How do you play Aces when there’s an Aces cracked bonus available?

For reasons more complicated than I can explain here, my weekday schedule has me awake when everyone else is asleep from 4:30am or 5am onwards.  Tuesday through Friday I’ve been spending 2-3 hours every morning at my local poker room.  (Yes it’s surprisingly full at that time of the morning)

From 6-9am they have a bonus: $100 if you get your Aces cracked.  Since I’ve been playing almost exclusively $3/$6 limit hold’em, this sets up a fascinating dynamic for those interested in how to maximize value.  I’ve been dealt Aces at this time of day at this game almost three times, so it’s worth examining it as a poker question.

This morning I was in the big blind and dealt bi-racial Aces (red and black) of hearts and clubs (AhAc).  Six random players called, which includes the small blind, and I’m put to a decision.  Given the stakes of the table, I think I want to see my Aces cracked.  The $100 bonus is greater than the size of the pot I’m likely to win.  I want some other player to catch up and beat me.  I really really want everyone to play this hand.  So I check.  The flop comes AdQd3c.  Crap, I’ve hit a set.  Suddenly it’s more likely that I’m going to win this pot, and I don’t want to win $21 (-$4 rake), I want to win $100.  The small blind bets out, I call, and two other players call.  Pot is $29.  Turn is a 9c.  Small blind checks, I check and hope someone with a club flush draw decides to stay in now.  Everyone checks.

River is a 10d.  If there was a diamond flush draw out there, they’ve just made their hand and beat me.  Also, a straight, though I can’t imagine anyone betting a straight on a flush board like that.  The small blind checks, I check also, and a middle position player bets.  The next two players fold and it’s up to me.  I’ve played this hand so passively he might be betting with just a queen, but he could also have two pair.  I decide I want to shove a little more money in the pot in case I win it so I raise.  My opponent just calls.  The pot is now $53 and my opponent shows KsJd for a straight.  I show my set of Aces and the floorman comes over to give me $100 for cracked Aces.

So how should one play this?  According to pokerstove my equity against 6 random hands is 43%.  I believe that means I need to have at least $43 in the pot to have earned the equity my Aces deserve. 

The only really complicated decision is before the flop.  Assuming nobody folds, I could have pumped the pot to $42 immediately.  (At $3/$6, nobody folds when the big blind raises)  However I believe that unless someone had hit something and gleefully tried to take the pot from me, it would have stayed there and my gut shot straight drawing opponent might have folded had anyone bet on the turn.  Adding another two big bets to the pot ($12) would have put it at $54 (-$4 rake), pretty much the same thing I ended up with.

I think the right play here is to let as many players in as possible, and then play the hand without too much emphasis on value because you’re dancing the knife edge between winning a respectable pot on the river and chasing away anyone drawing thin who might catch up and win you the $100 bonus.  What do you think?

As another aside, should I count the $100 bonus in my totals?  I religiously record every session’s numbers and weird spikes like this certainly warp my numbers.  So far this year I’ve won $227 total over 52.5 hours of play, averaging out to about $4.33 / hr.  A session with $100 jammed into it certainly warps that a bit, but one assumes the rake has a downward effect on it as well.

This is totally situational as well.  The Bad Beat Jackpot, which I’m incredibly tired of hearing the $3/$6 players obsess about, stands at $170,000 right now.  Were I to hit it and win $85,000, it couldn’t possibly be right to put it into my numbers.  Even my portion of the table share at $6,000 or so would make me look like an unfairly brilliant low limit hold’em player. 

I’ve had aces cracked in this situation twice, winning the pot once.  Since my early cardroom shift appears to be my poker time for the forseeable future, I’d be curious what you think about the right mathematical strategy here.