# When to fold AA pre-flop?

Let's simplify the situation:

• you have pocket aces (AA)
• cash game
• all players but one have folded (heads-up)
• the remaining player goes all-in.
• we are pre-flop

Is there a situation where folding makes sense? Specifically, would you fold based on how much you have to call?

If I am correct, 56, 67, and 78 are all roughly 23% against AA. So with AA you are, at least, 77% likely to win (pre-flop). Can you think of a situation where that is not enough to make the call?

• In light of the comments below I think that this question should be re-written to take bankroll issues into consideration as that seems to be what the OP is actually asking about. – hmmmm Mar 7 '13 at 11:20
• When `SHIT` happens ! – user851 Mar 25 '13 at 11:49
• If you are considering folding AA preflop in a cash game, why are you playing in the first place? – John Dibling Oct 19 '13 at 16:38
• The poker answer to this question is : never. The good answers all have to do with outside-world factors. – Nikana Reklawyks May 23 '15 at 18:52
• Only if you suspect the game is rigged. – quantumPuter Nov 5 '16 at 20:14

Theoretically, no. For every dollar you and your opponent add to the pot, you stand to win your dollar back plus some of his, regardless of his hand. However there are a few practical edge-cases worth considering.

Trusting the game

If this is your first time playing in a home game, there are a few ways this could be a mistake. The first is cheating; there is a small, generally negligent chance that the dealer and player you are in against are working together. He could have KK, and the dealer could base-deal a third King. Even without knowing that you won't get an ace as well and still win, this makes the odds of you winning very slim. The second is if you will get paid or robbed before you leave the game. Consider a situation where you've been winning all night in a deep game and now sit with 2000BBs. Some home games let players buy in for the largest stack on the table, and if this player is playing on credit, the home game could give you a long run-around for getting your money. The player who loses to you could also have friends in the area planning on taking this money back.

You shouldn't be buying in with a stack that you can't lose. If you have \$1000 to your name, you shouldn't be playing 5-10. Though it's still possible to win up to this amount. Consider you have \$10,000 in your bankroll, and decide to take a very aggressive shot at 5-10 with 1 buy-in. If you lose it, you will move back to 2-5. But then the shot goes very well, and you run your \$1000 up to \$8000 or so. Most of the time, you should stand up. But let's also pretend it's a very soft table; someone is buying in for \$1000 and losing it every hand with no sign of stopping. There may be a situation here that warrants folding AA against a different player; the value in the game so great that you don't want to leave, but you also don't want to take a 20% shot of losing roughly half of your net worth.

• Great Cory, that last part is roughly what I was thinking. – blueFast Feb 24 '13 at 17:53
• @gonvaled If that last part was what you were thinking about, then that's a different question and has nothing to do with AA. In that case you fold any hand where the \$1000/hand player is not in, since you'll never have a better chance to win other than AA. And it's easy to come up with those type of hypotheticals- you always fold AA against the guy who you happen to know is an assasin who offs people that beat him with AA, etc. Though admittedly Cory's scenario is at least plausible. – TTT Mar 25 '13 at 3:53
• @jeckyll2hide If you are interested in bet sizes as a significant portion of personal net worth (and assuming you are severely handicapped and have no more earning potential in life) then this is a personal finance question. TL;DR see Kelly Criterion – William Entriken Aug 10 '14 at 21:31

In a cash game, never fold AA preflop. You're always ahead.

The only time this might be reasonable is in a tournament, and the reasons would relate directly to ICM calculations. Even then, the situations will be rare where folding AA is reasonable.

