I had never even thought about folding pocket Aces before the Flop in no-limit hold ‘em. Until one day, I folded them twice in the same tournament, both before the Flop and both being the correct play.
I was playing in a satellite tournament in which the top three finishers were paid a seat to a 10k buy-in World Poker Tour-type tournament the next day. Since first place and third place paid the same amount, it wasn’t necessary to win the entire tournament, only finish higher than fourth.
On the very first hand, I was in the big blind and a crazy player went all-in from early position. I had played with him before, seen him do the exact same play, and was sure he did it just to set the tone and make everyone think he was crazy, which he was. Before I looked at my cards, I told myself I would fold anything but pocket Aces or Kings. No need to risk my entire stack on the first hand. When two players behind him called his bet, I told myself I’d fold anything, even Aces. Imagine my surprise when the action came to me and I looked down at those aforementioned rockets. Of course I had the best hand at the time, but against three other players, there was too much of a chance I would lose. I decided to fold and bit my lip as I did it.
The players all turned over their cards. Ace-Queen for Crazy Guy, pocket Jacks for the first caller and Pocket Kings for the second caller. The flop came down Queen, Queen, Queen, and both Pocket Jacks and Kings walked away from the table before the Turn and the River were even dealt.
The tournament went on and I built my stack slowly, only needing to win a few decent-sized pots and a bunch of small ones. When I reached the final table, I was a solid second in chips, with Crazy Guy way ahead of me and the other seven players trailing far behind me with short stacks. Crazy Guy went all-in almost every hand. The only times he didn’t were when someone raised before he had the chance. He stole blind after blind and I promised myself I would fold anything if I were in a pot against him.
When two players behind him called his bet, I told myself I’d fold anything, even Aces.
Crazy Guy got called a few times by the short stacks. Once he actually had a big hand and took out the short stack, but most of the time, he was pushing with nothing and sucked out in the end. He ran the table down to four players with only one more left before the remaining three would win seats to the big one.
I was on the button when Crazy Guy went all-in yet again. A short stack called and I looked down at two black Aces. I didn’t even hesitate to throw them in the muck, surprising even myself. I had resigned to stay out of every pot and hope Crazy Guy got lucky enough to take everyone out. Crazy Guy turned over Jack-Queen of spades and the caller turned over two red Aces.
“Hey, that’s what I had,” I said.
“What?!” the caller exclaimed. “And you folded? How do you fold Aces before the flop?”
I looked at him without responding. The flop came down all low cards, but all spades—Crazy Guy flopped a flush and the caller had no spades and no outs as I’d folded the Ace of spades. He walked away mumbling about what an idiot I was, and even though the River was another spade and I would have won the pot, he finished fourth and I won my seat without risking a single chip in the hand.