Thursday, April 26, 2007

How not to play AK

Sometime last fall I finally felt like I got to a point where I could make good laydowns with strong preflop hands like AA and KK. It's not something I like to do, but I got it into my head how quickly these hands can turn to crap.

You'd think a lesser and more obvious hand like AK would be easier to fold. Perhaps it's difficult because AK has to connect with the flop to be worth a damn. Once it hits, it's harder to let go. Here are a couple of examples of how not to play AK.

In this first hand, I believe my mistake was firing a third bullet on the river against this weak-passive opponent. What can I beat that he would call with?

Hero is dealt [Ac, Ks] in BB
SB calls $ 5
Hero raises $ 30
SB calls $ 30
DEALING FLOP [6s, 7h, Kc]
SB checks.
Hero bets $ 55
SB calls $ 55
SB checks.
Hero bets $ 175
SB calls $ 175
SB checks.
Hero is all-In.
SB is all-In.
SB shows [7d, 6d]two pairs, Sevens and Sixes.
Hero shows [Ac, Ks] a pair of Kings.
SB wins $1,200 from the main pot with two pairs, Sevens and Sixes.

This next hand isn't as bad as I originally thought now that I look at it again. I hit top pair Kings on the flop, bet $200, got minraised and pushed all in against a medium-stack for his last $256. His minraise sucked me in, and instead of folding and losing just my $200 flop bet, I lost $456 more. I should have been tipped off that my opponent held a strong hand because of the shortstack's dead money in the side pot. But I had a hard time folding because my opponent had (relatively) few chips left. I felt committed, but really I could have gotten away.

Hero posts the small blind $5.00
Hero is dealt [Ac,Ks]
Villain calls $10.00
Shortstack calls $10.00
Hero raises $60.00 to $70.00
Villain calls $60.00
Shortstack goes all in $96.00
Hero calls $36.00 (I wasn't allowed to reraise)
Villain calls $36.00
Hero bets $200.00
Villain raises $200.00 to $400.00
Hero goes all in $887.00
Villain goes all in $256.00
$431.00 is not called, return back to Hero
Villain shows [3s,3d], Three of a Kind, Threes
Shortstack shows [Qd,As], High Card, Ace
Hero shows [Ac,Ks], Two Pair, Kings and Threes
Villain shows [3s,3d], Four of a Kind, Threes
Shortstack shows [Qd,As], a Pair, Threes
Villain wins side pot($1,309.60) with Four of a Kind, Threes
Villain wins main pot($327.40) with Four of a Kind, Threes

The overall difficulty for me is that AK is a strong hand, but it loses its biggest pots when I get what I wish for and hit top pair on the flop.

I don't think there's an easy answer about how to play AK except to take things slow, read the board texture, consider opponents' hand ranges and keep in mind that AK is one of the most obvious and likely holdings for my opponents to put me on when an A or a K flops.

I'm just going to throw this out there: Maybe it wouldn't be so wrong to occasionally limp preflop with AK for deception purposes, even though most of AK's value is in its preflop strength.


BamBam said...

Well SPG, the A-K dilemma continues to haunt everyone each and evertime they hold it, in my opinion.
I believe the strength in the hand is over-rated even pre-flop courtesy of the never ending V.V.P. "he's holding a monster!" calls out to the world watching the idiot box.
Others will not just lay down pairs and that's a fact of life. To a board that hits one of your cards, there's the real threat that the villian hit the set.
For what it's worth to you or anyone else, I've taught myself to believe that it's a worthless hand UNLESS! I'm really on my game and I can win, or lay it down on my terms and my terms only.
Like any other hand, cards are cards and you can win and lose with any of two of them through either skill or luck.

Craig Cunningham said...

You're more expert to be certain, but AK is definitely a potential win small/lose big hand. And is there any way to lose small with it when you're opponent has set mined? I'm not good enough for sure, but I think you are. It seems you really have to have a read and be on your game at the stakes you play to get away from it.

I would be interested in your exploring more the limping with it scenario.