There is always more than one way to play a hand. If you take into account stack sizes, position, image, game flow and types of opponents, a hand may be good enough to raise in one situation, and a clear fold in another. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on playing against different types of opponents and how that affects your decision-making.
In a vacuum, you should bet to try taking it down. You have the initiative and should continue your aggression. If he calls, then you still have about six outs (three aces and three tens) to make the best hand. That’s fine reasoning; however, betting is not always the optimal play. It depends on your opponent.
Against a Loose-Passive Player
Check behind. He’s going to call your bet with any pair or any draw that connects with the pot. You have ace-high, so there is still showdown value if you both check it down. Since he’s a passive player, he won’t be leading the turn or river much. You also have the best hand a decent amount of the time.
Against a Nit
Assuming he’s playing 17/12, you should bet the flop. Nits often play a fit-or-fold game (fold if they miss; call/raise if they hit). Against a nit, your ace-high might not be good anymore since he will have more pocket pairs in his range and fewer hands like A9, K9s, QJo, and JTo. More often than not, you’ll also have to barrel the turn. If the turn is a J, Q, K or A, you should bet again.
Let say the turn is a low card, I would give up and fire a river card that is bigger than a 9 if it is checked to me.
Against a Decent TAG
You want to the bet the flop as well, with the intention of following through on the turn and sometimes the river. A TAG’s range on the flop will also have lots of pocket pairs, so your showdown value with ATo decreases. Decent TAGs also generally play somewhat of a fit-or-fold game, especially out of position. Sometimes they’ll 3-bet from the blinds with 86s. Sometimes they’ll check-raise with KQ on a dry flop like 862 rainbow, but for the most part, they’ll just continue with their good hands and stay out of your way if they miss. So if villain does have a strong hand like a set, two pair, slow-played overpairs, he’ll check-raise you right away. You can then fold without too much thought.
Now, if he calls your c-bet, be ready to fire the second barrel on all overcards. Keep in mind that your decent TAG at 50NL and 100NL knows that you will be likely to bluff the turn if a scare card comes. Just fire anyway because there’s nothing he can do but fold or go into check-call mode. If he calls, you can still bluff the river.
If the card is higher than an 8, go ahead and fire. If it’s a 7, 5, 4, or 3, it’s not as good anymore because it’s not a scare card. Unless you have a good understanding of your opponent’s game, you should give up.
Against a Good, Aggressive Player
There will be a little more leveling going on against this type of player because he likely knows the things you do already. He’s also good at balancing his range and mixing up plays. Against this type of player, it’s okay to check behind the flop because he might check-raise with hands like A8, 99+, overcards, open-end draws, gutshots and, of course, sets and two pairs. He can also call with those same hands. So, checking behind is the most optimal play, but let’s say you decide to bet this time. He calls and the turn is a K—a great scare card for you.
You bet and he quickly calls again. The river is a 2 and pairs the bottom card. Now it’s not such a great spot to barrel again because the river doesn’t really change anything. On one hand, if he thinks his pair of eights is good on the turn, he may still think that. He also knows you will be more likely to fire your missed draws on the river and can make a hero call against you.
On the other hand, you could have a decent to strong hand yourself (A2, 86, 8X, 99-AA and Kx). Since he hasn’t shown any aggression so far, he likely doesn’t have a hand stronger than 8X here, so a river bet is still profitable. Again, you can bet 2/3- to 3/4-pot to rep a variety of hands going for thin value, and not just specifically Kx.