The Limp-Reraise with Aces — No Limit Holdem


Being dealt pocket Aces in early position in no limit holdem can be tricky.  If you are the opening raiser, you will not be able to raise enough to limit the field, unless you are content to just pick up the blinds with this powerful hand.  If you are playing in a good game, it is likely that you will find yourself taking a cheap flop out of position against several opponents with hidden hands.  This is exactly what you don’t want to happen when you hold pocket Aces.  You are set up for what the old-timers say is the biggest pitfall of playing Aces:  “You’ll either win a small pot, or lose a big one.”              

It is obviously preferable to be a re-raiser with Aces, so that you get to put in a large amount of money pre-flop, and either take down the pot or play a big pot against only one opponent with a clearly defined hand.  But how can you be the re-raiser if you are first to act in the hand?  Here’s how: limp in first, and hope that someone behind you raises.  Then you can “come back over the top,” and make a nice re-raise.

This play, of course, can present its own set of problems.  It frequently happens that your opponents react to your opening limp by simply limping behind you. Your savvier opponents might even suspect that you have two Aces, and take a flop trying to bust you.  When this happens, you must be very clear in your mind that your goal is to either take down a small pot, or escape cheaply if someone “plays back” at you. You should almost never go broke with Aces in an unraised pot.

Also, when you do succeed in getting another player to raise the pot, and execute a re-raise, everyone at the table will suspect you have Aces. So if you do happen to like playing Aces this way, you should choose some other hands, including bluff hands, to limp re-raise with and keep your opponents off-balance.

I succeeded in setting up and executing a limp re-raise with Aces to perfection a couple of days ago in a $5-10 no limit holdem game at Bay 101. Although given how the hand turned out, I’m not sure “succeeded” is the right term.

Here’s what happened. A very loose player limped UTG for $10, and I limped right behind him with AA.  I love this play, because while the good players at the table might be suspicious that I have a big hand when I open limp, they love to raise this loose player, because they know he could have any two cards.  Also, even the good players can be reluctant to believe I could actually have Aces when I am the second limper.

And that’s what happened. After another limper, a good player raised $60, the opening loose player called, and then I re-raised $240. The raiser “4-bet” reraised $400, the loose player folded, and I “5-bet shoved” all-in, and got called instantly by QQ.  Since I started the pot with around $1500, and was covered, the pot was over $3000.  And I was 82% or about 4.5 to 1 favorite in the hand.  A great spot, obviously.  (And a huge mistake for the “good player” to have put his money in here.  Even folding after putting in the $400 4-bet would have been correct if he read me correctly for a pair higher than his.)

It may have helped me to get the money in that I had executed this identical play a round or two earlier.  I won’t say exactly what hand I did it with the first time, but I will say that I took down the pot without a contest on that occasion. And it may have planted a seed of doubt in this “good player’s” mind that I was up to some monkey business.

So what happened in the hand?  Do you have to ask?  We actually “ran the hand twice,” which is something I rarely, if ever, do.  I’m not even sure why I did it this time. Probably a premonition.  Sure enough, I lost the first deal, to a runner-runner straight.  “OK,” I thought sourly, “at least I’ll get a split.” Nope. I lost the second deal as well, to a queen on the river. Ouch.

That’s poker. All you can do is play as perfectly as you can, and rely on the cards to even out over time. As I believe I heard Phil Hellmuth scream once, “If it weren’t for luck I’d win every time!”  I’m not bat-shit crazy like Phil Hellmuth, but I confess I had a very strong urge to do some major-league whining after this beat.

I did most of it at home, on the phone with my poker buddies.

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