The Ace: poker’s sucker punch

In poker, playing cards have a hierarchy; each card is beaten by the one above it. The Ace is at the top of that hierarchy and beats all the other cards, making it the most powerful card to hold in your hand. That’s why people talk about “having an Ace up their sleeve”, though actually hiding one there to cheat with is anything from shameful to dangerous, depending on who you’re playing.

all four aces on a playing mat

Have you got a pair?

So, you know that poker is about holding a better hand than your opponent, but what happens when your hand ties with an opponent’s hand? Who wins the pot if, for example, you’ve both got a pair?

That’s when you turn to the hierarchy. Whoever has the pair with the highest value, wins. That’s where the Ace comes into its own. If you’ve got a pair of Aces, you know you can’t be beaten by another pair. With any other card, even a King, there’s always the risk that your opponent might have a higher card than you. Since poker is all about gauging risk, holding an Ace means you can be bolder, bet higher, and win bigger. It’s the same with all the other hands, high cards through to the straight flush.

Straight to 5

There’s something else to know about the Ace, as well. You can use it in a straight the normal way, holding the cards from 10 to Ace in your hand, but there’s also another way. Never forget that an Ace can be used low to create a straight with Ace, Two, Three, Four and Five.

Don’t get too excited

The real power in any card, but especially the Ace, is when your opponents don’t suspect you’re holding one. So when you’re holding the most powerful card in the game, don’t let the excitement show on your face, or everyone will know what you’ve got.