Pocket aces are the best starting hand and the most profitable in Texas Hold 'em. A player can expect to pick up this powerhouse about once every 220 hands.
There will be nights when you will not get them. There will be nights when you are dealt them two or three times inside 100 hands. These are good nights.
But aces are never a guarantee of a winning pot. Let's take a look at how the hand breaks down during the course of standard table action, using numbers generated from an odds calculator (these can be found online):
Starting out: In a 10-handed game, the player with aces immediately stands to win the pot 30.87 percent of the time. These odds assume that every player is involved in the hand and that the action is played down to a river showdown.
Now, a win rate a tad short of one-third may not sound great, but it is when you compare it to other hands in this scenario. A big hand like a pair of queens dips down to 21.97 percent due to the possibility of overcards in the king and ace that could trump it on a board. A medium-strength hand like a pair of eights has a 14.11 percent win rate.
Poker's worst hand, the 7-2 off-suit, will drag the pot a whopping 3.98 percent of the time.
Drive 'em out: Rule No. 1 with aces is that you don't want a lot of players seeing the flop, so appropriate bets and raises should be administered to accomplish that.
The math doesn't slide above 50 percent into the player's favor until half of the table is out. With three remaining opponents, the odds climb to 63.60 percent, with two to 73.19 percent, and heads-up action climbs to 84.94 percent.
Some poker theorists say that with aces, they are perfectly content to win the pot without seeing a flop. I disagree. The ultimate goal in poker is to make money, and the best time to do that is with those aces.
I'll take the increased likelihood that I can win a bigger pot against two or three opponents over the added security of isolating a single opponent. One of those players is bound to hit a piece of the flop and will continue to provide business -- you just have to hope he or she didn't hit too big a piece.
Aces versus ranges: Players who call bets in hopes of seeing a flop generally do so with one of three holdings: pairs, suited connecting cards (like 8s-7s) and big cards that add up to 20 and 21.
Against the pairs, aces are in fantastic shape, with opponents drawing only two outs for a set (three of a kind). The odds of that happening are only 12.04 percent. Out of the three traditional calling ranges, this is the one you want the most.
With suited connectors, the odds creep up to around 20 percent that your opponent will run down your aces. This can increase to nearly 35 percent if the flop produces an open-ended straight draw, and 40 percent if it's a flush draw.
Against the two big cards, aces have anything containing an ace in horrible shape, with odds under 10 percent. Hands like K-Q (13.49), Q-J (15.66) and J-10 (17.10) are marginally more dangerous.
Chuck Blount, a die-hard Texas Hold 'Em enthusiast, has been a professional journalist for more than 10 years. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has worked in the sports department of the San Antonio Express-News since August 2000. Got a poker question or have a comment? Email Chuck at email@example.com.