Offsuit Ax

I’ve been recently playing in some low-stakes tournaments with friends, which seem similar to how many people play on Replay (limping, playing a wide range, calling too much). Having not played much in a while, I started thinking about my ranges. There are some hands that you obviously want to play and mostly for value (pocket pairs, big suited broadways, etc.). Suited connectors are a bit dicey because people call too much. You don’t want to get your whole stack in every time you flop a draw; getting some percentage of folds would be better.

But, from a pure equity standpoint, there is another group of hands that I rarely play even at a 6-handed table, which have a ton of pre-flop equity, and that is offsuited Ax hands. The ones I am wondering about particularly are A2o through A9o. While A5s is one of my favorite hands, I would almost never raise A5o in 6-max (let alone full ring) except maybe from the button. These rag aces have blocker value and showdown value, but they don’t draw particularly well and when you hit you never know if you’re way ahead or way behind. They are the prototypical win a small pot or lose a big pot hands. But on the other hand, they have a massive equity share against most ranges, especially loose ranges. For example, against a villain who limps (never raises) with 36% of hands, 87s has about 40% equity versus A6o, which has 47% equity.

Obviously, pure equity is a bad metric because a lot goes into actually winning a pot, but isn’t it throwing money away to mindlessly trash those ugly Ax hands? It seems like they would play similarly for medium top pair value as some broadway hands. And you could occasionally bluff catch or win medium sized pots. Or is it better to just avoid the car crashes that occur when you flop a pair and don’t know where you stand?

It depends a lot on the stacks. In deepers stacks like 100bb or more, suited hands are heavily favored over off-suit hands. For instance, against a 16% UTG raise, it would not unreasonable to flat with 65s (in a low rake environment), but flatting with AJo or 65o would be burning money.

In addition hands like A2o whiffs most boards. If the limpers limp call too much, then you are in a rough spot with A2o as you rarely make a strong hand and rarely have enough equity to bluff. With suited hands, you can have flushes and backdoors. Although you don’t hit a flush that often, you get a lot more opportunities to represent a big hand.

When the stacks get shallower, raising Axo might not be that unreasonable. Raw equity matters much more. Shoving with Axo preflop or flop generates a lot of pressure as your range is uncapped. You are still ahead of flush draws and straight draws and have 3 outs against pairs. Against 25% range, I think A2o is still a bit loose, considering there are still blinds to worry about, though some of the higher aces could work.


Yes to this. Ranges change dramatically as stacks get shallower. Hands like 6/5s become far less valuable at 30bb and hands like A9o and KJo become more valuable. Vs competent players, hands that make single pairs should not result in getting 100bb+ stacks in. Playability and the ability to make big hands maters more. On short stacks, strong single pair hands are where its at. High cards matter and more offsuit Ax hands are inserted to our playable ranges. Playability and position become less important and the ability to flop top pairs matters more.

BTW, good to see you here again @JoeDirk

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In tournaments, we are almost always shallow stacked. With A2-A5, there’s always the chance of a wheel, but if I pair the ace, I expect to get my kicker from the board. In the games I play, this often leads to a “win or chop” situation, so not as bad as it might look.

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That makes a ton of sense. The games I have been playing are pretty fast tournaments, so the stack depth is often short (20-60bb), which maybe explains why I’m tempted to get aggressive with ace-rag. Showdown value type hands are more valuable with shallower stacks, but the weakness of Ax in particular is that people get married to aces. You could get looked up by so many relatively weak aces and be dominated. But, if people are going to call raises or shoves too wide with shallow stacks then you are printing money already.

@1Warlock glad to see that you are still here. After thinking a little about poker, it really drags you in.

So where do we land on rag-aces? Definitely bad deep stacked. But even short stacked they seem bad. I’ve done some math on shoves with A9o or worse, and they don’t seem to have the equity even against some light calling ranges. If you’re getting a lot of calls then your shoves aren’t getting through and if you get called it’s -EV anyway. So, if you are playing them for top pair value then opponents find it easy to fold when ace flops, you have very few re-draws, and you are often dominated. Seems like I’m back to throwing them away.

Edit: As for betting/shoving them on flops with short-stacks, that seems like an even bigger mistake. Even if the SPR is small like 3 or 4 to 1, if you have A8o and hit an ace in a raised pot, do you really want to play for stacks? It’s almost like you would be turning it into a bluff and trying to fold out A9-AJ. Even though your range is uncapped, you are above the middle but far from the top, so you probably want a cheap showdown, since your opponent is going to respect the ace on board if they don’t have one themselves and stack you if they do.

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Vs decent players, you can dip down to about A7o as an open on 25-30bb from the HJ. However, this assumes that people are 3! or shoving many of their better aces, giving you the opportunity to fold preflop. With more passive populations, I’d move up a pip or 2 and still be cautious postflop. Fortunately, most players will let you know when they have TP beat and you can make some exploitative folds.

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