Stud Poker Strategy - Aces in the Hole
You've heard the expression "Ace in the Hole"? It's a classic and it means that you have something that may not be readily apparent that gives you power in a particular situation. It's a 5-Card Stud phrase - and it's useful in many real-life situations.
In 7-Card Stud, "Aces in the Hole" refers to another poker situation where your great strength is not apparent to your opponents. I have had occasion to play this hand many times. And I think a recent example will demonstrate some interesting aspects of 7-Card Stud strategy.
I was playing on line in a fairly tight $5/10 Stud game. The players were generally good, most of them folded on Third Street if there was a completion. There were a couple of players who didn't really have a clue. But even they seemed to be relatively timid unless they had called the bring-in already - which they frequently did.
One of the timid players was to my right and he brought it in for $2 with a 3h. I had the Aces wired and a 6c exposed with six players in front of me who hadn't acted. Here were there hands.
What would you have done?
For me, it was fairly obvious. Though I often play this hand quickly, assuming that I'll get action, such was not the case here. No one had called this bet yet. No one else had completed it. If I completed it I'd be running the serious risk that I'd push out everyone else and win only the antes and the bring-in for my troubles.
As it was, I had an extremely strong hand - though not quite as strong as trips. In reality it was just one tiny notch down from trips, since no one could beat me if they didn't have trips (or, I suppose the other two Aces).
My raise would have looked suspicious, seeing as I only had a 6 exposed. Folks would have suspected me as having, at least, a premium pair in the hole - since my image was tight and aggressive - if slightly wild - with an ante steal semi-bluff thrown in every now and again.
This clearly wasn't an ante steal situation. I was in early position with the lowest up card save for the bring-in. What else was I likely to have if not a premium pair in the hole or perhaps a pair of 6s with an Ace kicker. My observant opponents were likely to fold. Any my non-observant ones were likely to fold as well since there would be such a small pot and they hadn't yet entered it.
So I called as did three other people. I wasn't too concerned about that, since my 6 was also live, making Aces Up a very strong possibility. As it was I went on to call a bet from someone else on Fourth, making it heads up. I hit an Ace on Fifth, bet, and my opponent folded.
But imagine a different scenario. How would you play the following?
You have the same hand but face a slightly altered line up:
What would you do here?
With this Aces-in-the-hole I'd surely complete the bet. With the two callers I'm nearly certain of getting at least one caller who is going to think it worth the extra 3/5th of a bet to see his fourth card - thinking that maybe I'm being aggressive with and hand he can beat on the next card. Had the King raised, on the other hand, I'd be unlikely to uncloak myself by re-raising - though I might do so if he was a very aggressive player who didn't like to back down.
In general, if there is already action in front of me, I tend to play my hidden Aces strongly, trying to build the pot and at least to some extent limit the field. As good as they are, I'd much rather be up against a single opponent than a host of opponents. However, that being said, if I am first to act, if I am against at least fairly tight opponents, I will slowplay the Aces until Fourth Street, not wanting to run the risk that I will knock everyone out of the hand.
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