Weak Ace: When one of your pocket cards is an ace, and the other is low and unsuited, it is referred to as a weak ace.
A very common mistake that novice and intermediate players make is that they almost always play weak aces. What is a weak ace? A hand can be defined as such when one of your pocket cards is an ace and the card accompanying it is low and unsuited. A good rule is any ace with a nine or lower is a weak ace.
Beginning players are quite pleased with an ace no matter which card is coming along for the ride. It’s true that all it takes to make a pair of aces is an ace in your hand, but top pair with a weak kicker often ensures you’ll either win a small amount of chips or lose a large pot to strong players.
The reason for this is the key to No-Limit holdem – Domination. It’s a fact that players are involved in pots more often with an ace than any other card, being the highest card in the deck it rarely gets thrown away. Therefore, your opponent is much more likely to hold an ace and you’re very likely to be dominated since your kicker is on the low end of the spectrum.
Still planning on playing with A7 offsuit? Let’s have a look at the numbers. Pre-flop, you’re at the mercy of fourteen different hands (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010, 99, 88, 77, AK, AQ, AJ, A10, A9 and A8). In all cases your chance to win the hand is below 30% and the majority of the time your odds are drastically lower – less than 25%. Meanwhile only five (playable) hands are significant underdogs to your ace (A2, A3, A4, A5, A6) and you boast merely 2 to 1 odds to win (50%) because of the large occurrence of split pots with these hands.
We see now that statistical evidence supports the danger of weak aces but it doesn’t stop there, even the theory of aggressive poker play is malcontent with this hazardous holding. A weak ace forces you to slow down the action and play more defensively.
I was once playing a home tournament against six opponents and was dealt A5 offsuit. Having already caught a series of ugly looking cards I decided to raise. Everyone folded to the big blind except one player (whom I knew to be a solid player) who decided to re-raise the minimum. Having already committed a good portion of my chips I called…hey at least I had position, right?
The flop brought A, J, 2 – I managed to hit top pair. The big blind was first to act and bets out half the size of the pot leaving me with a big decision. If I call my opponent I will likely move all-in on the turn and I’d be forced to call with a marginal hand. I could fold, but then why did I get involved if I wasn’t willing to play with top pair. Thinking back to pre-flop I contemplate which hands the big blind might have re-raised with and came up with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, AQ and maybe even AJ and A10 suited if he was feeling frisky.
Out of these eight hands, only two will lose to mine! So if I were to call or raise my hand would be best only one out of every 4 times (not very nice odds in my book) making fold the proper play. Ultimately I decided to raise to find out where my hand was at and, hopefully, scare my opponent into folding. He then moved all-in without hesitation and I was forced to throw my hand away. He later showed his pocket queens, a big hand but one of the ones I had beat.
It’s simply too easy to be outplayed by big pairs or trapped by a better ace when playing with something like A5. As a last resort you find yourself relying on the poker gods to flop you two pair or better with this sort of hand. Moral of the story? Leave playing aces with small kickers to the shorthand games.