Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why Playing Ace-King Is Not That Difficult in a Poker Tournament

Why Playing Ace-King Is Not That Difficult in a Poker Tournament

It's not that it is easy to play Ace-King, but it's not that difficult either.

Burger-KeamImage by keamysparadise via Flickr

Let's review this: Ace-King is the best non-paired, starting hand.

Notice some important text here:

Non-paired. It is an Ace high hand, like A-x. It will not improve on the flop two out of three times. That can be a problem, a major problem.

Starting hand. It is the best non-paired starting hand. Starting hand means that the value of this hand will change on the flop, just like every other poker starting hand.

Players today are so super aggressive that when they get dealt Ace-King in a poker tournament they push all-in pre-flop. There are some right times to push with the hand, but other times it is a mistake.

Examples of when not to be all-in with A-K:

The tournament has just started, and you have lots and lots of chips compared to the big blind. Moving all-in is just a bad risk-reward situation.

The tournament is in it's early stages and a player raises pre-flop. You decide to overbet the pot and push all-in to get your opponent off his hand. Moving all-in is just another bad risk-reward situation.

You are one of the chip leaders at the final stages of a tournament. A player who has about half as many chips as you, pushes all-in pre-flop. The player is very tight. You are on your A game. You will be dealt another hand if you fold, promise. Why risk so much here?

You are one of the chip leaders at the final stages of a tournament. You raise and another player with more chips than you, overbets the pot with an all-in move pre-flop.
Hey, maybe it is a tie and he has A-K too. So what. Just let it go.

Examples of how not to play Ace-King from the flop on..assume that you raised pre-flop or you called pre-flop:

If you are against three or more players and your hand does not improve, you bet. Why are you betting here? I think sometimes the simple math of counting the number of opponents you face on the flop has been lost.

If you are against two or less players, and your hand does not improve, you check automatically. Hmm, a continuation bet is a good move, if you have the lead on the flop. If not, the texture of the flop will be a key determining factor for your action.

If you are against two or less players. Your hand does not improve on the flop. No one bets the flop. Your hand does not improve on the turn. An opponent bets and you call with Ace-King. Why do people call here with Ace high? All you are doing is costing yourself more chips. Unless you have a great read on your opponent, but then the right play is not to call but to raise.

Why another post about Ace-King?

I just read an article about how a top player handled Ace-King early on in a tournament. It was early in the event with $100-$200 blinds, and $25,000 in starting chips. Our hero limps with Ace-King under the gun, Allen Cunningham raises him to $800 from middle position, Van Nguyen calls from the button. Our hero decides to re-raise to $3,200. Both opponents call.

Let's stop here. I hate this re-raise. Players are getting so aggressive that they mix up Ace-King with pocket Aces. Thy are different hands, really=) If you limp with Ace-King, you are not looking to re-raise preflop. You are stating that you want to play this hand to lose as little as possible in an early round. That is ok. A call is ok. A re-raise here is a bad play by our hero.

The flop is J-5-5. Everyone checks.

Let's stop again. What happened to the continuation bet? That is not a scary board. You put in a check-raise preflop and you check the flop? Talk about compounding a mistake. I sure hope our hero folds this hand if he doesn't improve on the turn.

The turn is a 9. Our hero checks, Cunningham checks, but Nguyen bets $5,000. Our hero folds right? Wrong! He calls! Why the heck does he call here?

Think about what Nguyen's hand is. He called a pre-flop raise, and a check-raise preflop. If he just called a pre-flop raise, let's eliminate AA-KK-QQ. Next he calls our hero's check raise. I will eliminate AK, AQ, AJ, A10, and small pairs. What does that leave us with--JJ, TT, 99, and maybe 88.

The river is an 8. Our hero checks. Nguyen checks.

Now guess what hand Nguyen is holding?

88, 99 or JJ? No. He'd bet the river.

Therefore, he must have pocket 10's right?

Yes, Neguyen wins the pot with pocket 10's. A perfect example of how not to play Ace-King...and how to put an opponent on a range of hands.

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Park said...

It is shocking how agressive players play this hand. It is really not that strong of starting hand in my opinion. I would venture to say more people have been knocked out of tournaments by over playing AK and AQ than any other hand.

Hayley said...

Mmm now I am REALLY trying to get my head around poker - but it's not working- yet.

What's Your Poker IQ?