May 20 2010

AK Out of Position

written by: John under Poker Strategy Comments: Comments Off

Ace King is a great hand in Texas holdem, there is no doubt about it. Where there is dispute, however, is whether or not AK plays well out of position. As with all things in poker, the particular player in question plays a large role in determining whether or not a certain hand can be played profitability. The problem with AK is that it is not a made hand. More often that not, when AK is all in pre flop, it needs to hit something on the board in order to win.

In addition to this, many of AK’s outs are often stolen by it’s opponent’s hand. For example, AK is often all in pre flop against hands like KK and AA, both of which dramatically reduce AK’s odds of winning. Against certain players, AK is the virtual nuts. If you are playing with someone who is likely to stack off with AJ, you might even be ahead before the board even runs out. Your opponent’s playing style should always be a primary consideration when determining the correct play with AK. Don’t be afraid to fold, but don’t be afraid to shove all in, either.

Calling Out of Position

Almost any hand is difficult to play out of position, and AK is no exception. When you play pots out of position, you are giving the other players an automatic edge. If you are able to act after the other players, it is infinitely easier to decide what to do. The general comfort level when playing pots out of position is quite low, even when you are holding a big hand. There are very few situations where it makes sense to call with AK out of position.

Shoving vs. Folding

When playing AK out of position, your options are often reduced to either going all in (shoving) or folding. Keep in mind that a raise all in is much better than a call all in. The reason for this is simple, when raising all in, there is a chance that your opponent folds and you take down the pot without a showdown. If you call, the only way you can win is at showdown. If you have the option of making a raise all in, it also means that you have the option of calling, but raising is almost always the better decision.

Folding AK isn’t fun, no one likes to throw away such a big hand. The reality is, however, that from time to time, AK is almost worthless. If the nittiest player at your table has suddenly decided to 5 bet you all in with a 200 big blind stack, the chances are that AK is no good. Use some common sense and discipline when playing AK. Don’t go all in because you feel like you have to, go all in when you have a reasonable shot at being ahead. Many poker players try to play poker “by the book” or according to some set of imaginary rules, but this is not a winning strategy. There should definitely be a somewhat systematic approach to poker, but everything is not always black and white.

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