Poker Strategy With Jonathan Little: Getting Paid With Slow-Played Aces

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Jonathan Little If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

I was recently told about a hand from the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker main event that one of my students played that illustrates an important strategy that you must understand if you want to succeed at poker tournaments against loose, aggressive opponents who are not afraid to battle.

On day 3, my student had 100,000 chips at 2,000-4,000 with a 4,000 big blind ante. Everyone folded to him and he raised to 8,000 with AHeart Suit ADiamond Suit from the cutoff.

Assuming his opponents play well enough, he should use this same raise size with all of the hands he planned to play so his opponents will not be able to easily get a read on the strength of his hand based on his preflop raise size.

The action folded around to the big blind, an overly loose, aggressive player, who three-bet to 19,000.

While many players automatically four-bet pocket aces in order to get all-in preflop, a much better play is to call, forcing the big blind to stay in the pot with his entire three-betting range.

In exchange for occasionally getting outdrawn, you give the big blind an additional opportunity to bluff off some chips on the later betting rounds. Especially when you have a somewhat shallow stack, it is important to get maximum value from your premium hands. The risk of getting outdrawn is worth the potential reward of doubling up or winning a sizable pot.

The flop came 9Spade Suit 8Spade Suit 4Club Suit and the big blind checked. My student bet 14,000 into the 44,000 pot.

While aces are almost always the best hand at the moment, there are numerous bad turn cards that could come that would substantially decrease its value, mainly a queen, jack, 10, 7, 6, or spade. When that is the case, betting is usually ideal.

When choosing your bet size, it is best to use a size that gives your opponent plenty of room to raise (which you should happily continue against). Notice that if you bet large, perhaps 40,000 into the 45,000 pot, the opponent would likely fold all of his unpaired hands that do not have a draw, which would be a disaster. The unpaired junky hands are the ones you really want to keep in because they are drawing close to dead.

The big blind called the 14,000 bet. The turn was the 4Diamond Suit. The big blind checked and my student bet 20,000 into the 72,000 pot.

As on the flop, aces are still almost certainly ahead at the moment and want to keep growing the pot while giving the opponent plenty of room to do something silly. Going all-in on the turn may be reasonable if the big blind’s range was decently strong, which would be the case if he was a tight, cautious player, but against a loose, aggressive player, you want to give him the chance to continue with hands that are drawing thin.

Many players think the goal is to protect their aces by making a large or all-in bet, but if your opponent is capable of bluffing or sticking around with a weak hand, betting small is ideal.

The big blind instantly went all-in for 47,000 more.

At this point, the big blind probably has a decently strong made hand, perhaps top pair or better, or a strong draw. Against this strong range, aces fare well enough. Combined with the excellent pot odds, it is an easy call.

My student made the call and was shocked (and relieved) to see the big blind show 10Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit, for absolutely nothing.

In the main event, despite the hefty $10,000 buy-in, you should expect to see some “interesting” plays. Some players will play incredibly tight, while others will play like absolute maniacs.

As long as you are paying attention to what is happening at your table, you can get out of line and make adjustments to take advantage of your opponents’ mistakes. With a bit of luck, their chips will end up being pushed in your direction.

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at





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