At the Luxor, playing in a $1/$2 no limit, I have a pair and I’m one of 6 players limping in to the pot.
The flop comes low – 854 – and all different suits. I quite like my overpair so after the big blind bets $5 I raise it to $15. The button calls my raise cold but the original bettor gets out of the way.
The cold call scares me a bit, and the turn card scares me a bit more: it’s a 6. There’s still no flush possible, but if the other guy has a 7 for a straight, I can’t win. If he already made two pair or a set, I’m in bad shape. I don’t see many hands that I’m beating liking this board any more, so I check but I still call a bet of $20.
The river was another 8, so there’s still no flush possible but now even more ways I can lose the pot. I just check and call again, relieved that his bet was only $40 into a pot of more than $80.
"I have an eight", says the villain, before flipping over eight-nine for a flopped top pair with inside straight draw, which became three-of-a-kind on the river.
"Oh you do? Nice hand", I reply. "But I win too".
I table my pocket aces and wait for a floorperson to bring me a shiny new stack of red chips.
At Luxor, when you are holding pocket aces and lose, you still win $100.
Several casinos have "aces cracked" promotions, but one that runs 24/7 and with a substantial consolation prize (relative to the stakes) is pretty unusual.
At Imperial Palace, for example, you can win $100 when pocket aces are beaten and $50 when your pocket kings lose, but this is only on offer between 8am and 11am as an incentive to get their games going earlier in the morning.
While at Excalibur you get to spin a wheel of fortune any time your aces are cracked, but the typical payoff is about $30. Certainly not to be sniffed at, but not enough to change the way you would play the hand in a no-limit game.
This is, in fact, the first time I have ever limped in with AA in a no-limit cash game. And I think I just about got away with it.
If I’d raised pre-flop, I probably wouldn’t have seen much action. That eight-nine offsuit might not have called a raise, and given that nobody else was interested in a fairly unthreatening flop there probably weren’t many other hands that would have paid to stick around either.
My net profit of $23 is quite likely more than I would have made by playing the hand "properly". Which, of course, is results-oriented thinking, but what the heck. I’m sure in theory I make more money by limping here too.
In fact, if I’d been playing a stack shorter that $100, you actually want your pocket aces to lose. The minimum buy-in at Luxor is $40, so if you’re already playing a short stack strategy the value in this promotion is huge. You would have to have an all-in bet called in three spots to win more money when your hand actually holds up!
As I was playing deeper than that (I began the hand with about $250 and the eventual winner had enough to cover me) I fancied a bit of two-way action: slow-play the hand for deception in the hope of winning a bigger pot, but with a $100 safety net if it all went pear shaped.
Back to the table: "Nicely done", says the winner of the pot and we almost high-five across the table. Except because we’re sitting at opposite ends, there’s about six feet of air between our palms. But the thought is there.
$100 for cracked aces is great value for the player. You’re dealt pocket aces one time in every 221 hands, which means that roughly every 22 hands someone at the table will see them. They win about 80% of the time against one other player, which means aces are going to be cracked roughly every 110 hands at any given (full) table.
It’s even more frequent than that when you slow-play and allow more opponents the chance to outdraw you. Which is inevitably what this promotion causes to happen.
As the casino takes $1 from every pot to pay for promotions and pays $100 for cracked aces every 110 hands, it means that pretty much all the money taken is given back just in the aces cracked promo.
But as Luxor also pays an instant high hand jackpot (which is also fairly generous because for aces full of tens or higher counts, as well as any four of a kind or straight flush) right now they’re definitely giving away more to the players than they are collecting from the pot.
Another reason to love the aces cracked promotion is that it actually saved me money on a later hand as well.
I’d raised pre-flop with pocket queens and the player to my left – who I had pegged as a solid player and (from an earlier conversation about not chopping blinds with pairs or suited connectors to try to win a high hand jackpot) someone who knew about all the promotions at Luxor – just called.
Another player made it $40 to go, which I called and then my neighbour moved all-in for $106 more.
It was a fairly easy decision, so after the raiser folded I also threw away the queens and asked whether he wanted his hand to get cracked or actually to win a big pot.
He duly obliged in showing the aces, increasing my smug factor significantly, made some noise like "Bah!" and said "I wanted to have them cracked".
Aces cracked is a funny promotion and it does change the game, particularly when there is a decent prize at stake. There’s just something morbidly appealing about the prospect of winning more money by losing a hand than you could by winning it.