The first thing about playing pocket aces is that you need to get heads-up because they fare better in that situation.

The next thing is that you need to be able to read the texture of the board so you can get the most out of your aces without giving your opponent odds to draw out. With blinds at $40,000-$80,000 and a $10,000 ante at the final table of the 2006 L.A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino, Daniel Quach found A-A in the small blind. Action began with Steve Simmons raising to $200,000 under the gun. J.C. Tran called from middle position. Quach made it $500,000 to go, about one-third of his stack.

“This is a short-handed game, so I'm very confident with the aces in that kind of game,” says Quach.

“I don't want to raise too much because if I raise too much, neither of them might call me. I wanted one player to call me. If I raised $300,000 more, I didn't think both of them would call me, but I thought one of them would.”

Tran called, committing almost half his remaining stack, while Simmons folded. The two players saw a flop of A-J-5 rainbow. Quach hit three aces without the threat of flush draw, although straight possibilities existed.

“When I flopped a set right away, I didn't want to come out betting because I didn't want him to go away” Quach says. “The flop was perfect: A-J-5 rainbow.”

Tran made it $290,000, about half his stack. Quach debated check-raising but flat-called instead.

“I put him on a pocket pair or an ace,” Quach says. “If he has an ace, he's drawing dead. I wanted him to make all the moves.”

The turn came the 7 of hearts, completely eliminating flush draws.

“A safety card,” Quach says. “It wasn't scary.”

Tran checked. Quach checked behind him.

The river came the 3 of diamonds, another safe card because, while it might've completed a straight, it was unlikely that Tran had put so much money into the pot with a hand of 4-6.

Quach could've checked again and hope to induce a bluff. But he moved in, putting Tran's tournament life at stake.

“I was hoping he was thinking I was bluffing,” Quach says.

Quach's attempt to make Tran think he was trying to steal a big pot was about the only move that didn't work in this hand, as Tran folded and mucked his cards when Quach took down the pot with his set.

© 2006, Chicago Tribune.

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