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28/10/2005 No.21
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday October 28, 2005
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

So far, we have dealt with general aspects of poker. It's time for a specific, nuts-and-bolts look at a particular hand. And if we are going to pick a hand at random, how about a pair of aces? What a beautiful thought: a matched duo of perfect, pointy aces. "The bullets".

This is the best possible starting hand in Texas hold'em poker. Each player is given only two private cards, so (before the five-card communal "flop" is dealt), a pair of aces must be winning. But...

There is a big but. Think of Jennifer Lopez. That's how big a but there is. (Hmm, I'm not sure that works written down).
Your first two cards are only building blocks. Bt the end of the hand, all active players will be looking at seven cards in total. There might be fluches, straights or threes-of-a-kind out there. So for the most important lesson with aces is: don't fall in love with them. They can be beaten.

For this reason, I recommend making a large raise as soon as you are dealt aces. If another player has raised already, re-raise. Some players like to "get clever" and just call with aces. But why mess about? If you allow too many opponents to come into the pot cheaply, you will only kick yourself harder when you lose to one of them. If somebody wants to crack your bullets, make them pay for it.

If you raise - and this applies to any playable hand, as we discussed last week - you get more information about what you opponents might be holding. With aces, as well as raising before the flop, you can confidently bet out after it.

What if sonebody raises you then? Time to be careful. Let the flop tell a story. As the cards come down, look out for flushing or straightening cards, or a pair on the flop itself, and beware conservative players who still want to give you action. Stop, look and listen. Don't get pushed around, but do be prepared to put the aces down. I know they are beautiful. But sometimes love means having to say goodbye.


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