WITH PRE-FLOP SITUATIONS, if no one else has raised the pot before the flop and you have A-x suited, then you should make it two bets to go. In general, if you’ve done that but missed the flop, you should bet out once anyway, thus representing that you’ve hit it.

 

 

If an opponent calls your bet on the flop when you’ve missed the flop, prepare to fold soon. Thereâ??s no need to get too involved with A-x suited if you miss the flop. If youâ??re the raiser before the flop, then take one â??shotâ? (bluff) at the pot and give up if you get called.

 

Where someone else has raised the pot before the flop, I recommend calling his two bets. In general if youâ??ve done that but have missed the flop, then you should fold.

 

With A-x suited, youâ??ll see many different flops that hit part or all of your hand. You may have A-7 when the flop comes down J-10-7, which is trouble for you (because you hit just enough of the flop that you may decide to play on until the end and lose a bunch of chips). You may have A-7 when the flop comes down A-7-4, a terrific flop for you. You may have A-7 when the flop comes down 8-7-2, a reasonably good flop for you. You may have A-7 when the flop comes down 7-5-2, a strong flop for you (top pair with top kicker). Finally, there are dream flops for A-7 like K-J-2 (ace-high-flush) and A-A-7 (top full house).

 

There are clearly many ways to hit A-x suited, some good and others bad. Interestingly enough, you may win your biggest pot with the 7-5-2 flop! How? On the two â??dream flopsâ? I just mentioned, how much action can you expect to get from players? After all, you already have most of the cards that would get someone interested in playing, but on the 7-5-2 flop, others may sense a bluff and try what they think is a re-steal (they raise a bluff because they believe youâ??re trying to steal the pot). In poker, you never know which hands or flops will win you the biggest pot.

 

Iâ??ll never forget a pot I played holding A-7 at the World Series of Poker in 1994. We were down to about 40 players in a no-limit Holdâ??em event. First place was $220,000 and as with any WSOP event, money and history were at stake.

 

Two players to my right was a jackal from Europe who was re-raising everyone while holding any kind of hand. He was a real nuisance to me because he kept re-raising and stealing all the pots that he and I were going after. In fact, he was re-raising everyone at the table and outplaying us all after the flop with big bluffs. He had played this dangerous style to near perfection, parlaying his chips to over $65,000. I also had about $65,000 in front of me. This jackal and I were the chip leaders at the time, and the average chip stack in the tournament was less than $15,000. Why risk a boatload of chips in a single hand, when we could both just coast into the final table with huge stacks?

 

Well, so much for conventional wisdom! I soon found myself raising it to $2,000 to go before the flop with my A-7. The jackal was sitting in the big blind this hand, and he re-raised me by making it $8,000 to go. Perhaps he sensed my weakness and was trying to force me out of the pot. He was right, I was weak, but he didnâ??t count on the fact that I had sensed the same weakness in his re-raise. I re-raised it to $20,000 to go before the flop. Again, I think the jackal sensed weakness and called my $20,000 bet. The flop came down 7-5-4 and he bet out $15,000. I decided that top pair was enough to move all-in against him because I thought I had the best hand. Frankly, I wasnâ??t hoping for a call. So I moved all-in for $45,000. (I raised him $30,000!)

 

The jackal called me quickly and the next two cards to hit the board were the two worst cards I could think of. First the 6 came off the deck and then the Q (7-5-4-6-Q), so that the flush draw and a straight draw had both hit the board. I stared in disbelief. I put in $65,000 with an incredibly weak hand. I couldnâ??t beat anything anymore. The flush draw beat me, some straight draws beat me, a set beat me, and an overpair beat me!

 

With $130,000 in the pot, in a tournament where no one else had even $30,000, the winner of this pot would have an excellent chance of winning the tournament. Finally, he flipped up his hand and said, â??One pair.â? I stared in amazement: 7-9 off suit, which gave him a pair of sevens with an ace kicker. The pot was mine! Eventually I finished in second place and collected $110,000.

 

BY PHIL HELLMUTH, JR.

Phil Hellmuth, Jr. is a 13-time World Series of Poker Champion, leading all other poker players in the world. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers and his latest book, Deal Me In, is also widely popular. Visit phillhellmuth.com to check out his clothing line, blog and exclusive gaming tips.