- Aces may indeed be used as low in a straight in holdem. A2345 is the lowest possible straight, also sometimes called a 'wheel.' In any other context, aces will be ranked higher than other cards.
- Texas Hold'em In hold'em, players receive two down cards as their personal hand (holecards), after which there is a round of betting. Three board cards are turned simultaneously (called the flop).
- Congratulations You have a pair. Aren’t you lucky? Go ahead and start.
Ace Poker Joker. 11,535 likes 389 talking about this. Ace Poker Joker- God of Gamblers.
Ace-King. This hand is notoriously tricky to play despite being one of the most premium hands in all of Texas Hold’em poker. It’s most popular nickname, Big Slick, refers to how slippery it can be, especially in the hands of amateurs. The hand has also popularly been referred to as Anna Kournikova, because just like the beautiful Russian tennis player, “it looks great but never wins”.
Given how easy it is to get into trouble with Ace-King, it is understandable that this hand has the reputation that it does. But it is also one of the most powerful hands in all of Texas Hold’em, with the suited variety of AK landing behind only AA, KK, and QQ in most conventional hand rankings. In this Ace-King Primer, we’ll go over what makes AK so tricky to play and how to play this big hand in different pre-flop situations.
Texas Holdem Ace Value
The Strengths and Weaknesses of Ace-King
Before getting into the in-depth strategies of playing AK, let’s take a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of Big Slick.
Pre-Flop Stats for Ace-King in Texas Hold’em Poker:
When we run Ace-King Suited through a simulator (Oddsy Poker Calculator) we can get an idea on how the hand performs pre-flop:
|Number of Players||Win Percentage||Loss and Tie Percentage|
When we run Ace-King off-suit through a simulator (Oddsy Poker Calculator) we can get an idea on how the hand performs pre-flop:
|Number of Players||Win Percentage||Loss and Tie Percentage|
Strengths of Ace-King in Texas Hold’em
- When it hits the flop, it hits hard – When an Ace or a King hits the flop, you are far ahead of your opponent’s range as you have top pair and top kicker. If you have suited AK and flop two cards in your suit without a pair, you have two over cards to the board and the nut flush draw. Given how often players play weaker Aces, Kings, and flush draws, there is plenty of value to be found against hands that you dominate.
- It isn’t dominated by anything but aces – Sure, all of the pocket pairs are technically favorites in an all-in pre-flop spot against Ace-King. But if you get a lot of money into the pot preflop with, say, 88, there is a good chance that you are considerably behind against 99-AA, all of which have roughly 80% equity against 88. With Ace-King, you are only crushed by AA (with only 7-11% against this hand depending on suits); you have 29-33% equity against KK and 42% or better against all other holdings. AK can catch up against pairs and has the edge over all non-paired hands.
- It makes opponents holding hands that beat it less likely – There are exactly six combinations of any given pair. For example, AA comes in Ace Diamond/Ace Heart, Ace Diamond/Ace Spade, Ace Diamond/Ace Club, Ace Heart/Ace Spade, Ace Heart/Ace Club and Ace Spade/Ace Club. When you hold QQ, there are six combinations of AA and six combinations of KK that you have to worry about. When you hold an Ace and a King, you cut the remaining combinations of AA and KK in half down to three apiece.
Weakness of Ace-King in Texas Hold’em
- It’s technically a drawing hand – For as great as AK looks, it starts off behind even the lowliest of pairs, 22, before the flop. AK has plenty of potential, but if it doesn’t improve by the river, it only amounts to Ace-high.
- It only hits a pair on the flop once in every three flops – Few moments in poker are as exciting as smashing a flop with Ace-King, as you know you are very likely ahead when an Ace or a King comes on the flop. But unfortunately, unpaired hands hit a pair on the flop only about one third of the time. You can find yourself in some tricky situations after the flop during all of these times that you miss.
- It’s hard to get away from when your opponent out-flops you – Let’s say that you have AK and your opponent has 33. The flop comes K 6 3. When are you going to get away from this hand? It is going to be very difficult for you to fold at any point during a safe runout, especially when you know your opponent might have something you are ahead of like KQ or KJ. Sometimes losing big pots with AK is inevitable, while winning big pots with it can be tough as opponents without an Ace or King in their hand will fear these cards when they are on the board.
Playing Ace-King Pre-Flop in Texas Hold’em
With these strengths and weaknesses in mind, hopefully it is now clear why it is important to play Ace-King aggressively pre-flop. Since you are ahead of the vast majority of your opponent’s range but also hold a hand that won’t flop a pair two thirds of the time and could have trouble making a lot more money the third of the time that you do, you should generally be looking to take the betting lead pre-flop to build a pot while you likely have the bet hand.
Here’s an in-depth look at some of the positions you will find yourself in with AK pre-flop. These strategies apply to both cash and tournament play.
Your First Action Pre-Flop
First to act in an unopened pot: You should raise virtually 100% of the time. It might make sense to mix in the occasional limp at an aggressive table that you feel confident will re-open the action with a raise, but this can backfire and create a big multi-way pot, exactly what you don’t want with AK. Raise it up.
