We get a lot of questions about having AK as your hand. This is possibly one of the trickiest hands to play and it's also the most overrated. While it looks pretty and gets a lot of hype, it is still only Ace high before the flop. I see it time and time again that players will ship it in pre flop and be up against a hand that beats them. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I have a hard time playing it as well, and there is really no perfect way to play it. However, the best way to play AK is to know whom you are up against.
Most players will have a set way they play certain hands. With AK they always 3 bet and look to get the money in. While this may be ok if you play low stakes and against players who don't know any better, in the long run this could be a big mistake.
Scenario 1: AK on the button
Let's say you have AK pre flop on the button, and the bet comes from a player in early position. Theoretically a player opens a smaller range from early position and should have a stronger hand than normal. Many players will be tempted to 3 bet here, but it's often times best to see a flop and look to take advantage of your position. You should only 3 bet if you know the player is keen to get it in light or there other players who have called before. Ace King does not play well against many players and you should look to limit the field.
Scenario 2: AK early position
Being out of position with AK, you should look to 3 bet and take control of the hand. If you are in the blinds and are facing a raise from the button, you may look to flat the raise and look to see a flop. The reason for doing this is because a button raise can happen with such a wide range. Often times, the button’s raise will be with complete junk and you want to keep these junk hands in. Unless the player is very aggressive and likes to 4 bet bluff or 4 bet light, you should often try your best to see a flop from this position.
I think you can see a trend here. You always want to be paying attention to how your opponents play. You never want to get in a robotic state of mind where you play specific hands the same way regardless of who you are up against, or what position you are playing. Where you’re sitting and who your opponents are can – and should – affect your playing strategy.
Poker has gotten much more competitive lately, especially since the advent of online poker. As Johnny Chan mentioned last week on the televised WSOP on ESPN, online poker has allowed thousands of young people and new players to rapidly and extensively improve their skills, playing thousands of hands online to hundreds for those playing only at the tables. This means even the fish have a solid idea of how to play pre flop. You still want to be aggressive against these bad players as they will call a much wider range, but for the most part playing AK should be more of a ballet than a rock concert.
Check out How to Play Big Slick from Late Position.