Pocket rockets in poker: the power of aces

WPT tournament, pocket rockets
Posted on: December 28, 2022 03:22 PST

The best starting hand in Texas Hold’em poker is a pair of aces, colloquially known as pocket rockets. Being dealt a pair of aces gives you the chance to win a huge pot. But you must tread carefully, as things can go badly wrong.

To help you understand the best starting hand in Texas Hold’em and how to take advantage of your good fortune, read on to learn everything you need about the pocket rockets.

Pocket rockets - what’s in a name?

Believe it or not, poker players have come up with as many as 20 names for pocket rockets over the years, and this colloquialism is just one way a pair of aces is regarded. Depending on where you play poker, pocket rockets might also be referred to as:

  • Pocket aces: Arguably as popular as pocket rockets, if not more widely used. 
  • Bullets: The look of the two letters somehow resembles bullets and pays homage to the popularity of poker during the days of the American West.
  • American Airlines: A first-class hand deserves a first-class airline, and a pair of aces is sometimes referred to as an American Airlines hand in poker, based on the AA initials. 
  • Snake eyes: This name is borrowed from craps, where two dice landing on the number one are referred to as snake eyes. 
  • Batteries: Reflecting on the popularity of double A batteries. 
  • Tepees: Some American poker players refer to double aces as tepees due to their resemblance to the widely used native American tent.

So, while two aces are widely known as pocket aces, you should also be aware of the above poker nicknames , which are also popular with poker players in different parts of the world.

What’s the probability of being dealt pocket rockets?

There are 1,326 different hole-card combinations in Texas Hold’em, which is quite something. With a single deck of 52 cards in play, you have a 4/52 chance of landing a single ace. Then, you have a 3/51 chance of getting a second. Therefore, this translates to a 1/122 chance of being dealt pocket rockets in poker. 

When you’re dealt pocket rockets, the only thing to fear is the flop (followed by the turn and the river). Now, if you have aces heads-up, the chances that your opponent has aces as well is 1/1,224, making it extremely unlikely. At a full-ring table, the probability of another player having aces as well is 1/153, shortening the odds somewhat. 

Essentially, you can be confident if you’re dealt pocket rockets, and it’s likely that you will go on to win the hand unless the flop is particularly unkind to you.

Strategies for playing pocket rockets

Now that you’ve landed pocket rockets, how should you play them? First and foremost, you need to think about the importance of position at the poker table. The button moves every hand, meaning that everyone at the table gets an equal opportunity to play in different positions. 

A player “in position” is the one who acts last on all streets, as the others need to act first. Most professional players will play the majority of their hands “in position,” folding many more of their hands when out of position.

Regardless of your position at the table, you’re going to want to play when you get pocket aces. The most obvious strategy is to raise pre-flop to narrow the field, increasing your chances of cleaning up. You just need to be careful not to eliminate everyone, or there will be nothing to play for other than the blinds.

Alternatively, you might decide to slow-play pocket rockets, which sees you bet low to lure opponents into the pot. This is where your ability to read your opponents comes in, because the more people in the pot, the more likely it is that someone will have you beat.

Times to be cautious with pocket rockets

Pocket rockets are undoubtedly the best hand pre-flop, but things can quickly change when the community cards come into play, as PokerStars co-founder Isai Scheinberg found to his cost at the recent WPT World Championship in Vegas.

You need to read the table, and if it looks like someone is on for a flush or a straight, the value of your pocket rockets can be wiped out. 

The key thing to remember with pocket rockets is that it’s only one pair, and if the flop doesn’t go your way, you risk losing to a superior hand. Even J-4 beats aces on a J-8-4 flop. So, proceed with caution following the flop to ensure you don’t lose a big pot or your entire stack

The cultural significance of pocket rockets

The value of pocket rockets in poker is obvious, so much so that the hand of strength has translated into other walks of life. Having pocket aces or pocket rockets is a phrase that can refer to good luck or being in a strong bargaining position, given the opportunities that a pair of aces presents to poker players at the table.

Even people who don’t know anything about poker or card games more generally regard a pair of aces as the best hand you can receive, meaning that its significance is certainly not lost outside of the poker sphere.

For this reason, you might see pocket rockets emblazoned on memorabilia, souvenirs, and lucky charms, as a reflection of the best (and luckiest) hand available in Texas Hold’em poker.

Conclusion: Pocket rockets in poker 

There’s no question that pocket rockets – a pair of aces – is the best hand that you can be dealt in Texas Hold’em poker.

Also referred to as pocket aces, bullets, and various other terms, you stand a great chance of winning a hand if you have a pair of aces. However, it helps if you have table position after the flop.

This is why it’s so important to hone your own poker strategies to ensure that you make the most of pocket rockets when you receive them.