Best Ways to Play AK in Cash Games
written by BeatTheFish.com
...Fishy says, "Big Slick? Where did
they come up with that one?"
AK. Big Slick. Ace-King. Walkiní back
to Houston (well, perhaps you havenít heard that one). A monster of
a hand in holdíem made even more powerful by them both being spades,
clubs, hearts, or diamonds. While it may arguably be the 4th best
hand you can be dealt in
holdíem (behind pocket Aces, Kings, and
Queens) it is a tricky one to pilot your poker guidance around and
extract maximum profit from.
After all, AK is still a drawing hand
and not a made one. Even pocket deuces will win more often in the
extreme long-run when played heads-up to showdown. In this article
Iíd like to outline some recommended ways to play AK preflop in
Ring Games: One of the beauties of Big Slick is the pre-flop
pressure that you can put on your opponents. Unless one of your
opponents has the rare holding of pocket AA or KK you are no worse
than a coin-flip in the hand (remember that two overcards are about
a coin-flip pre-flop favorite against a smaller pocket pair).
However, one of the key aspects to remember is that the odds say
you will only flop a pair about 1 out of 3 times. Since youíre
certainly going to miss more often than you hit, it is important to
take the lead early in the hand and seize control.
When to Raise: In no-limit ring games I will raise about
70-80 percent of the time whether I am the first one in the pot or
following a few limpers. This goes for early, middle, and late
positions. You probably have the best hand right now and by raising
you can accomplish one of two things (either of which are
desirable): you win the hand right away or you build up a pot that
you try to take down later. Iíll usually raise 4-6 times the blind
in loose online games to try and thin the field.
When to Call: I will just flat-call very rarely preflop with
AK (namely the other 20-30 percent of the time) unless someone has
made a big raise in front of me. Many players get timid with this
hand because theyíve either lost too many big pots with it against a
raggedy set or two pair or they donít know what to do if they donít
flop at least a pair. You shouldnít change your overall poker
strategy based on past
bad beats or missed opportunities.
is that Ace-King is a big hand that you should welcome seeing. If
you just call youíre missing a lot of value when you do flop a big
hand or big draw. Besides, you can often outplay your opponent later
in the hand even when you have neither. Finally, you welcome bad
beats by not thinning the field preflop. The worst mistake you can
make is to let in an inferior hand that gets lucky on the flop for
cheap and then relieves you of your chips. Still, I will
occasionally just call preflop with AK to throw off my opponents and
mix up my game.
When to Reraise: Your decision of whether or not to reraise
preflop with AK should be more of a situational assessment. Try to
base your decision on your position, your table image, the overall
flow of the game, and, of course, what you know about your opponent.
However, as a general rule, if the pot has already been raised 3-4BB
before the action gets to me I will reraise about 2-3x the original
raise about 60-70% of the time regardless of how many people are in
the pot. If it was already raised and reraised before me, I will
probably just call as I could be up against Queens, Kings, or Aces.
Now, if you made a standard raise and youíre the one getting
reraised you have three options: fold, call, or reraise again.
Folding shouldnít really be an option unless a large stack goes
all-in or puts you all in. If a conservative player puts in a huge
reraise I donít have a problem laying this down in a cash game. The
best you can expect here is a coin-flip situation against an
underpair and at worst youíre a major underdog. There is no reason
to risk your entire stack with this hand in a cash game.
There is no
pressure to accumulate chips in a fixed-blind situation so why not
wait for a better spot? If youíre just looking to get lucky you
might as well play Blackjack. The exception to this is when you have
an excellent read and feel that you have your opponent dominated or,
more likely, you or your opponent is shortstacked (about 40BB or
less). Sometimes Iíll just go all-in with AK on the first reraise if
Iím shortstacked and suspect my opponent is on a steal, is weak, or
is just pushing me around too much for my liking.
When to Call: You could play it safe and just call a reraise,
waiting to see what the flop brings. I most often just call with AK
as I usually have the best of it when an Ace flops and I can trap my
opponent who has something like A-Q. In loose online games, I donít
usually like to risk an enormous amount with AK preflop as your
opponent is unlikely to be pushed off a hand.
If you raised and were reraised youíre likely out of position in the hand. If you put in
another reraise here and your opponent just calls what will you do
on the flop if you donít get help? I recommend just calling much of
the time seeing a flop. Of course, thatís just my style. I generally
donít like to risk everything preflop in a deep-stack cash game
without Kings or Aces. Iíd rather try to outplay my opponents on the
Tournaments: Much of the same rules that Iíve outlined above
also dictate my tournament AK strategy, although there are some
differences in this format. You simply canít wait around for premium
hands in tournaments like you can in cash games, so Iíll usually
play them even faster preflop. Later on in tournaments when the
blinds start to become astronomical, this is a no-brainer all-in
situation preflop no matter what has developed in the hand. If
youíre one of the chip leaders you can afford to play more
conservative although you can also afford to gun for the small and
medium stacks. The point is that this is a very difficult hand to
get away from preflop deep into a tournament.
Early on in tournament, you donít really need to gamble as much with
AK and your fast preflop play isnít rewarded very much if you just
manage to collect the pitiful blinds. Try making it worthwhile by
raising 5-6BB and building a decent pot. If there is a raise, a
reraise, and an all-in ahead of you, you should probably be looking
to dump your hand. Why risk so much early on with a drawing hand?
However, one tip that Iíll give you has worked like a charm for me
early on in Sit Ďn Gos and small-stakes tournaments. This often
works best from one of the blinds but can be done in any position.
If there is a standard raise ahead of you and a couple of callers,
try quickly moving all-in. You probably arenít up against Aces or
Kings (unless youíre very unlucky) since it probably would have been
reraised. You look like youíre impatient and have a plane to catch
but youíre really setting a trap.
A lot of the time youíll pick up a
small pot right there, which is great. However, I find that the most
likely hand to call yours here is a weaker Ace or King! Many players
who play small-stakes SnGs or tourneys are super impatient, hate to
be bluffed, canít get away from hands, or think that you're a
maniac. They probably put you on an outright bluff or small pair.
This doesnít always work. Sometimes youíll get outdrawn, lose a
coin-flip situation, or just run in to a better hand, but Iíve had a
great success rate with it.
Hopefully this tutorial has given you some ideas on how to best play
Big Slick from any position in any type of game. While it is a
tricky hand, itís still one of the most powerful in Holdíem and one
that you should pressure your opponents with preflop. Your goal
should be to thin the field to hands that are trying to catch up or
just pick up the pot right away. Occasionally, you might try some of
the more unorthodox plays I suggest to mix up your game. My next
article will deal with an even trickier situation: playing AK after
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