Some poker players absolutely hate playing Ace King because they’ve been hurt badly by playing it. Others absolutely love Ace King when they win races with it. Both of these groups of poker players are not likely to be playing Ace King in a proper manner. The players who play Ace King best are those who don’t have strong feelings towards the hand, positive or negative. That is the first piece of advice in this discussion. Whatever feelings you have towards Ace King, get rid of them.
To Raise or Not to Raise With Ace King Preflop
When I first look down at my hole cards and find Ace King, I immediately know what I am going to do. As long as there are no extremely large bets before me, I raise. It is important to note the condition I put on my raise. Some people always raise, figuring that in all likelihood they are a coin flip at worst. This logic is too simplistic to be a viable option. If there is heavy raising before the action gets to me, I have a decision to make. I have to decide whether or not I think one of my opponents has a pocket pair. The best way to determine this, of course, is to use your past experiences against them to your advantage. If they are a loose player, reraising a significant, but not overbearing amount, is my most likely course of action. If they are tight, I will strongly consider folding, figuring that I’m on the wrong side of the coin.
How Much Should I Raise With Ace King?
With Ace King preflop, raising the right amount is the most critical task. You have to beware of shortstacks that will be pot committed, because they are very likely to call. If you don’t raise enough, you risk having people call you with marginal hands and getting help on the flop. If you raise too much, the only hands that will call you are strong hands like pocket pairs. If this happens, you are in a race at best, and I personally hate races. I prefer not to risk a lot of chips in races, especially early in tournament situations. This falls under my No Point Rule, where I don’t risk a lot of my chips if there is just no point. The only exceptions to this rule are when I get an awesome read on my opponent.
Always Bet the Same Amount on the Flop if You Raised With Ace King Preflop
Once the flop is shown, there are limitless options for how to play Ace King. If there are no middle pairs on the board, I like to bet on the flop with Ace King even if I hit nothing. This bluff will win me the hand most of the time. The only people likely to call the bet are the people who hit something on the flop, probably top pair, because middle or bottom pair doesn’t look too good if a preflop raiser also bets a good amount on the flop.
What to do if Somebody Else Acts First
However, if others act and bet before me, I play it by ear. Situational awareness is a necessary skill to have here. You need to know what the bet is, who bet it, and what they are likely to be holding. This is important at all times, but situational awareness becomes even more important when you hold overcards to the board, because of all the possibilities holding overcards offers. Once again though, you should not become too enamored with having overcards on the flop, because if your opponent has anything, you are beaten, and your only hope is to catch one of your over cards, and the odds are certainly not in your favor.
Getting Past the Flop With Ace King
After you’ve played through the flop you should know whether you are ahead or behind in the hand. If you were the aggressor and bet the same amount as you did preflop you should be able to determine what to do the rest of the way.
If you did not hit your hand on the flop and got called you should back down and either a) bet the same amount as you did on the flop or b) check through unless you hit your Ace or your King on the turn. If you have some type of intuition of what the other player is holding and think you can get them to fold make a 1/2 pot sized bet; if they don’t fold you are most certainly being slow played and are beat.
If you did hit your hand on the flop and you were the aggressor who bet, you should feel comfortable betting 1/2 of the pot. If you get called on the turn, you now know you are up against a legitimate hand, probably AQ or AJ. You should also be more aware that you may be getting slow played by the other player or that the other player has a pair and a draw. When the river comes be careful if a flush draw completes or a broadway straight completes because your opponent may easily have QJ and complete his straight with an Ace giving you top two pair if a 10 is on the board.
Remember what I have said about playing Ace King. Don’t let your feelings sway you at all, raise an amount that is neither too large nor too small, and be prepared to run away fast if anything scary happens.
That leaves me with my last thought. Keep your eyeballs in your head at all times, and make sure you know everything that is happening. If somebody even sneezes the wrong way, you need to know. Everything that happens at the table is important, whether it is online or offline.