When Should You Call With Just Ace-High?

Do you ever try calling with Ace-high?

You probably see the pros pulling off this move pretty often on live streams. But, unless you’ve worked on this part of the game, you may be making these relatively light calls at the wrong times.

This article explains when it is (and isn’t) okay to call with an Ace-high hand.

Let’s begin!

When You Should NOT Call with Ace-High

Let’s start with a couple situations in which Ace-high calls are not the recommended play.

1. When you’re drawing dead and/or have reverse implied odds against a good chunk of your opponent’s range

A common example of this is when you face a probe bet after the turn completes a lot of draws.

Suppose that you raise from the Button and the Big Blind calls. The flop comes 8♠ 6 4, the Big Blind checks, and you check back. The turn comes the T and the Big Blind bets 66% of the pot.

Take a look the following solver solution for this situation:

when to not call ace-high solver image 1

With this solution, Red means raise, Green means call, and Blue means fold.

You can see that against a 66% pot bet, the solver elects to fold Ace-King offsuit the vast majority of the time, while folding Ace-Queen and Ace-Jack offsuit basically 100% of the time.

Calling with Ace-high in a situation like this is bad because you are drawing to a mere top pair against a strong range. Your opponent may have you drawing dead if he holds one of the many two-pairs, sets and straights in his range.

In addition to this, some of his bluffs will improve when you happen to hit your top pair. For example, say you call on the turn with AQ and the river comes a Queen. This card gives you a strong top pair, but the 16 combinations of J9 in your opponent’s range have also made a straight.

2. When your hand has bad playability (i.e. not many good turn/river cards) and you face a relatively big bet

Let’s take a look at another Button vs Big Blind scenario, but this time from the perspective of the Big Blind.

You defend preflop and check on the J 4 2♠ flop. The Button c-bets 66% of the pot. Here’s how the solver plays this spot:

when to not call ace-high solver image 2

The solver does call with some Ace-high hands. A♠ 8♠, A 6x and similar Ace-highs make their way into the calling range.

But the solver does not call with any Ace-high hand that doesn’t have a significant backdoor draw. Almost all Ace-highs with which the solver calls have the backdoor nut flush draw (A♠ X♠ or any hand with the A). The one exception is Ace-Ten with the T♦, which the solver deems strong enough to call the 66% pot-sized bet.

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When You Should Call with Ace-High

Time to close this article out with what the title promised: two situations in which you should consider calling with Ace-high.

1. When many draws have missed and it’s easy for your opponent to over-bluff with hands weaker than Ace-high

Let’s take a look at a river scenario.

Suppose you raise preflop on the Button, the Big Blind calls and the flop comes T 4♠ 2♠. The Big Blind checks and calls your 33% pot-sized c-bet.

The 8 turn checks through and the river comes the 2♣. The Big Blind fires a 50% pot-sized bet.

Here is the solver’s solution for Ace-high hands (I filtered out all other hands):

when to call ace-high solver image 1

This shows that the solver thinks it’s basically a wash between calling and folding.

But this solution assumes that the player in the Big Blind is checking/giving up with the following hands:

  • Most of the time with KQ-offsuit
  • Half of the time with KJ-offsuit
  • Always with A3 and A5

So, if you think that your opponent would bluff more than the solver would, then any Ace-high is a super +EV call. In other words, if your opponent is over-bluffing on a brick river, consider an Ace-high hero call.

2. When you have two overcards or a backdoor flush draw against a small flop bet

Time for one final example.

You call a Button open from the Big Blind and face a 33% c-bet on a T 4♠ 2♠ flop.

Here is the solver’s output for this spot:

when to call ace-high solver image 2

The solver thinks it’s +EV to call with all Ace-high hands that have a backdoor flush draw. Take a look at how the solver plays each combination of A8-offsuit:

when to call ace-high solver image 3

The solver also calls with AJ, which has 2 overcards to the board, regardless of whether or not it has a backdoor flush draw.

Conclusion

You should now be well equipped to make much better calls (and folds) with Ace-high. It’s really not as hard as it might first seem.

That’s all for this article. I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something new! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section down below!

What should you read next? Check out 3 Situations to Value Your Overcard Hands in Texas Hold’em.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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