# AK play

• Bronze
Joined: 12.12.2007
i am a little uncertain about how to play AK. From a probabilistic point of view, it's only severe underdog preflop to AA (10%-90%) and KK (35%-65%) and pretty much a coinflip to all pocket pairs QQ and lower while ahead 60%40%to suited connectors. Since you have a pretty even chance of beating QQ does this mean you play AK like QQ?

And what do you do if you don't flop an A or a K (i.e. 2/3s of the time) generally, a cbet gets me through because I currently play AK like how I play a high pocket pair preflop. But if your Cbet gets called/reraised do you have sufficient showdown value to raise on the turn/raise or call a reraise on the flop? Or should you just let the hand go after the cbet?

I realise that most of your play with this hand will be situation and read dependent, but I would appreciate a standard line for reference.

P.S. how would your AK play differ from AQ play : preflop, on a flop where you haven't hit (i.e. no A, Q, flush draws or straight draws), blank turn etc.
• 5 replies
• Bronze
Joined: 05.09.2007
Originally posted by Pygmalion
i am a little uncertain about how to play AK. From a probabilistic point of view, it's only severe underdog preflop to AA (10%-90%) and KK (35%-65%) and pretty much a coinflip to all pocket pairs QQ and lower while ahead 60%40%to suited connectors.
65/35 would be for AKs, unsuited is 70/30.

Since you have a pretty even chance of beating QQ does this mean you play AK like QQ?
No. QQ is a made hand preflop. AK is a drawing hand, this is a key difference. Any pocket pair could be considered a made hand preflop which is why there are a plethora of ways of playing them. QQ-AA are obviously played hard because they are so strong.
Also, i know we say 'coinflip' but don't forget that even 22 has a small edge over AKo. Think 1000 coinflips holding AK. That small disadvantage will soon add up.

And what do you do if you don't flop an A or a K (i.e. 2/3s of the time) generally, a cbet gets me through because I currently play AK like how I play a high pocket pair preflop. But if your Cbet gets called/reraised do you have sufficient showdown value to raise on the turn/raise or call a reraise on the flop? Or should you just let the hand go after the cbet?
Like u said, very circumstancial. Heads up with no reads, cbet first in, fold to a raise. Fold without improvement. But it depends on the flop too. I'm more likely to fold with broadway cards out there but if the flop comes 773 then it's more likely I'm ahead.

P.S. how would your AK play differ from AQ play : preflop, on a flop where you haven't hit (i.e. no A, Q, flush draws or straight draws), blank turn etc.
PF AQ could be folded in early position, AK can't. Post flop I play the same unless there is a K on the flop.

Are we talking cash or torunament here? Cos a lot of cash players might have different views.
• Bronze
Joined: 12.12.2007
"No. QQ is a made hand preflop. AK is a drawing hand, this is a key difference. Any pocket pair could be considered a made hand preflop which is why there are a plethora of ways of playing them. QQ-AA are obviously played hard because they are so strong.
Also, i know we say 'coinflip' but don't forget that even 22 has a small edge over AKo. Think 1000 coinflips holding AK. That small disadvantage will soon add up."

Thanks for the feedback. i have been playing AK like QQ+ i.e. looking to get all-in ASAP. But here what you're saying is AK is a weaker hand than ANY pocket pair (I understand this from a strictly probability point of view, 45% vs 55% underdog to pocket pairs, but I think AK has to rate as stronger than 99 and lower because with mid to lower pocket pairs, your hand is not going to be able to stand much heat on an unhelpful flop). But AK is definitely not as strong as TT+?

So for example preflop, for an unraised pot we will raise standard (like all preflop raises 4BB+1BB for each limper) but if we get reraised we should let AK go rather than looking to move all in like with QQ+? or should we rather just call a 3bet and reevaluate on the flop?
• Bronze
Joined: 12.12.2007
sorry, in answer to your last question, in general so cash and SnG. And why the difference?

• Bronze
Joined: 05.09.2007
Play with pokerstove. There isn't a lot of equity difference between 99 and QQ vs AK. The difference is mainly from 22 to 66 with about a 1% jump each. Then it starts leveling off a bit. But when you factor in flop play like you say it does matter that your pocket pair has a good chance of being an overpair. This is why it differs from cash to tourney, because your much more likely to be all in preflop in a tourney then in a cash game (BSS).

As for your example. I would call a re-raise and evaluate on the flop in a cash game. In an sng it's pretty much push or fold to a re-raise but a call might not be too bad at early blind levels. I mainly play sngs so I'm more interested in getting the chips in preflop.

I think AK becomes much easier to play post flop in a cash game if you have some reads/stats.
• Bronze
Joined: 20.02.2008
Ah yes, AK, the great love-hate hand

The thing that makes many players unsure when playing with AK (and also gave me great difficulty in the beginning) is that AK needs to improve to win - and only has a coinflip against various pocketpairs. Especially in situations where you are confronted with not having flopped an ace or king - many players get nervous.

The great thing about AK though which makes it a much stronger hand than various pocket pairs is that it is a lot more flexible and can be played well against a broad range of hands. Especially in its suited variety it has additional power through straight/nut flush possibilities.

So even while 22-JJ are all coinflips against AK - you can re-raise preflop much more liberally with AK since even in the case of it coming to an all-in situation you know that you have respectable odds against most hands (your only in really bad shape against AA/KK). With various pocketpairs on the other side you always need to be aware of the possiblity of possibly drawing on 2 outs against an even bigger pocket pair. This is why as you go up in limits AK becomes more and more of an "I can go all-in preflop" hand. (If you are playing against loose opponents the additional benefit is that you will often have AJ/AQ completely crushed.)

Additional benefit of playing AK is that it is pretty easy to get away from in case you missed the flop and are faced with heavy opposition.

So to sum it up - AK is a good hand to re-raise with pre-flop and is in terms of flexibility much stronger than 22-JJ. For me it comes directly but only marginally behind QQ.

As to how I play it when I missed the flop - it depends on how many people are in the hand and what position I am sitting in.

If I am IP and against 1 Opponent i will pretty much always contibet
IP against more than 1 Opponent that all check to me I will contibet depending on the board and what kind of players they are
OOP against 1 Opponent I contibet anyways
OOP against multiple opponents I can see myself checking if I completely missed the flop.

Regards,
SoyCD