Why You Never Win With Pocket Aces

Why You Never Win With Pocket Aces

Chances are, if you’ve ever sat down at a poker table, you won’t have to wait long before hearing a bad beat story.

You know, the one where someone complains about how their aces always lose.

Why is that?

Well, it’s certainly not based on facts. Math reminds us your aces will win roughly 85% of the time against a random hand.

Why You Never Win With Pocket Aces

Why You Never Win with Pocket Aces

Yes, it’s possible that in the short term, your aces may in fact be losing more often than they should.

In the long run, the numbers won’t lie, and you will regress to winning based on your mathematical expectation. If you’ve been playing a while or feel like this ‘always happens to me’, it’s time to shift the focus away from the outcome and to the decision-making progress. Of course, we all know that the numbers don’t lie. And even the skeptics who begrudge their luck know deep down that it’s profitable to play their strong hands.

(Don’t believe me? Just ask any gambler to wager money and give him the choice between having two aces or a random hand. You’ll see just how strong he believes his own rhetoric). So why do people still hold this false belief that they never win with aces?

Three factors are at play here.

The first is that we as a species tend to recall the bad more than the good. In other words, painful or negative emotions stick with us more than joyful or positive ones.

In Roy F. Baumeister’s paper titled ‘Bad Is Stronger Than the Good’, published in The Review of General Psychology, Baumeister states, ‘bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.’

In some ways, being deceived into thinking we always lose with premium hands is not our fault. Science confirms we’re hardwired to remember the times in which our aces lose while simultaneously forgetting the instances in which they win.

Simply being aware that we’re conditioned this way and reverting back to the math has helped me both on and off the felt.

In poker, I remind myself that in the long run, playing my strong hands is the most profitable strategy.

In life, when I’m feeling stressed and ever so tempted to begrudge my luck, I remind myself that I have won the ultimate coin flip in life: half the world was born into a reality where they live on $2.50 a day or less.

That wasn’t me. And simply because of that, in the game of life, no matter what else happens from here on out, I’m already ahead.

The second reason we fall victim to believing we never win with aces is confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.

Since we’re conditioned to only remember the painful experiences of losing with our premium hands, we have convinced ourselves that our aces never win.

And even though we rationally know this happens only 15% of the time, we’ve subconsciously programmed ourselves to look for the minority of cases in which they lose, thereby reinforcing this originally held conviction.

The belief strengthens, and the vicious cycle continues.

The third, painful reason why you may feel like you never win with aces is, you frankly aren’t very good at poker and get married to your big hands.

You may win a small pot whenever your aces are ahead and lose a big pot when they are behind.

So while you are still winning more often than you’re losing, the net sum is still negative. Fortunately, there’s Conscious Poker to help you with that.

Check out these resources on how to better play your pocket aces in no limit hold’em cash games.

How to Play Pocket Aces Like a Boss

Should I Ever Fold Pocket Aces Preflop?

We hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for your attention.


1. Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall by Alina Tugend. March 23, 2012.

Alec Torelli
Welcome! I'm Alec Torelli, founder of Conscious Poker, a training site dedicated to transforming good players into great ones by providing the best poker strategy and mindset content. I've been a professional poker player for 15 years and have over $1,500,000 in tournament winnings and millions more in both live and online cash games. On this site, I share the lessons I learned during my poker career to help you crush the games, optimize your bankroll, make winning decisions and achieve your poker goals.

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