When Should You Fold Aces in Poker?

Being able to fold when behind is what sets apart the great poker players from everyone else.

It's really easy to play the best hand. The difference between how much the best and worst players in the world make with the nuts is almost negligible.

The real difference between the best players and everyone else is their ability to lose the least - by knowing when to fold losing hands. Regardless of how long waited for a decent starting hand, you have to muck it as soon as you know you're beat.

A "Must Fold" Hand in Poker

You're playing a six-max 50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em game online. The players on the table are aggressive and somewhat loose, but there are no real aggro donkeys to be found.

You've been absolutely card dead for the last 30 minutes without being dealt a single hand worth playing until:

50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em - 6 players (Hero is always you)

UTG: $75
MP: $40
Hero(CO): $122
BTN: $198
SB: $132
BB: $40

Pre Flop: (Pot: $1.50) Hero is CO with


UTG raises to $5, MP folds, Hero re-raises to $20BTN re-raises all in $198, 2 folds, UTG calls $70, Hero???

Unless you skipped the title and introduction to this article, you know the correct answer to this question is fold. In fact, it's a very easy fold to make. But it's a common scenario for beginners to lose their stack in.

The easiest way to understand this hand is to break it down, one action at a time:

UTG raises to $5. This is a slightly big raise for a $1 big blind (online) game, but that alone doesn't really tell you much.

Raising under the gun at a six-max table implies that he actually has a decent hand. At this point, without any more information, we can put him on a range that includes all pocket pairs, all suited aces, all suited connectors and face cards.

You're ahead of a lot of that range with jacks, so you re-raise. You bump it to $20 (4x the previous bet. Again, some would say it's slightly large, but it's totally reasonable).


Now the button moves all in. This move should scare you, as he's pushing after a raise and a re-raise.

He's saying he has a huge hand, and "by the book" play would dictate this player has AA or KK here. But we have to take into account that we're playing six-max and he might be making a squeeze play.

Although it's very possible he has AA or KK, it's also possible he's on a pure bluff, trying to squeeze for the pot.

That's when UTG calls the all in. At this point there are only two options:

UTG has AA or KK, or UTG believes the button is making a play. Either way, for you to call and be ahead, the button has to be making a play and UTG has to be assuming that and calling with a hand less than JJ.

Although it's technically possible, it's highly unlikely you're ahead here. Chances are you're behind AA or KK, maybe even both of them.

If you're lucky you're up against TT and AK, but even with those hands you're still only 43% against the field. This is a must fold.

When Should You Fold Aces?

Next scenario: You've managed to make the previous fold, and over the last hour you've gone on a really good run and built up your stack.

A new player to the table also sat down and went on a sick run, leaving you both very deep stacked. This new player seems very tight, only showing down very strong hands.

50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em - 6 players (Hero is always you)

UTG: $545
Hero(MP): $525
CO: $122
BTN: $198
SB: $132
BB: $40

Pre Flop: (Pot: $1.50) Hero is MP with


UTG raises to $5, Hero re-raises to $20, 4 folds, UTG re-raises to $75, Hero calls

Flop: (Pot: $151.50)


UTG checks, Hero bets $140UTG raises all-in to $350, Hero???

Let's look at what just happened here. UTG raised, which typically translates into him having a legitimate premium hand.

when to fold poker

We three-bet 4x his original raise right behind him. After the rest of the table folds, UTG four-bets to $75.

At this point, you can be almost certain your opponent has a premium hand - probably KK or QQ - although it's not impossible he's running a huge, dumb bluff.

Either way, just calling here is your best option. Moving all in now will only cause a bluff to fold, while just calling might induce your opponent to continue his bluff on the flop.

If he does have KK or QQ, chances are the money's going all-in on the flop anyways. Shipping it here doesn't really help you against a good hand, but it hurts you against a bluff.

Regardless of whether you agree with just calling here, in this scenario that's what you do and you head to the flop, which comes

. This is possibly the worst flop we could have seen. Let's look at the range of our opponent:

  • KK
  • QQ
  • AK
  • JJ
  • Bluff
  • TJ
  • TT
  • 99
  • AA

These are the only reasonable options, listed in descending order from the most probable to the least. After this flop, you're drawing to two outs against the two most probable, two outs against pocket nines and you're drawing nearly dead to TJ.

Dump the Aces and Move On

With only six outs against you, you're in decent shape against JJ and TT. You chop with AA and you're only a huge favorite against a bluff or AK.

