Playing Ace Rags

In this article we'll focus on how to play ace rags in Texas Hold'em. If you don't already know, the term Ace Rag refers to any hand that contains an Ace along with an unspecified, small kicker, usually Nine or lower. Although these hands have an Ace in them, which is the highest-ranking card in the deck, the problem is that you will often have kicker issues when you flop top pair since the better players avoid playing worse Ace hands. So you can never be hugely confident about playing a huge pot when you only have a top pair hand.

As a new player, it would be a good idea viewing Ace rag hands as not very good starting hands to play in most situations. Just because you see a professional poker player on TV play an Ace with a small kicker, you have to realize these players are a lot more experienced, especially with regard to their post flop game, and are not just relying on making a big hand but rather outplaying their opponents.

When you're inexperienced it's better adopting a tighter pre-flop raising strategy because the decisions you have to make post flop will be a lot more straightforward so it will be more obvious where you are at in the hand and whether or not you want to play for a big pot. Generally, you will either flop a monster hand like top two pair, trips, a straight, or a flush, and if you completely whiff a flop it's easy getting away from your hand.

The main reason for folding ace rag type hands the majority of the time in full ring games is they offer terrible reverse implied odds. This is basically technical jargon for you stand to likely win a small pot or lose a big pot when playing these hands. The flipside to this are hands that have great implied odds when stacks are deeper since they have very good potential to win a very big pot, such as when you are playing suited connectors or small pocket pairs, as they have the potential to make very big hands and when you hit the flop hard it can be very well disguised. With a hand like AQ, although you can win a decent sized pot when an opponent is playing an Ace with a smaller kicker, it's rare to win big pots with it, since the Ace is a scare card for your opponents. Even with hands like KK/QQ they have to be scared about someone having an Ace, so they will play the hand more cautiously.

With that being said, poker is very situational and depending on the situation, there are certain scenarios where you would consider playing ace rag hands. If it's folded around to you on the button then it's a standard raise to steal the blinds. Even when you happen to get called, it's often a player in the blinds who is being stubborn with a non-Ace hand and you can get decent value when you both flop a piece of it and their a looseish player that doesn't like to fold.

In short handed games the value of ace rags goes up considerably, since there are fewer players at the table, making it a lot less likely that another player has an Ace in their hand. In big family pots, which is commonplace in $1/$2 live games, when you have position at the table it can be worthwhile to limp in with them. Unless you have an Ace suited hand it can be better playing A2 through to A5 since they have more potential to flop a big hand. In addition to two pair you also have straight possibilities.

When playing ace rag hands, however, you really need the discipline to get away from the hand when it seems obvious another player has you outkickered. That's why playing them in position is so important, since you will get to act last and will gain more information about the strength of your opponent's hands. If you are facing a big bet on the river you know that you are likely beat, however, if it's checked around to you, you can contemplate going for some thin value or check it back. In position, it also makes it easier extracting value from your hand.

Ace rags also go up in value when you're playing tournaments with shallower stacks. If you are short stacked in a tourney and desperately need to double up to give yourself a good chance of making it in the money or winning it, which quite often occurs during the middle to late stages of a tournament, then you need to be more aggressive with any Ace rag hand, before you get really short and blinded out of the tournament. Even when you do get called you likely have decent equity. In heads up games, the value of Ace rags goes up considerably too.