Pocket Aces Don't Always Win

Posted by Bradley, August 5, 2014

Pocket aces, also known as pocket rockets and bullets, are the best possible starting hand you can get in a hand of Texas Hold'em. The probability of being dealt pocket aces is 220-1 (0.45%). The probability of being dealt pocket aces twice in a row is 48,841-1. But being dealt pocket aces is only part of the picture. What is the probability of pocket aces actually winning the hand?

Connor Drinan


It's obvious that the more players involved, the less certain that pocket aces will go on to win. Of course, there are multiple variables in the calculations, as everything depends on whether the betting stops pre-flop, whether the turn is dealt, and whether the hand is played all the way to the river.

Pocket aces are clearly the favorite starting hand, except when they are faced off against another pair of aces. In that case, the odds that pocket aces will win the hand drop to just 2%, as it's most likely that the two players will split the pot. The only way to win in such a pair-off is when one of the players hits a flush.


Most expensive bad beat in history

At the recent World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, American poker player Connor Drinan had the most expensive bad beat in poker history. Drinan, who had five cashes at the 2014 WSOP, was one of 46 players competing in the $1 million entry Big One for One Drop charity event.  With just 18 players left in the tournament, Drinan and Cary Katz each drew pocket aces.

Both players were convinced that they would win the hand, or, stated in the opposite direction, both players were convinced that they would not lose the hand.

The betting proceeded with pre-flop raises and re-raises, and finally both players went all-in. Drinan had the smaller stack of chips, so he was in danger of being eliminated from the tournament. But still, with pocket aces versus pocket aces, it looked like it would be a split pot.

"Can we just chop the pot?" Katz asked as a joke.

Katz had the ace of hearts. Sure enough, the community cards included four hearts. Katz hit the flush for an improbable win. Drinan was eliminated, losing his million dollar buy-in in what ESPN broadcaster Lon McEachern called "the worst beat in the history of tournament poker."

Aces versus aces


The clip of the bad beat hand went viral, making its way into the mainstream media as well. News sources called Drinan's loss "the worst tournament beat ever" and described it as "horrific" as he had been dealt the "unluckiest poker hand ever."

Katz went on to finish 8th in the tournament for a $1.3 million prize, and the overall winner of the Big One for One Drop was Daniel Colman, who took home  a purse of $15,306,668.

Drinan tweeted that it was a "brutal finish" to the One Drop, but added that it was a "fun run".

brutal finish


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Related story:

Russian Poker Player Dmitriy Zaytsev Wins with Pocket Aces


Further Reading:  

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Texas Hold'em Poker Guide

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