• @gonvaled If we're discussing limits regarding how much you're prepared to wager on a hand like this, then that's about bankroll/risk management and nothing to do with making correct decisions based on equity. Totally different question. – Toby Booth Feb 23 '13 at 15:41
• @gonvaled So this isn't a question about equity then? If I have AA and I can afford to bet thousands of bb, or more, on this one hand then i'd do it in a heartbeat! 'Risk of Ruin' will factor into it, but that's relative to your individual preferences regarding going broke. – Toby Booth Feb 23 '13 at 19:49
• The problem with this angle on the question is that not being willing to risk your stack should stop you from sitting in the game, not change the way you play it. If you aren't comfortable calling 1 million times the big blind, you shouldn't have 1 million times the big blind in front of you. – Cory Kendall Feb 23 '13 at 21:15
• I see your point. The fact is that maybe I have that huge amount of money by chance: the table where I am playing is not the table where I started (I got very lucky early in the game). – blueFast Feb 24 '13 at 17:39
• @gonvaled I have to say with these comments your question is starting to make less sense. Why are you moving tables to a bigger stakes game if it is cash? Also if your question relates to how much someone would risk on AA pre-flop then it is really not an appropriate question, it's completely subjective as it totally depends on your bankroll and that is pretty much different for every person. In relation to tournament play and Sng's it's actually reasonable that ICM will dictate that you should lay down AA, I think the situation will occur more often than one might think. – hmmmm Mar 2 '13 at 11:23

The only time you can consider folding AA preflop is:

• You are on the bubble in a tournament, and
• More than two players are all in, and one of them WILL bust, and
• Your stack is such that you could bust out if you call, and
• If you fold, you are guaranteed a place in the money.

ALL of these things MUST be true to make folding AA the right decision. There is no other time, in any game, when folding AA is correct.

OK, it sounds like you want a "risk management" answer. The correct answer, then, is to risk a percentage of your complete bankroll that corresponds with the Kelly Criterion.

According to the Kelly Criterion, to achieve the maximum long-term gain, you should risk the percentage of your bankroll that corresponds to your edge. That means if you take the worst-case scenario, AA only being ahead about 75/25, you should risk 75% of your bankroll on the hand, but no more.

• Could you clarify how you came to the conclusion on percentage of BR to risk using Kelly. It seems off to me?! – Toby Booth Mar 7 '13 at 11:49
• (should get chk but) the math is off slightly: {p(b+1)-1}/b -> {.75(1+1)-1}/.75 = 2/3 – user940 Oct 21 '13 at 23:11
• The "guaranteed to place in the money" requirement I might relax a little: If I were on the bubble in a satellite and folding would get me past the blinds and several other players were short-stacked and soon to face the blinds, I might consider it. – Lee Daniel Crocker Oct 23 '15 at 19:27
• Absolutely right, I folded AA in the bubble of a small buy in tournament with two players all in before me. Ended up being three runners and a straight took it. I wasn't the shortest stack so technically would have cashed anyway but this illustrates an almost perfect example of @smithandteam 's answer :) – Danny Mahoney Aug 15 '16 at 8:40
• Absolutely wrong advice. Just because two people were allin you cannot fold Aces. Your aim in any tournament is winning top prizes not the small prize similar to your buyin. As I have answered below, the only time to fold Aces is when you are in a satellite tournament bubble with much shorter stacks around and you are guaranteed to qualify if you just fold. Then you go for 100% not for 85%. You. – Kanan Farzali Jan 11 '17 at 16:45

The general formula for the minimum pot size that is worth a call goes like this:

Break-even pot size = Probability of losing / probability of winning * price of call

In the worse case (you opponent is holding 65s), the numbers are:

Break-even pot size = 23 / 77 * aa = 0.3*aa

where aa is the amout of the all-in.

The pot is worth aa + blinds, which must be bigger than 0.3*aa. So in a cash game, the call will always be worth it (bankroll issues apart, but these are supposed to be taken care of when you sit at the table).

• I just want to point out that the worst case for Aces is when the opponent has 87s, not 65s. That being said, the best case for opponent against AA, however, is 65s. – TTT Mar 25 '13 at 3:45

Never fold AA preflop in cash.

I would consider folding AA preflop if I were on or close to making the WSOP Final Table and one or more short-stacks moved all-in against another opponent, however, this would still depend on the types of players.

The reason I would consider folding is because not only is the payout structure top heavy at that point, but placing higher at the final table sometimes provides endorsement deals that provide even more value.

Aside from that, the bottom line is... what other hand are you waiting for the dealer to send you?

