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I fielded a Poker StackExchange question the other day about whether AA is the best starting hand in Texas Hold-Em No Limit vs. 8 other players. Indeed, it is so. Now I have a variant of this question involving Texas Hold-Em double-board-bomb-pot.

For those unfamiliar:

Def: Double-board-bomb-pot - Each player antes something like 5x the typical big blind (e.g., nine antes of $5 if you're playing a fun home game of $0.50/$1.00), players are dealt two hole cards face down, and then the dealer goes straight to two flops without any pre-flop betting. If two players split the boards (each wins one board) then they split the pot. If one player wins both boards he wins the entire pot.

This article explains a little more in-depth what a "bomb pot" is (although the author takes a bit of a dim view on it).

The other day, while playing a few hands of "double-board-bomb-pot" towards the end of the night, some friends and I got to talking about which hole cards "you'd most want" in this game. My intuition tells me that AA is not the best starting hand due to:

  1. The limited options / combinations of flops you can hit with AA.
  2. There are two flops and greater chance for non-paired hole cards to hit two pairs, straights, full houses, and flushes.
  3. A pair is not that good in double board bomb pot. That is, the likelihood that two or more players are going all-in on the river or earlier is high. Winning long-term with AA would require you to win both boards often enough to make the play profitable.
  4. Even if you spike an ace and have a set it still often isn't enough to win both boards and often pocket pairs that hit a set find themselves going to the river and the round ending in heartbreak (from what I've seen empirically).

I am hard pressed to suggest a better starting hand than AA for this game, but one that has been suggested and come up several times is JT suited. With that said, I don't think the typical EV starting hand calculations are enough here. I'd be interested to see some type of monte-carlo simulation for this game, but the complexity of coding that up seems quite high. At any rate, if anyone can mathematically prove/disprove AA is the best starting hand in double-board-bomb-pot I'd be very interested to see those calculations and logic.

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Given the following:

  • we know AA is the best starting hand in regular 9-handed NLHE
  • there is no action before the flop in double board bomb pots
  • we are considering the strength of the hand before we know what the flops are

We can conclude that AA is still the best starting hand if you are playing a double board bomb pot. It may not seem this way because a lot of hands that would not normally see a flop get to realize some equity, but AA will win more frequently than every other starting hand given random flops. Let me show you some statistics:

AA

JTs

Above is the probabilities of made hands after the flop for AA and JTs (AA on the top and JTs on the bottom). The big thing to note here is that JTs (and other suited connectors like 56s) will have no made hand on 65% of flops. Suited connectors have a better chance of flopping draws and stronger hands like flushes and straights, but note how low the probability is. JTs will only flop 2 pair or better ~5% of the time.

It is important to note that winning one board would still be profitable for AA (your question makes it seem like only winning both boards is profitable). Also, keep in mind that AA will be cracked much more frequently when there are more players in the double board bomb pot. Here is a monte-carlo simulation of AA vs JTs with an entire run out on one board (meaning flop turn and river have been dealt):

AA

JTs

In conclusion, AA does have the highest equity in a double board bomb pot, but because there is 2 boards and all players involved after the flop AA will be cracked much more frequently than if it was heads up on one board. It also applies for any strong hand, this is what makes double board bomb pots so fun to play :)

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  • the top two pictures are taken from flopzilla, bottom two are taken from pokerstove. check out that software if you would like to run some simulations yourself. – Clarko Jan 13 at 19:11
  • Your calculation seems to be only true if everyone is all in preflop. While true JT will miss most flops, the point is that its much more playable since you can hit 2 pair/draws on both boards, while AA will mostly only give you top pair, or a set + a pair. JT u continue on less boards, but arguably its easier to get your money in good. – sakon Jan 21 at 9:18
  • yes that is true @sakon. The question asked if AA was the best starting hand in double board bomb pots. It may not be the easiest to play or make the best hands, but it has the most equity on a random flop. JTs is definitely more playable but AA has more equity. – Clarko Jan 21 at 22:39

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