Facing one raise in front of you: You should lean heavily towards raising in this spot as well. You are ahead of the open-raisers range and can thin the field out and increase your chances at going heads up to the flop with a three-bet.
If you do decide to mix in a call every now and again for deception, do so with your unsuited combinations of AK and with position on your opponent. If you are suited you should push your equity now, and if you are in one of the blinds you should take the betting lead since you’ll be out of position.
Facing a raise and a three-bet in front of you
This is where things get tricky. Out of position (in the blinds) you should lean heavily towards a four-bet, and if you get five-bet you can make a decision based on your opponent.
In position, both calling and raising are viable options. You should lean towards raising against opponents that are likely to raise and re-raise with a wide variety of hands and just calling against tight opponents that are far more likely to only three-bet with monster hands.
Your Second Action Pre-Flop (When Applicable)
Facing a raise after you just called: Now’s your chance to spring the trap! Slow-playing Ace-King is a recipe for disaster post-flop as you’ll have no idea where you are in the hand, especially if you miss the flop. You were lucky to induce the raise by under-representing your hand; time to announce that you’ve actually got something with a raise.
Facing a three-bet after you raise: In today’s aggressive game, most opponents are three-betting a lot wider than they used to, and you are likely ahead of their range with AK.
Also, most players won’t put in a 5-bet without an absolutely premium hand.
With these facts in mind, you should raise most of the time.
The only exception to this rule is when facing a super tight opponent that you know doesn’t three-bet without an extremely strong hand. Against this type of opponent, just calling is wise.
Facing a four-bet after you three-bet
Against an extremely tight opponent, folding unsuited Ace-King in this situation is acceptable. Suited Ace-King is a bit to strong to fold and a call is probably better.
Against a standard or loose opponent, this really depends on your five-bet strategy. If you choose to always flat call in these spots with even AA or KK, doing so with AK is fine too. If you are going to five-bet with AA and KK, mixing in some AK suited combinations will be good to keep your opponents guessing.
If you have a short stack, this is a good spot to just go all-in. AK is too strong to fold, and you don’t want to flat call and be forced to fold on a missed flop.
Facing a five-bet after you four-bet
This is player dependent. Against an aggressive player that is capable of making this kind of move with a wide range of hands, take a stand. Against many players, a fifth bet probably means AA, and you can fold without losing too much sleep over it.
Video Analysis of Ace KingTournament Play
Blinds: 800/1,600 – 1,600 BB ANTE
Andreas Heitzmann: 66 – Raise 6,700
Kalidou Sow: QQ – All-in – 20,200
Michael Wang: AK – All-in – 84,700
Andreas Heitzmann: 66 – All-in – 30,800
Sow with 12 big blinds left, shoves all in with pocket Queens against a first action raise from Heitzmann. Michael Wang re-raise all-in with Ace King, and Heizmann calls all-in.
Wang and Sow make pretty standard plays given their positions on the table and chip stacks, we might be able say that Wang is playing a bit a aggressive however still a textbook raise assuming he’s able to narrow the field down to heads up play (which didn’t happen). Interesting call from Heitzmann who wins the hand odds against. Heitzmann makes a big gamble and wins – this is a loose play as he knows he’s dominated, but given the size of his stack and big blind pressure to make a move understandable as he would be down to 14 big blinds had he folded.
Blinds: 50,000/100,000 – 100,000 BB ANTE
Simon Lam: J? – raise 225,00
Jared Griener: 88 – all-in 2,300,000
Men Nguyen: AK – fold
Simon Lam: J? – fold
Interesting play, Simon Lam raises his J? to 225,000, we can guess that Simon has an Ace, or a King. Because of the small raise, Jared assumes he doesn’t have a premium pair and shoves all in putting about a third of Simon’s stack at risk and two thirds of Mens stack at risk. Men see’s his AK and decides to lay down the hand. If Men Nguyen could guarantee heads up play there is a chance he may have called, however given the possibly of Simon Lam still being in the hand, Men Nguyen decides for a more conservative play and folds his Ace King. Simon Lam quickly folds after fearing the all in raise by Jared.
Blinds: 1,500/3,000 – 3,000 BB ANTE
Sylvain Mazza: AK – raise 7,000
Ramon Colillas: 88 – call 7,000
Sylvain Mazza: AK – raise 6,000
Ramon Colillas: 88 – call 6,000
Sylvain Mazza: AK – raise 13,000
Ramon Colillas: 88 – call 13,000
Sylvain Mazza: AK – raise 19,000
Ramon Colillas: 88 – call 19,000
Mazza plays this hand conservatively leading us to think he has a good read on his opponent and is attempting to extract as much value as possible taking down a pot worth 97,500 in chips. Mazza also playing cautiously being UTG OOP. Good play by both players, its unlikely Ramon Colillas would fold 3 consecutive small raises allowing him the opportunity to make a set by the river. Sylvain Mazza reading his opponent well, confident that a re-raise at any point in the hand is a likely bluff given the cards in play and his opponents betting patterns.
