Monsters, Inc

We’ve been filtering through hundreds of hands over the life of, and, on week #29, we finally find ourselves with pocket aces which is the best starting hand in the game. The chances of being dealt this monster hand are 1/221 or 0.45%. While A-A puts us in an extremely dominant position in an all-in pre-Flop situation, the odds lower with additional players and big flops for our opponents. You will win with pocket aces and you will lose with pocket aces in the long run. The key is understanding how to avoid underplaying aces pre-Flop and overplaying post-Flop.

In today’s example, we get a taste of wanting to be all-in pre-Flop with a weak player that plays to see a Flop. The Flop happens to be draw-heavy which forces our medium stack to slow down and put tournament life over all else. As the hand plays out we are able to fall back and use a River Blocker Bet to learn if we’ve won the hand or not.


I’m dealt Ah-Ad, a monster, while on the Big Blind with blinds and antes at $65/$325/$650. I have a medium stack of 47 big blinds and I begin by assessing the table. A-A is the best starting hand in the game and my goal is to get all-in pre-Flop, giving me dominating odds against all other pre-Flop hands. For example, A-A is an 80% favorite to any other pocket pair and a 90% favorite to any other A-X hand. For this reason, I would snap call any all-ins and 3-bet any open raises. I would 4-bet any 3-bets. At this point in the hand, my decisions are easy. Regardless of anything else, when you have A-A always look to get it all-in pre-Flop.


The action folds to nots in middle table position and he raises to $2,795 which is 4x the big blind of $650. We’ve delved deeply in other posts about how important it is to recognize the sizing of an opponent’s open raise as well has his stack size. Most amateurs will view his raise to $2,795 as any other raise and not fully understand why his large raise and stack are important information. We’ll review here:

  • Pay attention to his large stack because he has more “play chips” and may be more likely to gamble. This would imply that he may call or raise our 3-bet with weaker cards than a shorter stack would. He also has enough chips to call a 3-bet without being at risk for an all-in. Even if he doubles us up, his tournament life will not be on the line in this hand, implying that he has the luxury to play weaker hands.
  • Pay attention to his large raise because his 4x raise implies he is unaware of the “min-raise game” that we stress at The Poker Model. It’s much more likely that he is an amateur with a big hand for this reason. A min-raise from him would have implied that he may have a weaker hand with a stack of his size. Think about all of the hands we will min-raise with at The Poker Model (any ace, any two cards over 7, any pocket pair, some suited connectors) with stacks over 25 big blinds. His raise is much larger and usually means he’s holding a bigger hand.

As always, players can make any move with any two cards. However, the above information leads us to believe that nots is an amateur player with a big stack, making a big raise, with a big hand. He’s an amateur player because of his 4x open raise, has a big stack because it’s over 50 big blinds, made a big raise because it’s more than 3x the big blind and most likely has a big hand because only amatuer players make this kind of raise, usually with big hands. This is great news for us because we are holding the best possible hand in the game and may get action from nots, who may have a slightly weaker hand than A-A which puts us in a dominating position.


The action folds to me and I have one professional option; 3-bet. But how much? Remember that my goal is to size my bet so that nots puts me all-in. If I 3-bet small, to $5,000, then it’s likely that I’ll get nots to call or raise. While these are two good options for me, I’d rather put more money out there for nots to want to take, ultimately building a larger pot.

Going all-in would be silly because I have so many chips and it would be easy for nots to fold and put me on a monster, like A-A. I’ll want to raise somewhere in the ballpark of 3x his open raise. The main reason I’m able to 3-bet large here is because nots has such a big stack. If he had a medium or small stack, I would adjust my raise accordingly.


