Once the cards are dealt, you take a peek and see ace-king looking back at you. You know that you’re going to play this pot, but did you know that many players don’t know how to properly play big slick pre-flop?
Ace-king is certainly a strong hand, but it takes a bit of finesse to extract the most value from it. This is mostly because our hand will only hit the flop about 1/3 of the time. We want to get the most out of our made hands, but we also need a plan for what to do when we miss.
While we want to solid post-flop plan, everything starts with pre-flop play. Any mistakes that we make here will bleed over into post-flop. So, let’s start by evaluating how to start playing with ace-king.
Our position in the hand is crucial to how we play ace-king. If we’re in position in the button, cut-off, or high-jack, for instance, then we often want to 3-bet ace-king.
Not only does this grow the pot for our strong hand, but it also serves other purposes as well. It makes it less likely that anyone calls behind us, giving us a better chance at being in position post-flop.
When someone does call our 3-bet, we often have the best hand as well as a strong range. This gives us more options post-flop and gives us initiative in the hand.
Out of Position
When out of position, such as in the big blind, we often don’t want to 3-bet with ace-king. This is for a few reasons.
First, 3-betting makes our range much stronger than if we just called. This means that when our hand misses the flop, such as on a low but wet board, we can’t represent a flush, straight, or small set—those combos simply aren’t in our range. If we just called,
however, then we can bluff more effectively since a big blind defense range is so wide.
Moreover, 3-bet pots can be much harder to navigate after the flop when we’re out of position, especially if multiple players call. Our hand will miss more often than not, and we’re likely to be up against some pretty strong hands. This can lead to us losing a bunch of chips if we aren’t careful.
Of course, none of these rules are hard and fast. Just like with everything else in poker, our decisions depend on a lot of factors. Position will give us a default for playing ace-king, but we also need to think about everything from psychological profiles to stack-sizes in order to make optimal decisions.