Poker, on the surface, is a simple game. There are no complicated rules, so a beginner can learn how to play poker in minutes. One of the most common misconceptions about poker is that it does not take skill. This belief comes from a flawed understanding of how luck works in poker. Outsiders think that poker is gambling; it is all about getting lucky with a strong hand. That could not be further from the truth. While poker is easy to learn and contains elements of luck, it is so skill-based that many argue it is a sport.
There are lots of reasons poker needs more skill than luck. For one, luck is short-term. Over the long run, your luck will eventually even out since you get both good and bad hands. Your poker strategy is the only constant in your games. Another reason is that you play against real poker players who cannot see your cards. Your opponents never know with 100% certainty what cards you have, which leads to bluffing, a technique that has become synonymous with poker itself. The final reason is that sometimes, your hand may not even be the reason for your win or lose. You can bluff with a bad hand, and a good hand can be ineffective if you do not know how to use it properly. This poker guide will cover the strongest draw hand in poker: Ace-King.
The best starting poker hands have high-ranked cards and either pocket pairs (two hole cards of the same rank) or suited connectors (consecutive cards of the same suit). The top five starting hands are generally agreed to be: Two aces, two kings, two queens, two jacks, and finally, ace and king of the same suit. Ace-Kings, also known as “big slick,” is one of the absolute best hands in poker for multiple reasons. You have the two strongest individual cards, ace and king. Ace and king are consecutive, giving you a potential straight. If they are suited, you also have a possible flush. Both these combos are guaranteed to be the strongest since you have an ace. Ace-King is excellent but also tricky to play. While their draw potential is strong, there are many games where they will fail to connect, and you will not have the luxury of pocket pairs.
Pre-flop play: Be Aggressive
While Ace-King is a drawing hand, it is still a strong hand pre-flop. The chances of just an ace or king hitting the flop are about 29%. That means you have about a 30% chance of beating out most pocket pairs, even if you did not start with your pair. That, combined with the strong draw and high card, make Ace-King a hand you should be playing aggressively pre-flop. Open raise if the action is folded to you, 3-bet constantly, and 4-bet most of the time unless the bet comes from an early position. Ace-King is fantastic for value since you want a large pot to support your potential draws. Getting people to fold is also preferred since you will want to avoid playing Ace-King in multiway pots.
Some players like to call and slow play Ace-King for two main reasons. The first is that they believe slow play will help build a larger pot. Without raises, slow play can result in smaller pots. The other reason is that they simply are not confident in Ace-King. This could come from bad beats and past experiences where Ace-King misses the flop. It is crucial to stop your personal biases from clouding your judgment. Ace-King is objectively a strong hand with good draws, so remember to play it aggressively.
Post-flop play: You hit the flop
You are in a great position when you hit the flop and secure a pair. You will always want to make a continuation bet for value since you will likely claim a substantial pot. In pots where you 3-bet pre-flop, you will want to make smaller continuation bets than usual. The pot is already significant because of the 3-bet, so you do not need to bet big. Large bets also simplify the opponents’ decisions, whereas smaller bets force them to carefully consider which hands they will play and which they will fold. When you miss top pair but secure a draw, it is still an excellent idea to make a continuation bet because if you land your draw, you will want a big pot to go along with it. In multiway pots, you will have to play safer since it is likely that a top pair might not be enough to win, depending on the board state.
Post-flop play: You missed the flop
Missing the flop with Ace-King is disappointing. However, depending on the board, you can still salvage it. For dry boards like queen, three, and seven, you can still try to make a continuation bet. That works well as a semi-bluff because your opponents are unlikely to have connected with the board, making them more likely to fold. You also have six outs in the form of other aces or kings, making it still possible to get a strong hand like a top pair. You should fold as soon as possible on wet boards that you missed like six, seven, and nine with 2 clubs. Ace-King’s biggest strength is its draw potential; on boards like that, your opponents have lots of draw potential while you have none. Never get attached to strong pre-flop hands if they miss, as that is a significant cause of tilt that will stop you from playing your best.
Playing Ace-King online
We hope this article taught you how to play difficult poker hands like Ace-King. The best way to practice playing Ace-King is online on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker allows you to play more hands through multi-tabling. It is also more accessible and lets you use poker tracking software which is invaluable for improving your game.