Big Slick (Ace-King, for those still learning poker nicknames) has the reputation for being a monster hand, a hand that most players love to get dealt. It's got a ton of potential.
If you have Big Slick and a king or ace hits the board, you've automatically got top pair. Not only that, you've also automatically got the highest kicker possible. And of course, Big Slick is connected, which means it has the potential to become the highest straight on the board.
While Big Slick has all these potential ways to make a great hand, that doesn't mean it always is a great hand. It can be beat by just about anything, from a flush to a 3-of-a-kind to a pair of deuces.
This distinction between potential and reality is very important in order to learn how to play your AK properly. We already had a discussion on how to play in early position, but let’s see how Big Slick is played from a late spot.
If you play Big Slick the right way with good positioning, you can win with it at least 75% of the time. If you play it the wrong way, you'll end up losing all your chips and whining about your bad beat.
Since the hand can get run down easily, your strategy is to get rid of as many players as possible before the flop.
In other words, scare away everyone who doesn't have a pair or face cards.
If you let too many players stay in, someone with rags is bound to catch great cards on the flop and steal your chip stack. But if you go up against players with face cards, then you have the advantage and the odds are in your favor. This is accomplished, of course, with a pre-flop raise, which will also give you control over the table.
Here is the particular situation that provoked this blog post. I was at a $1-$2 no-limit game online and got 7-6 suited in a mid-position. Having a good drawing hand, I decide to try to limp in and paid the $2. The guy after me also called, so did the button, and the big blind checked.
The flop came 5-8-9 rainbow. Jackpot, I hit a straight. Big blind checked, I also checked and so did the guy next to me. The button placed a medium bet. I called and everyone else was out. The turn was a King. I checked again and the button fired a big bet. Fortunately, he made it look like the King helped him. I came over the top with an all-in. He called and the table showed his Ace-King. To add further insult to the situation for him, the river was another King. The guy proceeded to fill up the chat box with rants how this whole thing was a set-up, and how he always gets bad beats by rag hands.
Truth is, the fault was entirely his because he made the mistake to not raise his Ace-King pre-flop. It is true, the cards conspired to punish his mistake pretty harshly, but this will happen more often than not if you don’t play Big Slick aggressively enough.
He played his hand correctly after the flop, firing a bet into the rag flop that everyone else had checked, but by then it was too late. By not making an initial raise, he had no guarantee that there wasn’t someone who caught something on the flop. A raise pre-flop would have scared me away, and it would have given him control of the hand. Maybe he wouldn’t have won much, but he at least wouldn’t have lost his stack.
I have no idea why he didn’t make the raise, but he either overvalued his Ace-King, wanting as many people in the hand as possible to build up the pot, or he undervalued it, not trusting it enough to make a raise. Either way, he was wrong and it cost him.
To summarize, here is how you play Big Slick the right way in late position. You've got to:
- 1. Intimidate as many players as you can into folding before the flop.
- 2. Control the board and action by using your position as last to act to react strongly to the actions of others.
- 3. Not just assume you’ve got it in the bag – pay attention to possible draws that could beat you so you know where you stand in the hand.