• July 24, 2021

Playing with Ace-Rag

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The definition of holding a ‘rag ace’ or an ‘ace-rag’ is being dealt an ace with another card lower than a ten. So the following hands can be regarded as ‘rag aces’: A9 A8 A7 A6 A5 A4 A3 A2.
It could be argued the range, in which the term rag ace incorporates, is smaller or greater than the one shown. For example some would say that a rag ace ranges from A2 to A6, but in my opinion the best way to determine an ace rag is in the range A2 to A9.
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How to play aces with low kickers.
So that’s enough of the background information, now how should they be played? It is typical for a beginner player to overestimate the strength of their hand just because they hold an ace, and this can lead them into trouble. This answer to the question on how to play aces with low kickers is as follows…
More often than not you should be folding rag aces. This may come as no surprise to any intermediate and experienced players as they have read this article or other articles like this, and learnt from mistakes they have made at the table.
If you play rag aces, you are primarily looking for one thing to happen: making top pair with your kicker on the flop. This is because this gives you the best opportunity of having the best hand and to make money. If you pair your ace and get action from another player it is likely that they have your ace out-kicked, especially if they raised before the flop.
Tips for playing rag aces.
1] If you pair your ace and bet out, your opponent will only be calling/raising with the better ace leaving you unsure of where you stand, or they will fold an obvious worse hand – winning a small pot. Furthermore if you were to hold A5 on a board of AJ8, any action you would get would either result in you losing the pot or calling to win half. In the best-case scenario of your opponent holding an ace-rag, it is likely to be a split pot by the river.
2] If you make top pair with your kicker you have a better chance of making more money from another player that has hit top pair with a worse kicker. However this situation is unlikely and again with one pair you can only hope to be winning a small pot.
3] You make two pair on the flop against someone with an ace but with a better kicker. This will usually be a profitable situation for you. However it is not common and it would be a losing play attempting to make two-pair with a rag ace against an opponent with a better kicker. It simply won’t happen enough to make the call profitable.
When can you play rag aces?
In spite of what has been mentioned above, there are certain situations that warrant playing ace-rag in the hole (remember that no answers in poker are that straight forward). When playing short-handed poker you can loosen up your starting hand requirements. When there are 5 people or less at the table it is acceptable to play any ace with good table position.
Rag aces can be played more profitably at short-handed tables, but you still have to be careful. Rag aces are generally best avoided if you are still developing a solid, winning strategy.
The likelihood that your opponents will be holding any aces has diminished significantly enough to change rag aces from losers to winners. The rule that you may only win small pots still applies, but the size of these pots will be slightly increased short-handed, as players will have a tendency to call bets with middle pairs.
Furthermore, an ace also acts as a plan B for clearing up uncontested pots with the high card. But be sure to let paired aces go if you come up against too much action after the flop.
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Steve Carr

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