ONE OF THE MOST frustrating things in Hold 'em is getting your aces cracked.
"A lot of people make a mistake with aces when they let someone get in cheap and then aren't able to get someone to fold when the person could only have aces beaten," young pro Mike Sowers said. "They wouldn't get it in with you unless they had aces beat."
The tricky part is getting full value for aces, as Sowers attempted to do in this hand from the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2009.
With blinds at $600-$1,200 plus a $100 ante, longtime pro "Miami" John Cernuto open-raised to $4,200 from early position. The player in Seat 5 called. Sowers reraised to $15,700, more than the pot, when he found pocket aces on the button.
"It was mainly to price them out of the pot if they wanted to call for set equity," Sowers said.
The odds of flopping a set are about 8-1, but set equity includes an additional factor.
"You'd want 12-1 odds to have set equity just for the amount of times that you're going to flop a set and the amount of times mathematically that you're going to get paid because they also have a hand that will pay you off."
Cernuto folded. Seat 5 called.
"That guy usually had 10s, jacks, queens - hands that have set equity," Sowers said. "Even these older guys don't always understand set equity, even with deuces, so I really think his range is polarized to A-K, A-Q and pairs from 9s to queens. The older guys always reraise with kings and aces."
The flop came 7-8-2, two hearts.
"That's the prettiest flop ever, especially because I thought I could get him to stack off with those mid-pairs," said Sowers, who bet $22,200 after his opponent checked. "I wanted to bet two-thirds of the pot, and I wanted to build a pot to where I could jam on the turn. I had about $70,000 left."
Seat 5 called. The turn came the king of diamonds. Seat 5 checked. Sowers moved all in. Seat 5 folded.
"That's probably where I made a mistake," Sowers said. "Most people are going to think a young guy like me is always going to be bluffing the king turn. But A-K is another hand in my range, so when I jam the turn, it probably scared him away from all the mid-pairs I think he has. He'd never have kings because he would've reraised preflop.
"There's really nothing to be afraid of, and he never has a flush draw to call that far, so the only thing he could have is a set or a pair smaller than kings, so it was bad to bet the turn."
Then again, Sowers might've gotten all the value he could.
"Even if I had checked," Sowers said, "I don't think he would've called the river unless he hit his set."
Stack off: Lose all your chips.
Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of the book "The Best Hand I Ever Played." He can be reached at