Basic Texas Hold ‘Em Strategy: Playing Ace-King

It’s like Christmas morning back when you were a kid: you’ve got AK sitting in your sweaty little hands. So, what do you do with it once you’ve got it? Obviously, it’s strong, especially when suited, but unless you connect with the community cards all you have is an ace-high hand to showdown with. This makes it a difficult hand to play under most circumstances.

Basic Strategy With Ace-King
The thing you want to most avoid when holding A-K is to be in a multi-way pot when you’re out of position. If the betting gets serious, then you need to walk away before you over commit. A-K is a drawing hand and you have to build something to win a showdown, but thankfully it has a strong likelihood of winning if an Ace or King hits the board; you’ll have top pair with a strong kicker.

This all means that when you have A-K, you need to play as strongly as possible until you encounter resistance, whether it happens before the flop or in later betting. An ideal situation is that you’re able to take control before the flop by playing aggressively, raising from position to thin the field to work your way to a single opponent.

Stack Size With Ace-King
In addition to the hands themselves, your stack size is a critical factor when you play A-K. If both stacks are small, then it’s frequently your best move to go all-in before the flop. Why? Either the raiser and the other callers immediately fold, allowing you to get your stack back, plus the blinds and whatever other money has been put in the pot or you might be called. If you’re called, the odds say that you’re going to be called by any pair lower that Kings and that means you get to see all five board cards to improve your hands. In fact, with A-K going blind in, you’re only a touch under 50% to win the hand anyway and your pot equity is going to be increased.

If you have a deep stack, however, a pre-flop re-raise can give you valuable intelligence on your opponent’s hand. If you’re 3-betted by them, it’s likely that they’re holding Aces or Kings, but if they’re only calling, then it’s likely they’ve got Q-Q or below. This helps you define the hand and gives you control at the same time.

If you want to get the most out of an ace-king hand, you’ll want to keep all of the above factors in mind. When playing with shorter stacks, you have nothing to lose, particularly in a tournament situation, by being more aggressive and when you’re deep stacked, you can afford to be a little more probing with your betting before you push or fold.