Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Thoughts On How To Play Ace-King...

Big Slick

There are many names for Ace-King. From Big Slick, to Anna Kournakova, to my favorite "walking back to Houston." I learned this expression from reading T.J. Cloutier's poker book many years ago. If I recall correctly, he wrote that back in his day the biggest no limit cash games were in Texas. The poker players from Houston would travel to these games and they had one major weakness. They thought A-K was the nuts.

T.J. added that the only times they'd get called with A-K were when they were beat. Thus, the A-K got the name "walking back to Houston." (Let me know if I got this story wrong. It's been a while.)

How To Play Ace-King in No Limit Tournaments

I have seen players who like to get all-in with A-K no matter what, and other players who just call, never wanting to risk all their chips.

I must admit that I have misplayed this hand many many many...times.

After watching players on TV lose all their chips with A-K, I became a caller with it. But, after watching many Pros accumulate chips fast with A-K, I switched to always raising pre-flop and trying to get all-in pre-flop.

After much pain and suffering, I have come to the following conclusion that there are some general rules on how to correctly play A-K:

1. You want to raise with A-K pre-flop.
2. You don't want to get all your chips in pre-flop with A-K.
3. If you hit your hand on the flop and get a caller, keep the pot small by checking the turn. You don't want to lose to a player who called your raise with a worst kicker.

Why is this the right approach for playing Ace-King?

1. You want to eliminate the number of opponents, and hopefully, simply win the blinds without a fight.
2. If you move all-in with A-K and get called, you are most likely behind. Your opponent will have a pair and be favored. And, of course, there are those times he finds pocket Kings or Aces. Doh!
3. Keeping the pot small will minimize your chip loss with a hand that is just one pair. You don't want to go bust after the flop with just one pair. Don't do it.

What are the right situations to push with Ace-King?

There are a few exceptions to my rules:

1. If your chip stack is 9 times or less the big blind, pushing with A-K is the right play.
2. If you need to accumulate a lot more chips to win the event, pushing with A-K is the right play. For example, if you have 12 times the big blind, a player raises pre-flop in front of you, and your only hope of winning the event is doubling up now.
3. If you have a tell on your opponent that he is weak, pushing with A-K is the right play.


Too many players move all-in with Ace-King without thinking about the situation. It is a hand that you want to win pre-flop with a raise, a hand where you want to keep the pot small if you get resistance on the flop, and a hand where only in the right situations do you push to give yourself a shot at winning.

Why am I writing this post tonight? I just knocked myself out of a tournament by overplaying my hand with A-K. I only ran into two opponents pre-flop. One had K-K and the other A-A!! Oh, since it is online poker, the case King hit the board...
"I feel your pain," to steal a Presidential expression.

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