In Texas hold’em poker, the best starting hand is two aces.  When you look down at a pair of the only cards with vowels on them, you’re happy to get as many of your chips into the pot as possible pre-flop.  They don’t always hold up, and you often have to lay them down as the hand develops and you think your opponent can beat your pair, but if it’s a matter of getting it all in during the first round of betting, you shouldn’t hesitate.

Unless you’re in the situation I found myself in yesterday.

I was playing a satellite tournament with 55 players.  Twenty percent of the field would advance to the main event.  There was no other prize.  Once the field was narrowed to 11 players, the tournament was over, and those who were left all won the same thing, regardless of how many chips they had at that point. We were down to 12 players.  I had enough chips that I wasn’t worried about qualifying, because there were three stacks smaller than mine at our table and a couple at the other table, including one guy who was very very short. All I had to do was be patient and wait for any one of them to be eliminated.

As we started a new hand, I heard the short stack at the other table announce he was all-in.  Then a short stack at my table did the same.  Then someone at the other table called, so the all-in player’s tournament life would be at risk, and if he went out, we were done.  At my table, the action folded around to me and I looked down at two black aces.  I laughed to myself because Dennis Phillips and I had just talked about this scenario on our Final Table show a couple of weeks ago.

While I held the most powerful hand in hold’em, I knew that at worst, I was a 4-1 favorite to win against any hand my opponent held, and I’ve seen aces lose plenty of times.  I also knew that I didn’t need to risk any of my chips to qualify for the main event — time would take care of that if the action at the other table didn’t.

So I paused for a few seconds.  When I saw three players at the other table jump up with their arms in the air, I knew the short stack had been eliminated and the rest of us had crossed the finish line.  That’s when I announced to the table that I was going to show something they might never see again in their poker lives — and folded the aces face up.