Hopefully these pre-flop guidelines will help you to feel more comfortable playing Ace-King in your next cash-game or tournament. Here are a few final points to consider:
- Take stack sizes into account – When you have a low or medium stack, you should be happy to get the chips all-in with AK, as this hand has fantastic equity in all-in pots. And if you don’t get it in pre-flop and do flop an Ace or King with this sort of stack, your goal should be to get all the chips in. But when you and your opponent are both extremely deep (100 big blinds or more), proceed with caution; it is a lot easier to lose a big pot than it is to win a big pot with one-pair hands.
- AK makes a strong continuation bet candidate – If you have the betting lead after the flop with AK and miss, you should c-bet most of the time. You may win the pot right then and there, and if your opponent decides to just call, you have six outs to hit top-pair top-kicker on the turn.
Ace-King, especially when suited, is a very strong starting hand in No-Limit Holdem Poker. However, unless you connect with the board you will have only an ace-high hand to show down at the end. This makes playing ace-king problematic in some circumstances.
This article will look at some of the important no-limit Holdem strategy considerations when playing ace-king. These include your stack size, position at the table and the tendencies of opponents who are already in the pot, and those yet to act.
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Basic ace-king strategy.
The worst possible outcome for ace-king is to be in a multi-way limped pot out of position and then to miss the flop. Under these circumstances the hand should usually be folded to any serious betting action from opponents.
Free Texas Hold'em
Ace-King is a hand that you definitely do not want to be playing against multiple opponents.
Ace-king is in fact a drawing hand – you will usually need to improve to win a showdown. At the same time this hand has a strong likelihood of improving to become the best hand, any ace or king on the board will give you top pair with top kicker. This makes ace-king a hand to play strongly and positively until you encounter resistance, both before the flop and in later betting.
The ideal situation with this hand is that you take control before the flop by playing aggressive and positive poker. Raising, especially from position, will thin the field – ideally to a single opponent. If that opponent checks to you on the flop you will often be able to take the pot away from them with a continuation bet. When this gets called you have the added advantage of being able to see the river for free if your opponent checks to you after the turn.
You might like the multi-way cbetting video for strategy on dealing with tricky flops when facing 2 or more players. Hand 2 (3:22) and Hand 5 (12:36) use AK as examples.
Stack sizes and playing ace king.
The stack size of both you and opponents in the hand are a critical factor in playing ace-king. If the effective stacks (shortest stack in play) are small then your best move is often to get all-in before the flop with this hand. This is common in tournament situations and has two possible outcomes both of which are positive.
If you are up against small stacks, you should try and get all-in before the flop with ace king.
Either the pre-flop raiser (plus any caller) folds allowing you to take a good sized pot. Or if you are called – for example by a pair lower than Kings – you get to see all 5 board cards to improve your hand. This means you are only a little under 50% to win the hand – your pot equity will also be increased when there is blind money or a 3rd player who entered the pot then folded to your re-raise.
When you have a deep stack holding ace-king a pre-flop re-raise can give you valuable information on your opponent's hand. For example an opponent raises 3 times the big blind from middle position and you re-raise a total of 8 or 9 blinds from the button. When you're opponent is holding the hands you really fear – pocket aces or kings – he is likely to put in a re-raise here.
Be wary of 3-bets when you are deep stacked after making a re-raise with ace-king. This could very well mean that your opponent holds aces or kings.
However, pairs QQ and below and other ace-high hands are more likely to call. Not only have you defined your opponents hand, you have taken control of the hand before the flop – putting you in a position to take the pot away fairly often those times that you do miss the flop.
Texas Hold'em Ace Rules
The tendencies of specific players, and indeed the table dynamic as a whole, will also affect the way that you play ace-king. Before the flop you may raise to isolate a particularly weak player seated to your right. However when a 'rock' in the same seat has entered the pot a flat call may be the best strategy – as such an opponent is more likely to tell you whether they liked the flop with their post-flop betting patterns.
Another opponent specific move occurs at a 'wild table' here you can flat call a raise from early position in the hope that a wild player later in the betting will re-raise, you can then push all-in over the top representing aces or kings. When called you still have very good equity against the wild player's range – in addition to the overlay of the dead money in the pot. Since ace-king does not play well in a multi-way pot caution is required with this move – you need to be sure that an opponent will re-raise ahead most of the time.
When the betting gets heavy ahead of you a good rule of thumb for playing ace-king, especially when not too deep stacked, is to be the player making the all-in bet and not the one calling this. Ace-king is almost 50% to win against pairs Q-Q and below and 30% to win against pocket Kings. However, when you are the player making the last big bet you have the added benefit of fold-equity. The chance that you're opponent may fold increasing the profit from playing this hand considerably.
How to play ace king evaluation.
Good no-limit Holdem play with ace-king involves all of the factors discussed above – but also and awareness of how they work together. For example a re-raise from position to define your opponents hand is only useful against a reasonably competent opponent, from position and with a deep stack.
Against a weaker opponent or with a short stack (15 blinds or less) your best move might be to push all-in immediately. The combination of 'fold equity' with your winning chances giving this play a positive expectation.
Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.