• A hand with 100% chances of winning. Like nuts flush. Obviously, not pre-flop, that's why I would consider folding AA (depending on the amounts involved). – blueFast Mar 7 '13 at 9:06
• @jeckyll2hide I had the nut flush at the casino and it was the fourth best hand on a board with just one pair on the board! Three full houses above me :( – Danny Mahoney Aug 15 '16 at 8:41
• @DannyMahoney: flush with a pair on the table is never nuts! – blueFast Aug 15 '16 at 11:41
• @jeckyll2hide Are you saying that it is not referred to as a 'nut flush' if it isn't the nuts on the board in play? – Danny Mahoney Jan 16 '17 at 6:56

In cash games, I believe there is no such situation (heads'up, preflop).

When it comes to tournaments, sometimes it can make sense. For example:

• there are 32 people left in the tournament
• the top 30 people get payed
• 3 players move all-in preflop and now it's your turn.

This is a rare occurrence but, if it happens, then it's not a mistake to fold pocket Aces. Your chance of winning is less than 50 % and, since the bubble is about to burst, it makes sense.

Another situation:

• you're on the turn against 2 opponents
• there are 4 diamonds on the board
• one of your opponent pushes all-in and the other opponent calls
• none of your 2 Aces is a diamond
• there's no chance to make a full house on the river

Then you can pretty much be sure with a high probability that at least 1 of those players has a flush. In this case it's best to fold. Even if the 5th diamond comes on the river (giving you a flush as well), your opponent's flush will probably be better

Another situation:

• it's super early in a tournament
• the pot is getting big preflop
• the flop comes and it has 2 Kings in it
• one of your opponents bets big (70 - 80 % of the pot) and the other calls

Even if the first one is likely to bluff at it to take it down, the fact that the 2nd one called him pretty much means he has a set of Kings or even better, which means you're behind. So fold your Aces. You don't want to risk your entire tournament life on a coin flip, especially so early and especially when you're this deep (it's early, like I said, so you still have a lot of BBs in your stack).

There are probably more situations like this, but you have to keep in mind the following: even against a single opponent holding random hole cards, pocket Aces has a chance of about 85 % to win. If it's 3 opponents we're talking about, then it's more like 60 %.

Pocket Aces is the best. But it's not unbeatable.

You never, ever (almost), fold AA in that situation no matter what.

If you're in the bubble you might be out but you're completely ahead, in tournaments the money is at the top not inside the bubble, and you're gonna need those extra chips if you want to get to the final table and win the tournament.

In cash games the only reason to fold wold be the posibility of losing money that you can't afford to lose, but if that's the case you shouldn't be playing at all in the first place.

The short answer, in a cash game, in the situation you describe, is definitely never fold.

That you would even contemplate a fold in that spot simply proves that the stakes (at that movement at least) are too high for you to play correctly.

In other words - poker is all about finding opportunities in which you have a mathematical advantage, then using your chips to leverage and exploit that advantage.

If you're afraid to do that - risk your chips when you're a 75% favorite - you can't possibly be making correct decisions.

For what it's worth... if you're holding out for situations in which you're odds of winning are greater than 75%, then you're not going to have many chances to play.

For example - if you flop a set, and your opponent only has a flush or open-ended straight draw, you're still around a 75% favorite.

If you flop an Ace-high flush and your opponent has trips - you're only a 65% favorite.

Essentially you're saying that, unless you're sitting on the nuts, you'd fold to an all-in bet. That's clearly sub-optimal. Especially since your opponents will quickly sniff out your fear, and exploit it.

This isn't what you asked, but it's possible that you might fold AA in a tournament (under very specific circumstances.) But, even there - if you're knowingly folding the best hand, it's because you're willing to sacrifice any chance of winning in order to just finish in the money.

And, it sounds like you realize this, but if there are more than three people all-in pre-flop, it's possible that AA is less than 50% to win. (Although you're ALWAY the strong favorite).

You never fold AA preflop in a Cash Game. I rarely ever say never in poker, and almost any advice is dependent on the situation. This is an exception. Preflop in a cash game is one of the rare cases where saying never is OK, because you should never fold AA.

