Suited Aces

Figaro the Fish had gone on another amazing run, this time fueled by an overabundance of nut flushes. But again, his luck had run out at the final table even as his string of suited Aces continued.

[FF] As he bought in to the side game, Figaro was trying to make sense of what just happened. “I didn’t play any worse at the end, but the deck kept betraying me. I must have missed my last five flush draws, and a couple times I had a pair of Aces but got outkicked.”

[EE] Elias the Eagle, who had busted out on a cooler when his straight was sunk by a boat on the river, welcomed the teachable moment. “Almost every Hold ‘Em player falls in love with suited aces at some point. They find something like A♠6♠ in the hole, get in to see a flop cheaply, flop the nut flush draw, hit their card on the turn or river, and smile from ear to ear while raking in the chips. Boom! Suited Aces get promoted to a spot on the opening hands shelf next to pocket pairs. Unfortunately, it’s like the weak-hitting middle infielder who hits a lucky wind-aided home run then starts swinging for the fences the rest of the homestand. Suited aces just don’t pay off often enough compared to how much people pay to play them.”

[FF] “They were paying me off pretty well early in the tournament!”

[EE] “It happens, but realize that your dream flop of three of your suit only happens 1 every 119 hands (0.84%). That’s close to the odds of being dealt pocket aces or kings combined, so it can’t be the basis of any real strategy. More likely, you’ll flop a flush draw, which happens less than once every nine times (10.9%). And then you’ll need to catch one of only nine cards to make your flush. Occasionally you’ll flop a lucky two pair or better, but that’s just 2% of the time.”

[EE] “For small and medium suited Aces to be profitable you really need to see the flop cheaply or be against multiple opponents. Position helps even more than usual with draws. When you’re facing a bet, you get to make your decision knowing what pot odds you’re getting. When it’s checked to you, you can choose to take the free card or semibluff.”

[EE] “Furthermore, you need to be very cautious when your suited ace only turns into a pair. If an Ace hits the board, your kicker could cost you a big pot if you call on the flop, turn, and river. If you don’t have the discipline to fold in this situation, you’re better off mucking preflop. On the other hand, if your low card pairs, you have to worry about overcards pairing.”

[EE] “And just like with set-mining,1 always make sure that your opponent has enough chips to pay you off before you even get started. Since your chance of hitting a flush by the river is only 1 in 16 (6.4%), make sure your opponent’s chip stack is at least 16 times whatever you need to pay to see the flop (less if you think you can steal the hand though). Late in a tournament, this is almost never the case. Ditto if you’re shortstacked.”

[FF] “Ah, so I pretty much misplayed all my suited Aces wrong at the final table. Lesson learned.”

Footnotes:

  1. See Sets Education.
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