Being able to play your big hands correctly will greatly increase your overall win rate. It's these big hands such as Aces, Kings and AK that tend to get more money in the pot. Putting yourself on the right side of these big pots will net some big earnings. On the flip side, limiting your losses when you happen to be on the wrong side will also greatly increase your win rate. If you're losing less when you're beat with these big hands, it will obviously mean a lighter hit to your bankroll.
Of all the big hands we get, AK seems to be one that is misplayed the most. It does happen to be an extremely strong hand, but you must realize that it is only Ace high pre flop. There are a few ways to play AK depending on what the situation is. A lot of times it is correct to try and get the money in pre flop, especially at lower limits where players will call with lesser hands at a greater frequency. However, if you wish to improve your overall game it is in your best interest to start playing it differently. Not only does mixing up your play help you win more, it will throw your opponents off.
The majority of the time when dealt AK, it becomes a 3 betting hand if someone raises before you. In a lot of cases it is perfectly fine to 3 bet AK, and this should be your standard play until you start to develop a deeper understanding of the game and have more advanced post flop skills.
The main issue when 3 betting AK is the hands you will be up against. Even against pocket Twos you will be a slight underdog. As I stated earlier it only has Ace high value pre flop and needs to connect on the flop, turn, and river to have any real significant value. When you do 3 bet and then get 4 bet it's obviously an all in hand most of the time. In these situations you will either be a slight dog against a range that includes mostly big pairs and possibly hands like AQ. It's easy to see that against this range you are usually behind and facing a coin flip situation.
If you simply flat call pre flop, instead of 3 betting, you will give yourself a better opportunity to outplay your opponents and allow them to make more mistakes. Let's say our opponent has a hand like KQ suited. We flat their raise and see a flop. The flop comes down K T 2. In this spot we are likely to get a decent part of our opponent’s stack and take down a nice pot. If we were to 3 bet, it's not likely they would call, especially if they had KQ off suit and we win very little money. This example can be used for many hands that would not call 3 bets but can be dominated post flop to win more money.
It's important to understand the advantages of each way to play any particular hand. As with any part of poker, each situation will require a different approach due to ever changing circumstances. If you only have one way to play a hand, you will be stuck letting the cards decide your fate more often and missing out on the extra money to be earned by allowing your skill to take over. This advice is not just for AK, it can be applied to any hand played.