Some answers on this thread try to justify it using bankroll considerations, or speculating that your opponent might be cheating. If your opponent might be cheating, don't play that game. If you are playing outside your bankroll (don't do that), it is still incorrect to fold AA preflop in a cash game.

There are a very very small number of situations where you would fold AA preflop. I have heard elsewhere in this thread that you should consider folding AA close to the bubble. This is wrong. In a standard tournament, you want to win, not min cash. AA is a good hand and will help you get chips, don't be afraid to get it in preflop with the best hand, even if you are near the bubble.

The exception to this is a flat payout structure tournament. If you are in a satellite, or a double or nothing type tournament, where the top X all get paid the same amount, then it is OK to fold AA on the bubble to someone who has you covered. But only do this if you have enough chips to fold to the money, and there are several shorter stacks than you that are about to bust.

AA is the best starting hand in poker. You should always play pre-flop. You don't know what the other person has and statistically you beat all other hands pre-flop. I've never and would never fold AA whether it's a tourney or cash game. This is statistically the best starting hand pre-flop. It doesn't matter whether you're on the bubble or not. Play your hand. You asked about pre-flop.

Now, after the flop is a different story.

You have a seat at a mega big tournament. You've taken a week off work to play. You've paid for flight and accommodation for the week.

First day, first hand some joker is all in.

Im going to fold that AA just so my expensive week doesnt end in 1 minute.

There is no argument against this. Ive done it twice.

• Why would you have all your money on the table? – Jon Mar 9 '15 at 6:19
• you will never win any single tournament with this mentality – Kanan Farzali Nov 29 '16 at 10:28

I only glanced over the forum so if it was said before then fair enough...the only time to fold AA preflop is in a satellite eg top 10 get entry you've a medium stack a big stack who has you covered pushes all in. If there's no heirachy in positional payouts then no need to risk it you can more than likely let the smaller stacks knock each other out and still get the same reward without risking. I've ran AA through every other scenario and there's no maths that suggest you don't call. The suggestion of the scenario that the game is rigged yuck...if you're playing home games with people capable of this type of thing then you deserve to go broke. If u can't spot the fool at the poker table its probably you...Peace

Consider one hand alone, NEVER fold pocket AA. Consider one hand of your game (or, career), there are very good reasons mentioned by some really smart players here. In short, fold the AA when you can't "afford" to lose that much chip in that particular hand.

Basically, the only time it makes sense in a cash game is if you've mismanaged your risk. i.e. you are playing scared money with a deep stack.

I know of a guy who folded AA in a cash game pot is over \$100K, 4 people went all in before him. He flips the AA and says I'm going home.

Yes, however he bought in for \$5K, and has been building his stack all day, now to flip his \$30K in one hand was going to affect him in some way if he lost it. What this means of course is that he's playing well beyond his means.

• or he could win another 10K assuming that with 5K buyin no ona had more than 10K – Kanan Farzali Dec 1 '16 at 12:15
• no cap 5k min buyin – cryptoboy Feb 22 '18 at 22:37

If it is heads up in cash games - it is a silly question to ask. You never fold the best hand in a cash game. In fact it is a dream scenario and you should snap call. If you think too much before calling your opponent might even think you are slow-rolling him :)

The only time it is right to fold AA is when you are in a satellite tournament. Let say 101 people left and 100 qualify. You have a solid stack and know that if you don't play at all you will 100% qualify while if you call someone's all in you can lose. Calling in this situation is a big mistake and the only right play is to fold.

In other tournament types, you cannot fold it even in a big money bubble as AA is quite a big favourite vs any other hand in Hold'em so you always get right odds (heads up!)

I have one, that fits with making more money in the long run then calling with AA.

You are on the big blind at a 1/2 game and have \$3000 while the maniac 2 seats to your left has \$3000 as well. First to act goes all in for \$15, and everyone folds. Do you bust the guy for \$15 and lose having an extra hand in position against maniac? I smile and fold.

• That is pretty extreme. – paparazzo Jul 8 '17 at 17:31