I 3-bet to $8,500 with my monster hand. I don’t want my opponent to fold because aces don’t come around often and I want to get value. If my opponent calls, then the hand could get very complex so I’d rather he just 4-bet me back and we get all-in pre-Flop. It’s his action so well calmly wait.


nots makes my life harder and flat calls the 3-bet. The Flop comes 10c-8c-6h. This is a bad Flop for pocket aces because there is a Flush Draw and multiple Straight Draw possibilities, not to mention that I’m left with 35 big blinds and there is $17,845 in the Pot. This means that a half pot bet of $8,922 is 13 big blinds!

After nots makes the call, I’m first to act. Betting here (making a continuation bet) puts us in a muddy situation that we want to avoid. If I bet then I’d be saying “I’m ready and willing to go all-in right now” based on the size of the Pot and our stack sizes. I’d have to call if nots went all-in over the top of my bet for this reason. This wouldn’t be an ideal situation because of the plethora of hands that can beat us. If the Flop was something like 2d-2h-3c, however, then we would comfortably make this continuation bet and snap call an all-in from nots because there are far fewer hands that can crack our aces.

If nots folds to my bet, then I’ll win a nice pot, but I could have made the same play with a big hand like A-K and had the same results. For example, 3-betting with A-K pre-Flop, making a continuation bet post-Flop, and check/folding later if I get action on the Flop.

The option that would really make this hand hard and I want to avoid would be if nots calls my Flop bet. In this case, any card on the Turn that fills a Flush or Straight would force me to shutdown on the hand and go into check/fold mode.

In these complex situations, I tell myself that I’m not going to lose it all and be knocked out. I have 35 big blinds which is enough to win this whole tournament.


I decide to check. If nots makes a big bet here then I’ll go back to “I’m ready and willing to go all-in” mode because I’ve eliminated the outcome where a bad Turn card comes. To clarify, a bet from nots in this position could be a big hand, a bluff, or a mediocre hand. By moving all-in with A-A, I’m forcing him to either call or fold on the Flop therefore erasing the chance of us getting to the Turn without being all-in. The only hands that would be beating me are flopped straights (2% chance), two pair (2% chance), or a set (11%), all of which are unlikely.

If nots makes a small bet on the Turn, then I’ll call. This leaves me with enough chips to potentially make it to the River and try a River Blocker Bet.

If nots checks behind me, then the Pot stays the same size and we are one card closer to making it to the River.


nots checks behind and the Turn is the 5c. This is another very bad card for me because the Flush Draw and Straight Draw filled. I’m in a worse position now than I was on the Flop. Betting would be unwise for the same reasons as on the Flop, but now worse because all-ins from nots could already be beating me. If I check and nots checks, then I’ll be able to make a small River Blocker Bet and see if I win the hand. If he bets small, then I can call and use a River Blocker Bet, keeping myself over 20 big blinds.


I check, nots checks, and the River is the 9s. It’s a miracle that we’ve made it to this point in the hand without needing to put any more money into the Pot. Unfortunately, the 9s fills up a few more Straight possibilities. While we started the hand dominating the world, now there are a long list of hands that beat us. Let’s not forget that there are still many hands that we are beating.

We have 35 big blinds, a now mediocre hand, and we want to see if its best, so we’ll make a River Blocker Bet here. The bet should be around ⅓ of the Pot and not put us below the 20 big blind marker.


I bet $5,000 and after nots calls $5,000, I win the hand. Phew, that could have gone wrong at any point in the hand after the Flop. The big open raise pre-Flop followed by checks on a draw-heavy board makes me think he had some pocket pair other than 7-7 (which would be a straight). Many players will call big 3-bets with low pocket pairs in hopes of making a set. We’re against this play as a set will only connect ⅛ of the time on the Flop.

Monster hands are always fun to play pre-Flop, but do you have the discipline to make the correct raises? How about seeing it for what it is post-Flop, just a mediocre hand? In today’s hand, we make a big 3-bet pre-Flop to an amatuer player, only to have him call. When the Flop was draw-heavy, we slowed down and were able to make it to the River, where a River Blocker Bet was called for the win. Remember to think through all possible outcomes before acting and keep tournement life at the forefront, even with a monster in your pocket.


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