Big Slick. Anna Kournikova. King Arthur. However you refer to it, Ace King is undoubtedly one of the strongest starting hands in No-Limit Hold’em. And yet, many players hate it. Some feel as though it’s the kind of hand that looks great but always gets them into trouble.

That’s because they’re playing it wrong. Don’t be like those people. Read this guide and learn how to handle Ace King profitably and effectively.

A player checks his hole cards, revealing the Ace and King of Hearts. In the background, we see an action flop of Ad-Kd-8d.
Ace King is one of the strongest starting hands in No-Limit Hold’em.

Playing Ace King Before The Flop

Big Slick is essentially the ultimate drawing hand, particularly if it’s suited. When holding A-K, you’re going to see either another Ace or King hit the flop almost 30% of the time. So even if you’re up against a pocket pair preflop, you’re in with a big chance. And of course, if your opponent does not have a pair, you’re comfortably in the lead.

So A-K is just the kind of hand you can get aggressive with before the flop. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing short or full handed, deep stacks or turbos, or cash games or tournaments. In general, preflop aggression is the right approach.

Why Aggression Matters with A-K

There are a few reasons why you must be forceful when holding Big Slick. First, you’re trying to thin out the pot in order to protect your hand’s equity. Ideally, you’d like to get heads up. Then, of course, you’re hoping to define the range of your opponents to understand where you are in the hand.

But the real reason is about putting money into the pot. Getting tricky and limping with A-K is only going to cost you money whenever you win the pot. It achieves nothing positive and can only lead to trouble if you let your opponent overtake you.

You should only consider a preflop fold with Ace King if you have some extraordinary tell that reveals they have A-A or K-K. And only then when facing extreme aggression, such as a 4-bet. Never, in other words.

Common Preflop Scenarios

  • If the pot is unopened, raise with Ace King 100% of the time. Limping is a terrible idea that will cost you money in the long term. Stop doing that!
  • If there is a single raise, re-raise. You should also do this every single time without exception. Keeping the stakes smaller will draw value-seeking players in behind you, which will reduce your hand’s equity. And when you win, you’ll win fewer chips than you should do.
  • When facing a 3-bet, raise most of the time. The only exception to this would be if you made the initial raise and the 3-bet is coming from the blinds. These bets are likely to be of a bigger size, since they are out of position, plus they have a stronger range. So, calling is acceptable here.
  • When facing a 4-bet, continue. But what you do next depends on your opponent. If you feel they have a tighter 4-bet range, you can justify calling. You would be hoping to make your pair (or better) on the flop in that case. But if they are playing a balanced range, it makes more sense to shove.

Postflop Play With Ace King

While we can be extremely confident that A-K is the best hand before the flop, things usually become less clear-cut postflop. Let’s run a few more common scenarios.

When You Hit The Flop

If you made the top pair or better, great! Continue your aggressive line 100% of the time, regardless of the preflop action. Make a continuation bet and look to squeeze out as much value as you can.

If the pot was a 3-bet preflop, you should consider a smaller c-bet size. Your opponent should understand that a flop containing an Ace or King has connected with your 3-bet range, so try to price them in.

When You Miss The Flop Heads Up

How to proceed in this situation depends on the board’s texture and your own position. If you’re in position and it’s something of a dry flop, you can c-bet safely. There’s little threat of a draw and you have six outs to make the top pair. It’s a strong semi-bluffing spot.

Check-calling can be okay too, if you’re out of position when missing the flop with A-K. If your opponent checks back, you’re getting a free look at the turn with those six out to call upon.

If the flop is extremely scary, you’re going to have to give up. Even if the preflop action was heavy and you were the aggressor. What are you going to do with A-K (Clubs) on a flop of 9-8-7(Hearts), for instance? There are red flags everywhere and you have Ace high with no draw.

Against Multiple Opponents

You should always be looking to get heads up, but if it hasn’t worked out that way, slow down. There is little point in firing big bets into multiple players if you miss the flop. Someone is pretty much guaranteed to have connected.

If you did connect with the board, then aggression remains the correct strategy. Just try to control the pot size, since it’s already bloated. Remember that your hand’s equity decreases with each additional player. So be ready to slow down if you find your c-bet called.

It’s important to always practice and practice whenever you learn something new, not to mention rereading our previous articles such as “How to Play King-Queen Suited” and “How to Play Pocket Kings the Right Way in Cash Games“.

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