It is strange but true that passing a pair of pocket aces before the flop is sometimes correct in no limit hold’em.
This may seem contrary to all known hold’em tactics. But tactics come second to strategy – and in super satellites the overriding strategy is to win a seat, not to finish first in the competition.
A super satellite can generate a pool big enough to provide half a dozen or more seats into a high buy-in event.
For example at the business end of a super satellite there may be eight players remaining and seven seats on offer. A player with a big stack and pocket aces may be inclined to pass if there is a big bet in front of him and one or more short stacks at the table.
The reason is this: there is no need to take the risk.
Why jeopardise an almost certain seat when a player holding a short stack is almost certain to be eliminated by the pressure of the blinds?
Marcel Luske, one of Europe’s leading players, remembered this a couple of years ago at the super satellite for the $25,000 buy in no limit hold’em at the Bellagio, Las Vegas.
This super satellite was the biggest, at the time, in poker history. It cost $1,500 to sit down and the pool was $232,000 – enough to give away nine seats and $7,000 cash to the unlucky person who finished in tenth spot.
With ten players remaining Marcel was in the small blind position. Most of the players were even in chips. An aggressive American Dr.Max Stern raised from the button. Marcel was holding pocket jacks and although he took the view that Max was “stealing” with an ace and a small kicker, he passed.
He said afterwards: “I reasoned that if I got involved I could be beaten – even though I was favourite. There were a couple of weak players at the table and as I was going to be on the button the next hand this meant that I would not have to pay any blinds for a complete round. I reckoned that one of the weak players might get knocked out without me having to do anything at all.”
He was right on two counts.
The lady player on his left called all in and showed a pair of queens. Max showed down A-7. And the first card in the flop was an ace which knocked out the holder of the queens.
Marcel went on to win $26,000 in the tournament proper.