In poker, sometimes the hand you hold has differing capabilities depending upon the game that you’re playing. What would be a great hand in one form of poker will, in essence, be total junk in another discipline of the game. In this continuing series of articles, we’ll examine particular hands and what strategies a player should put in place because the same hand isn’t always the best in different games.
Baby Aces – It’s All About The Situation
A Baby Ace – an in this situation, we’re talking about A-5 through A-2 – is thought by many to be something that wouldn’t be worth playing. Although you have an Ace, your kicker, for the most part, is not going to take you to battle with any strength. Depending on the game and the situation, however, the Baby Ace has its moments where it can be a useful tool in taking down a decent sized pot.
- Texas Hold’em
In an early or middle position, the Baby Ace is a hand that can be released with little to no thought. When you come around to the late positions (hijack, cutoff or button) or the blinds, however, you have to take into consideration the action in front of you and what your opponents can possibly be holding.
If there is no action in front of you (to be honest, if there is action in front of you, there should be no hesitation in mucking the hand), wielding the Baby Ace out of the late positions can potentially steal you the blinds and any antes for little effort. You would want to play the hand for a raise, however, as by limping you do not gain any information on what your opponents could potentially have. There are a couple of dangers to this move, however.
It is well known in the poker world that the late position raise could be a potential “steal move” and a knowledgeable opponent could surmise this and push in a three bet. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you to come along for the ride, push out a four bet of your own or admit to the steal and release your hand. Having an exceptional idea of your opponent’s style of play is critical to your decision here.
Secondly, once the flop is fanned, you have to be mindful of the board texture. Unless you’ve hit the jackpot and flopped a boat, hit trips with your kicker or have a strong draw, you have little to go to battle with. For example, if you’re holding an A-4 and the flop comes K-J-9 rainbow, you basically are looking for any reason to get out of the hand. But say the flop comes A-2-5; this is a little less dangerous, but you still must tread lightly as your Ace has no strength for the kicker. In this situation, you do have the gutshot draw as a possibility at improvement but beware pairing the kicker and your opponent making his straight.
If you play the Baby Ace, look to have it suited (a slight improvement for potential nut flush draws) and don’t get carried away with it even if an Ace flops.
- Omaha Hold’em
In Omaha, Baby Aces have a little more leeway and can be much sneakier when getting involved in a hand. If you hold a Baby Ace, make it suited and make sure that there are cards that work well either together (such as A-9-8-2) or have a Big Ace to go with the Baby (such as A-K-J-2). With these hands, you have multiple ways that you can potentially win a pot. The downside of such a situation is that you will be hunting for a hand instead of starting strong, so you must pay attention to any potential flush or boat draws that get there and ditch the hand when the flop doesn’t go your way.
It is in Omaha Hi/Lo where the Baby Ace can be particularly strong. In one of our example hands above, A-9-8-2, you have multiple ways that you can potentially scoop a pot. Add in a double suited situation and the hand gets a big stronger. One thing you have to be cautious of, however, is splitting a low pot with the A-2. When you split half of a pot – known as “quartering” – you actually come out on the losing end, having put more chips in than what you have won. Remember the golden rule of Hi/Lo games: look to scoop, not to split.
Contrary to the community card games, it is Razz where the Baby Ace truly is a power. Because the goal of the game is build the lowest hand, a Baby Ace is a tremendously powerful option. If you’re showing an (3-5)-A, for example, you have a hand that can be wielded very well as you are three fifths the way to making a winner. You have to remember, however, to look at your highest card of your five plays; just because you have an Ace, if your fifth card is a King, you’re probably not going to win. Try to make your Razz hand a seven or eight high, at the worst, to be able to bet actively.
- Seven Card Stud
Much like Omaha, the Baby Ace can be effective in a Seven Card Stud game. Using the A-9-8-2 example, you have several ways to be able to attack, especially if the Ace is suited. Be mindful of the cards that have been exposed and what your opponents are building, however. There is no sense working on a straight draw if your opponent(s) are working on higher straights, a flush or a potential full house combination.
In Seven Card Hi/Lo, all of the comparisons to Omaha Hi/Lo also work. If you are able to make two pair, however, you have a strong hand that could win a high half fairly easily (in Omaha, the community cards make the strength of two pair less effective). Continue to pay attention to exposed cards from your opponents and don’t become married to a two pair combination with strong draws apparent from opponents.
The Baby Ace is normally something that you will not want to employ. Kicker situations and missed draws are the two main issues you might face when playing the Baby Ace. But there will be those times, depending on the game and the situation, where playing the Baby Ace can be effective. For the most part, muck the Baby Ace a great majority of the time, but always be on the lookout for those opportunities where the Baby Ace might to be able to take down a nice pot.
In the next part of this series, we will look at the Paint Cards. While they look great when they show up in your hand, they also have the potential to devastate your stack unless they are played correctly.