In a no limit cash game, if I'm sitting on the button pre-flop with pocket aces and no one has bet ahead of me, I usually don't want to limp because I don't want to offer free opportunities to draw to a bad beat for me. However, I would like to get some action. How do I size my bet to avoid scaring everyone off when I'm at a full table? Is there a general rule of thumb for this?
The general rule of thumb from me would be to stick with the same raise you would make in the same situation with T9s. You want to balance your range so that you get a good mix of action with your great hands and folds with your steals.
What that raise should be will depend a lot on your history with the blinds and on their stack sizes. Whether we are talking about a cash game or a tournament can be a big factor here as well.
What @Jeffrey Blake said, is totally correct, however there are situations when you don't need to balance you range in this situation at all, for example against players who doesn't care and calling anyway, you should make as big bets as you can to make more profit. Also, against players who are not observant at all, you might make bigger bets, because they wont notice the difference.
These are extreme examples, but in a poker game you should be aware of everything all the time, so you need to consider this.
I would rather raise and take the pot than have someone stick around and get lucky for free.
Rockets are the best hand pre-flop but once the flop hits there is a decent chance you will lose at least some of that advantage and the more players there the greater that risk. As such I prefer to bet high hoping that who ever comes along will have high cards(probably an ace) thinking they have a chance to win. If my opponent has an ace then I am in a much better position.
Once to the flop I generally slow down some unless I improve. If I have improved I keep the pressure up. I would much rather force a marginal hand out than lose to a draw. I have folded pocket aces on the turn because I was fairly certain my opponent out drew me.
These are all great answers.
I use one of two strategies in this situation. I will always raise, it's just a matter of how much. The only time I don't raise pre-flop with AA is when I'm early in position and I know there is a wild canon to my left and I can come over the top.
So I'm guessing the situation is that only the SB and BB remain to your left.
If the SB and BB players are not wild, I'll put out a standard raise - it allows me to win the "pot" - if you can call it that - with little risk and it also gives the opportunity for one of the blinds to get frisky by responding to a perceived button-bully move by re-raising - yummy - if so, then insta-push. If we see a flop, then play accordingly with top pair.
If one of the blinds are wild, then I'll just insta-push and see what happens. If you get a call, then you're easily getting the best of it for the maximum amount pre-flop - best possible situation. You might loose that hand, but over time you'll make money. It's a mathematical certainty.
The main thing to remember is to not get cute with AA.
I use this strategy regardless of Cash or Tournament play.
Personally, I'm limping 9 times out of 10 in this specific situation, depending on my table image and my history with those players. Such a wasted opportunity to push them out most of the time.
Give them 4 chances to bluff or catch a decent but worse hand, and if they don't and you min-bet the river and turn over Aces, everybody will be wondering why you flat called and why you checked most of the way, giving much more power to your future checks and actions.
I think the maths would agree with me that you're going to be winning enough of a majority of these situations post flop vs. any 2 that a limp is the best option in most cases.
To put it another way, if you're in the best position with the best preflop hand, you're only priority should be making sure at least one person goes to the flop with you or puts more chips in before you take it down; and with only two left, most times a limp is the only option to achieve this.
I min raise (or whatever my standard bet has been) when I know they're going to call because of their previous actions.
Don't be afraid to keep the pot small with aces, it often pays off bigger in many ways - and it's much easier to fold them in a sticky situation.
It depends on many factors though, namely your own playing style, so this is not one-size-fits-all, it just fits my style nicely.
I broadly agree with all the comments so far but I would add:
For the decent mid-stakes pros I play with, they would be raising the button more than any other position at the table. This is the ideal situation for them as the table loses respect for their button raise and assumes a relatively wide range
The exact amount you should bet is dependent on table history and your own playing style. If it was me I would raise somewhere between 2.2 and 3 BBs. With a deep stack (more than 20 BBs), I would very rarely open-raise more than 3 BBs. The most standard deep-stack play would be min-raise (2 BBs) followed by 2.2 BBs, then 2.5 BBs, then 3 BBs, then shove to steal, then any other raise.
It's different if the table has set the standard raise at 4 BBs or 5 BBs. Your objective is to make AA indistinguishable from other hands so make the standard raise.
If you raise the button small and very often, the blinds will re-raise you with a much wider range than normal. Then you can call and let the aggro player lead into your Aces on the flop. Good times, hope this helps!
If not here is some help from ProPokerTools on AA against ranges:
If it says 10% that means top 10% hand (i.e. good). If it says 90% that means bottom 10% hand (i.e. terrible)
And AA vs the most average middle of the road hands:
If you are going to open on the button with a raise, the size of the raise should not depend on the cards, just the big blind. Less than 2.5x the big blind makes it mathematically correct for almost anyone to call. More than 5 times the big blind places too much mathematical pressure on you to win. 3-3.5x is a good start if it can get you heads up most of the time. On a tight table you can lower that closer to 2.5. If everyone calls 3-3.5 try 4-5. This makes your cards unreadable as a function of your bet size.