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I was reading this related question How to maximize expectation with pocket aces and an Aces Cracked bonus running.

While I do not like Aces cracked promotions, when you find one you should play them. $100 or $200 Aces cracked are putting more money back into the game then a two dollar promo drop is taking out. If other promotions are also in place even better.

Part of my last job involved propping the games in the morning at my discretion. The morning was when we had the aces cracked promo for 200. We played 2-10 Limit and 1/2 blind No Limit.

Here is what I do not like about aces cracked. Everyone is slow playing aces so you have to be weary. It kills a lot of action because everyone is slow playing aces and everyone is being weary about people slow playing aces. There just boring games to play with a lot of tight players hoping to get aces cracked.

I am not at all sure I have figured out how to play optimally when Aces cracked promotion is on, but I have observed and tried to rectify a lot of mistakes I have made and seen other players make.

The most common mistake I have seen is people slow playing when they would get action. They tend to look at it like they are going to win more when they lose so they play them to loose them. They are very proud when they only need to invest one blind to get the aces cracked. I am pretty sure they are losing a lot more in expectation when they win then they are getting them cracked. Players look at the one or two hundred they will get at the end of the hand, rather then looking at what they are loosing when they slow play and what I am about to say in the next paragraph, what I like about aces cracked.

What I like, is that the real value in a Aces cracked promotion is not being the cracked but the cracker. You can bet your nut hand face up on the river and the poor sap with the aces has a no brainer call with any bet you make that is less then the promo payout. But leave your cards down and often you can bet pretty big, and they will call because they figure the aces cracked as insurance on the call. They figure it is not costing them 250 to call, it is just costing them 50.

I really have not been able to wrap my head around what to do with aces when the promo is on. I am inclined to slow play them, but when I think about what I wrote in the last chapter, I consider how much upside I am giving a player letting them in cheap. Might be a good for the collective or good for the individual kind of dilemma. To optimize the money coming in the game you would slow play, but slow play may not be in your best interest.

In extremes it is simple to play the aces, one guy limps in middle position your upside playing them fast is not so good, so you play to keep the investment small, but in the big blind with aces and it is double raised with cold callers you just jam it up. The rest of the time it is not so clear.

The question referred to had great answers about limit poker. What my question here is about the promotion when playing no limit. How does the equation change when your playing 1-2 blind NLHE, and how it changes if your playing 2-5 blind NLHE? Is the upside in the promotion in playing for the collective to get more money in the game, or should your consider your own self interest? When is it optimal to slow play and when is it optimal to play them hard?

  • i would just avoid the fact that the promo exists. It just screws up your own game. Keep playing like you always do and you will keep winning(if you're a winning player to begin with) – Marcio Oct 28 '15 at 3:53
  • $100 or $200 Aces cracked are putting more money back into the game then a two dollar promo drop is taking out. For that to be true, and assuming a $200 jackpot, the jackpot would have to be paid out more than once every 100 hands. Based on 10 person tables and the 0.5% change of being dealt AA, each hand has about a 5% change of one person getting pocket rockets... so we can assume 5 of every 100 hands will have one person with the qualifying hole cards. AA vs. 2 other people are cracked about 25% of the time. I don't think your assertion of this putting more money in is necessarily valid. – mah Jan 15 '16 at 19:56
  • Hard to say if Aces Cracked for a hundred puts more in then the JP drop. 200 does generally. There are so many variables, how many players in the game, how the JP drop is taken, how the players tend to play. A five handed tight game likely will not have an upside if the aces pay 200. For an eight hour shift where I had about three games for seventy percent of the shift, I was paying 7-$900 each shift. – Jon Jan 17 '16 at 17:43
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A safe betting strategy that's almost always better than slow play but almost never optimal:

Pre-flop:

    Always bet some amount when ahead that guarantees all calls.

Post-flop

    Always bet when ahead just enough to pot commit draws.
    Always pot control when behind.

You can optimize at low risk but its a complicated calculation and situation dependant. Basically amounts to relearning postflop play.

Its not the type of calculation youd want to do at the table so you might want to run some equity calculations in a few common spots just to get a feel for it.

Some common rules:

    Anything in the pot < JP is your $ that locks in a minimum.
    Theres never a reason to bet to protect the hand.
    Villains VJP = BBJP + Pot
    Hero HJP = ACJP - Pot

Players wont fold anything but marginal longshots due to the large implied odds, so you can calculate how much you can value bet while only loosing action from those long shots from paying off.

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You should always be worried about yourself, that's the point of the game. For you to win money right?

So it's optimal to play them hard when you don't have an aces cracked promotion because in the end AA is just a pair. If you do play them slower, you need to realize that if you don't hit your set or make a straight, then you are probably going to get cracked. Especially if you didn't push pre-flop w/ more than 3x

If there is a promotion, check those babies down and hope someone catches a 2 pair or better on you.

As for the upside of the promotion, it brings more players to the table looking to hit the promotion. More people folding non rockets so faster hands equals more games equals more action equals more rake. All the casino wants is more play, they don't care how it happens.

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How does the equation change when your playing 1-2 blind NLHE, and how it changes if your playing 2-5 blind NLHE?

The important idea here are implied odds and expected value. You need to know what the average pot size and aggression level is. It doesn't matter so much about the blinds, and more the ratio of blinds to promotional value (because blinds determine the ultimate pot size indirectly).

Is the upside in the promotion in playing for the collective to get more money in the game, or should your consider your own self interest?

The upside is less variance on aces for the individuals. I don't think that a game like this "plays bigger" or anything like that, but that's just my instinct talking.

When is it optimal to slow play and when is it optimal to play them hard?

The key here is how big a pot do you think you can build, and what are your average chances of losing? I.e. do your implied odds outweigh the EV from losing by passive play?

Heads up, aces are 80% to win vs. random hand. If you think you can get the pot to > (promo / 5), you should bet. So, in a 1/2 game with a $200 aces cracked bonus, if you think you can build at least a $40 pot without everyone folding to you, then you should do that, as the EV from winning that pot outweighs losing and getting the bonus. For a 1/2 game heads up, that means that assuming you start with 7.5 big blinds in the pot (blinds + 2 * 3 BB), you need to get 13 more... i.e. you need to get a pot-sized bet called on the flop, or two 1/3-1/2 pot bets. At that point, you win $40 either way. If not, you should check and slow play.

Against 4 other random hands in the same situation, aces are only 50% to win (or around that... look up the correct numbers). Now you have to be able to build up a pot of half the promotional value in order for it to make sense to bet. If half the time you are going to lose to showdown, you need to be able to win, on average, a $100 pot with your aces to make betting/raising the superior move.

In the reverse situation, let's say you know you are likely beaten, but there is a chance of a bluff. Then so long as the promotional value covers what you need to call (possibly multiple streets if he flopped a monster) or a little less than that, you should call, as whatever money you put in you will get back when you lose (plus there is some non-zero chance of winning).

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