he showed a K-Q. I never found out what the big blind held.I believed I got full value out of my holding based on the situation. Lots of poker players (and business people) focus on saving money more than making money. They fail to understand the value behind getting full equity out of your decisions. I see this error very often in inexperienced no-limit players who constantly push their whole stack forward and lose calls they want (because they have the best of the bet) and could have gotten had they not been overly aggressive.Conceptually, if you have the best of the bet, you want your opponents to make the call. If your opponents are correct in calling the bet, you will do better over the course of time if they fold. With that concept in mind, you want to fold opponents' hands that are correct to call with and manipulate opponents into calling bets that are incorrect to call. Conceptually, the smaller the pot and the weaker they are drawing, the more inclined you should be to trap them. The larger the pot and the stronger they are drawing, the more you should try to shut them out of the pot. Remember this: The cards will always break even, but the chips won't. And, of course, it's never bad to start with aces.