Skilled players know that an increased knowledge of when to fold in poker leads to better results. The ace-king is a hand that most people think they have already figured out — but it’s easier to glance over some of its nuances.
Ace-king, sometimes called “Big Slick,” is a powerful hand by any measure, but it’s not without its problems. Whether you play poker online or in a brick-and-mortar casino, these tips will help you to gain an edge.
Should You Fold Ace-King Preflop?
A question that may already have occurred to you is why, if the ace-king is so powerful, should it be folded before the flop? As is often the case with poker strategy discussions, the answer is, “It depends.”
There are multiple factors that you need to consider. How much action has there been ahead of you? What are the respective playing styles of your opponents? And, of course, what are the relative stack sizes? You’ll learn more about each of these points soon, but it’s important to know ace-king on its own merits before delving further.
Ace-King as a Starting Hand
The ace and the king are the two highest cards in a standard deck. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you to see that most strategic preflop poker charts consider ace-king one of the best possible starting hands.
Of course, if the ace and king are suited, the hand is even stronger due to its flush potential. The odds of ace-king suited beating a random hold’em hand starts at about -203. That’s just slightly less than pocket 10s. Ace-king offsuit is still pretty strong in its own right, though, with -186 odds of beating any two cards.
As such, you should rarely fold ace-king preflop. But “rarely” doesn’t mean “never.” By recognizing those unusual instances, you’re going to improve your poker preflop strategy and, subsequently, your results.
You can begin to spot such situations by focusing on a few specific things during your games.
Action on the Table
First of all, it’s vital to consider what’s happening on the table before making a decision — both in this specific hand, as well as in general. If there was a 4-bet ahead of you, for instance, that should set alarm bells ringing. It’s absolutely one of the aforementioned rare cases where you should fold ace-king preflop.
Think about it. There are several players raising before you. Even if one of them is on a stone-cold bluff, what is the other holding to want to behave so aggressively? This would strongly suggest that your hand isn’t the best. On top of that, ace-king doesn’t have amazing equity against tight ranges.
However, in most other scenarios, you should raise or occasionally call. How to decide between the two? If you’re first to open preflop, definitely look to raise. If there’s a 3-bet, then either option seems reasonable, depending on the circumstances, such as the tendencies of your opponent. This requires closer inspection of their play style.
Opponents’ Play Style
An important thing to consider, whether playing poker games online or in person, is the style of your opponent. If they’re 3-betting or even 4-betting with a wide range of hands, they don’t necessarily have a better hand than your ace-king. In that scenario, you shouldn’t be folding preflop. You can call, or even raise, with a very wide range that certainly includes ace-king.
On the other hand, what should you do if your opponent is playing tight? For instance, only 3- and 4-betting with premium hands like queen-queen, or better? In that case, it’s a good idea to simply ditch ace-king preflop. You can perhaps justify calling a 3-bet if you’re planning to bomb a flop with low-value cards or with flush and straight possibilities. But the chances are you’re behind.
Ace-King Preflop Odds
Looking into poker odds preflop with ace-king is not so rosy when up against the best hands. Interestingly, ace-king actually isn’t a favorite against any pocket preflop pair. Even 2-2 has a slight edge over Big Slick,with odds of roughly +101–102. The odds of getting a split pot stand at +15,285.
So if you’re up against an opponent who doesn’t risk much but is now playing aggressively, the chances are you’re behind. However, unless it’s ace-ace or king-king, you’re essentially flipping a coin. Ace-king suited versus queen-queen comes from behind around 45% of the time.
As a general rule, the smaller your stack size, the wider your range should be. This is especially true in online poker tournaments. Suppose you won’t be able to cover your next ten big blinds. In that case, you definitely can’t really afford to fold a powerful hand like ace-king preflop.
If you’re making such plays, then you’re almost certainly folding too often. You’re going to run out of chips before you get a hand you’ll be happy with. Don’t just play not to lose, but instead, try to maximize your chances of winning. That includes always playing ace-king when your stack is small.
What about the reverse scenario, where your opponent is short-stacked, and you’re doing well? Under those circumstances, you might consider folding ace-king since you have chips to play with. But generally, as a chip leader, you should be pressuring the smaller stacks.
What About Postflop?
So what happens postflop? If you hit, then you’re in great shape. You should always c-bet when you flop top pair top kicker to extract maximum value — better still, if you make two pair or trips.
If you miss the flop with ace-king, you’re not necessarily in trouble. It is ultimately just a drawing hand, so it can certainly cause problems. But check-calling isn’t a bad idea, and if the board is connected, you should probably look to bail in the face of aggression.
It’s Still an Amazing Hand
With all this talk about when to fold, you should keep in mind that ace-king is still one of the best hands. It can be easy to overthink and fold more than you should.
Sure, it’s not the easiest hand to navigate. But that alone shouldn’t be a reason for folding. Instead, pay attention to the scenarios highlighted in this article. Only fold when the odds are actually stacked against you.
Put the Theory To Work
Now you know the basics of folding ace-king preflop. Of course, it’s one thing to have theoretical knowledge but another entirely to apply it when there’s real money on the line. Sadly, there are no easy shortcuts. Only practice makes perfect.
Register at BetMGM and improve your preflop folding game. You’ll find many other popular poker variants aside from Texas Hold’em, too. And if you ever feel like a break from poker, check out the roulette and blackjack tables or the hundreds of video slots.