What are your thoughts on Phil Gordons Ace-X rule?

Basically Phil suggests that in a tournament when you are short stacked (10bb or less) and find yourself with an Ace X type hand (A9 - A2) that you should only shove depending on the number of players left to act.

If your A5 with 4 people left in the hand, he advocates shoving because you will have a 50% or greater chance that your Ace is not dominated. If you had A3 you should not.

Personally this sounds like Hokum but I am no math buff, do you agree with this rule or is it nonsense?

3 Answers 3


Well one way to check the math will be to use some equity calculator and evaluate your AX hand against (X-1) opponents with random hands. I used online calculator at http://propokertools.com/ This is what I got:

A2 against 1 player : you: 55.5% equity; opp : 44.5%
A3 against 2 players: you: 37%   equity; opps: 31,5%
A4 against 3 players: you: 28%   equity; opps: 24%
A5 against 4 players: you: 23%   equity; opps: 19%
A6 against 5 players: you: 18.4% equity; opps: 16.3%

So, rule in question indeed gives you some edge over your opponents. But basically it's a true coin flip with only few percents handicap for you. And these few percents rapidly shrink with the increase of number of players in front of you.

Just for fun I tried same approach but for rule AX when there are (X-2) players in front of you:

A3 vs 1 opp : your equity 56.5%
A4 vs 2 opps: your equity 38%
A5 vs 3 opps: your equity 29%
A6 vs 4 opps: your equity 22.5% (yeah, A5 is better then A6, because of Wheel)
A7 vs 5 opps: your equity 19.4%

So, improved rule gave you only 1% equity increase (and for A6 its even worse).

Hope this answer makes mathematical side of the problem clearer. Otherwise I should agree with others, that usually you don't want rely on a little-bit-better-than-coin-flip solutions, usually you want to rely on skill. Still with 10bb skill may show itself in selecting a situation when your coin-flip is at least few percents handicapped towards your side.


This sort of depends on the type of tournament as well.

In a Turbo or Hyper I will shove any Ace when i get that low as you need a double up quick.

It also depends on the table dynamic, if you have got people willing to call you with any two then you need to tighten up your range slightly. Otherwise your A5 will be victim to someones 2 7 offsuit when they flop 2 pair or something. (This is only my opinion though)

In a non turbo you can sit it out a little longer and wait for a stronger hand to come along.

That being said, position is key so the fewer people there are remaining in the hand the better your chances.


To be honest, that's generally done in poker. However, People overestimate low aces (A2 etc). The funny thing is that it goes the exact same way with low pocket pairs (but that's out of the question). Having A2 against a simple T7 (for example) would almost be a coinflip. People often think they are miles ahead when they get a low ace versus something KQ etc... However, it still is the right play when you are really low. In turbo MTT's where an ante is up, it's pretty risky to play further with less than 10BB. I however play low stacked really well. So I kinda like (if possible) to wait an extra round. An ace though I would push!

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