This is a horrible flop for you. Your opponent checks, probably meaning he has the set and is check-raising or he was bluffing and has given up.

You bet close to the pot and he raises all in. At this point there's really nothing you can beat. You're most likely crushed.

There's a slim chance he's running a huge bluff, but it's very unlikely since almost all of the range he can put you on will call here. The only other option you can beat is if he's greatly overplaying a six outer or AK.

Odds are you're screwed. Not many players will try to run a bluff this in-depth against the only other player deep enough to (nearly) felt them.

Cut your losses, dump the aces and move on.

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Sean Lind
2009-08-04 17:44:00


The TT and AK scenario was put in there because that’s the only combination of cards where you’re not crushed. It’s ridiculous to assume they have it.

Most importantly, this is a hand scenario, a “what should I do now” question. I purposely have the player making BAD plays with AA to put himself into the tricky spot he was in.

Yes, the line is horrible, but it’s supposed to be, the whole point is trying to figure out what to do now.

When you’re in a poker hand, you can’t say “Wait, I screwed up on the flop, let’s bring it back so I can take a different line here” You’re in the situation, now you have to make the most of it.

Although, I’m not sure I agree with your pre-flop line at all. If your goal is to take it down preflop, why min raise? If your goal is to take it down, or get it all in, why min raise?

Min raising to $150 screams “I have Aces”. There’s almost nothing else your opponent could put you on there. If you want your opponent to make a mistake, you have to give them reasonable doubt about what you hold.

To do this you have to play your hand as if it’s something else. What makes the most sense, is to play your hand as if it’s QQ or JJ.

What would JJ do here? A) Just call (still a fine move), or B) Move all in.

If you think calling’s wrong (which it isn’t), then move all in. This will either take it down pre-flop with no risk, or get your opponent to put it all in with a dominated hand.

2009-08-04 05:38:00

This article must have been written by an amateur. I would agree in the first scenario laying down JJ is the best option, but some of the reasoning given was incorrect.
“If you’re lucky you’re up against TT and AK, but even with those hands you’re still only 43% against the field. This is a must fold.”

Actually if you are getting 2 to 1 on your money, 33% is a break even scenario. Against AK and TT it would be the right call, but of course, it’s not like we can put them on these hands with so much confidence. In scenario 2, never just smooth call a raise with AA. I would just do the min raise here
to $150. Most of the time you would get re-raised all in if he had KK, QQ, or maybe even AK. If he is bluffing, he almost will surely call to see a flop anyways, but is unlikely to hit anything. If you get check raised all in you might be committed but most of the time its still a profitable play to take it down on the flop.

2009-07-20 03:47:00

Think & test your feelings when you have a good card just check then re-raised…i think thats a good bluff

Sean Lind
2009-07-14 18:37:00


I agree, checking the flop would be the stronger play. You only risk giving someone a chance at hitting a random draw.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the hero did here, putting him into this tricky spot.

Sean Lind
2009-07-08 22:05:00

Thanks boop, fixed.

2009-07-08 21:03:00

(Pot: $1.50) Hero is UTG with J J

Here is an editting error Hero is CO not UTG

2009-07-08 20:40:00

Hero has played himself into a difficult spot here. That’s OK; we all do it sometimes. The important point I take from this article is do not forget how to fold.

Sean Lind
2009-07-08 18:24:00

I have to agree that this would be the best line, in the interest of mixing it up, I’d probably ship over the four bet 90% of the time or more.

Anyone willing to 4 bet is either bluffing, or has a monster hand. Either way shipping is a good idea.

Once we get to that flop, we’re no longer in such a perfect situation.

Since aces are so powerful against any other 2 cards, it’s not a mistake to just call, it just increases risk. I’m usually a fan of taking down a pot with no risk, or forcing my opponent to make a very large mistake in calling.

2009-07-08 11:09:00


I really really would prefer to get all the money in when he re-raises to 75.

Someone who is raising UTG and then re-raising a re-raise is really representing a huge hand. Since we really have the nuts pre-flop could safely shove and pick up a nice little pot without a fight if he folds or have huge odds against anything he could call with.

My main problem with flat calling on that spot is that unless I flop my A for top set any other broadway card is going to scare the s—- out of me and make my life very difficult in later streets on a big pot.

Sean Lind
2009-07-07 22:40:00

Hey, thanks to the comments after the initial posting of this article, I had clearly made a mistake when writing out the flop. The article’s been updated, thanks again.

-Sean Lind

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