Should You Go All In With AK? How the Pros Play AK

Should You Go All In With AK?

People ask me all the time if they should go all in with AK. And believe me, I get it, Ace King is a tricky hand to play.

The answer to this question is unfortunately going to be "sometimes." Sometimes you should go all in with AK either preflop or postflop. But you need to know when you are beat and ditch this hand as well.

In this article I am going to show you exactly when you should go all in with AK and when to throw it in the muck.


1. You Should Go All In With AK Preflop in These Situations


Ok, so the first situation where you should go all in preflop with AK is when you are playing 6-max and you are up against a loose and aggressive player.

You know the type, they play a lot of hands. They are constantly raising and re-raising.

These guys typically have a very wide range and so if the stacks are 100 big blinds or less, then I will sometimes go all in with AK.


For Example:

A loose and aggressive player raises from the button

You re-raise (3bet) with AK from the big blind

The loose and aggressive player re-raises (4bet)

You should go all in with your AK


This is a spot where all of the action is in late position and the blinds which means the ranges are typically going to be wider.

This is because these are prime seats to steal the blinds so nearly all player types (whether they realize it or not), tend to play more hands from these positions.

Also, we are up against a loose and aggressive (LAG) player in this hand. These is the poker player type who likes to raise and re-raise a lot.

So in a situation like this I am just going to shove all my chips in the middle with AK and force him to have a better hand.

The last point to consider here is that AK has good card removal and good equity versus almost any hand. What I mean by this is that our hand blocks the two hands that we don't want to see:
  • AA
  • KK

And if he shows up with any other hand, such as a pocket pair:
  • QQ
  • JJ
  • TT
  • 99

Then we will be close to a coinflip. And sometimes they might even show up with a hand that we dominate and have large equity against such as:
  • AQ
  • AJ

Now I should say that things do change a lot here if we are playing against a tighter poker player. As I have mentioned before like in my big guide to crushing tight players, we have to respect their raises a lot more.

The format also matters a lot.

I won't be anywhere near as willing to go all in preflop with AK in a full ring (9 person game). This is because the chances that somebody has a good hand in a 9 person game is quite a bit higher than in a 6 person poker game.

Lastly, if the starting stacks are significantly higher than 100 big blinds then I will also be more hesitant about going all in preflop with ace king.

Keep these tips in mind and you will be playing your AK like a boss in no time!



2. When Should You Call an All In With AK?


How about calling an all in with AK though? How does this change things?

Well, to be honest, it does change things quite a bit. If you have played any tournament poker before then you will know that it takes a stronger hand to call an all in than to shove all in yourself.

This is something that I discuss in more detail in my big tournament poker strategy article.

And this is because it is typically assumed that the person that is shoving all in has a strong hand. And after all, you only have one decision, call or fold. You can't re-bluff them once they are already all in!

Now I will say once again that this is going to depend heavily on the player type that we are up against though.

Against loose and aggressive players, I will be much more likely to call an all in with AK than versus a tight and disciplined player.

You also want to make sure that if you are calling an all in with AK that there is nobody behind you still left to act.

This is a huge, huge mistake that some people make.

If you are ever going to call an all-in with a hand like ace king then you need to be "closing the action" as we say.

And basically this just means that you are the last person to act. You don't want to have some other players left to act behind you that could wake up with AA or KK.

Remember that both of these hands are way ahead of AK statistically.


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3. Should You Go All In With AK If You Hit the Flop?


Let's talk about after the flop now. Should you go all in with AK if you hit your ace or king on the flop? How about on the turn or river?

Well, sorry to sound like a broken record, but this is again going to depend very heavily on the type of player we are up against.

Against a loose and aggressive player who is capable of making lots of bluffs I will be much more likely to go all-in with AK than versus a tight disciplined player.

Also, the board texture plays a big role as well.


For Example:

Consider these two different flops.

AQT
A72


Which board would you be more willing to go all in with AK on? Well, I hope you said the 2nd one because that is the correct answer.

On the first flop there are tons of different possible made hands that beat us such as:
  • AQ
  • AT
  • KJ
  • QQ
  • TT

On the second board though, there are a lot fewer combos of made hands that beat us. There are no possible straights for example.

Two pair hands are also less likely on this board. A lot of people will fold A7 or A2 preflop for instance.

Also, another crucial difference is that the 2nd flop has a possible flush draw while the 1st one does not. This means that our opponent can be overplaying a draw as well.

The bottom line is that you need to be very careful about going all in with AK on the flop, turn or river. Most of the time in a single raised pot (which means there was just a raise and a call preflop), you should not be willing to go all in.

It is better to just call instead with your AK, control the size of the pot, and try to get to a relatively cheap showdown.

Always be aware of the player type though and the board texture. These factors should also play a big role in your decision making.

I discuss when to go all-in with AK in much more detail in my best selling poker book Crushing the Microstakes.


4. Do The Pros Go All-In With Ace King?


How about the pros though? How do they play their Ace King?

Well, as a 10+ year poker pro myself, I can tell you that I actually rarely go all in with AK. And this is because I would rather keep the pot size smaller and exercise my postflop skill advantage.

This is something that Daniel Negreanu discusses in his new poker training course.

Daniel for example has long advocated a style of play that he calls "small ball." And basically this means controlling the size of the pot early on in the hand so you can outplay them later.

I tend to agree with this strategy and use it a lot myself especially in small stakes games where I know that I have a large skill advantage on the flop, turn and river.

So in many cases I will choose to just call a re-raise before the flop and see a flop instead of putting in the re-raise (4bet) and essentially just playing a game of chicken with them.

This is because I know I have a large edge after the flop. I feel confident that I can win more pots than most of my opponents after the flop whether I hit my ace or king or not.

This is how most professional poker players play their AK especially when they are playing against weaker amateur poker players.

They would rather control the size of the pot than just blindly go all-in with ace king and hope that their opponent doesn't wake up with a really strong hand.


5. Should You Go All In With AK in a Tournament?


Let me lastly touch on poker tournaments in particular. Because I know that a lot of you guys (and girls) reading this play tournaments.

Should you go all in with AK in a tournament? The answer yes, most of the time.

You see, here's there thing with poker tournaments.

Once you get to the middle or late stages of a tournament the blinds start to eat up more and more of your stack. Most people will have a stack size of:
  • 50 big blinds
  • 30 big blinds
  • 10 big blinds 
Or even less!

This forces the action because if you don't get involved, then you are simply going to get blinded out of the tournament.

Also, despite what some people think, it is much better to play tournaments aggressively and build a big stack so that you have a good chance to win if you make the final table.

You need to remember that literally all of the real money in poker tournaments is in the top 3 places. This is why you don't want to sit there on a short stack waiting for pocket AA all day.

So, any time I am dealt AK in the middle to late stages of a poker tournament, I am going to be playing it extremely aggressively. And usually this means I will go all in.

It is important to remember that sometimes you will lose when you go all in with AK in a tournament. A lot of times they will have a pocket pair like 99, TT or JJ for example.

It doesn't mean that the poker site is rigged against you. It just means that you lost a 50/50 flip.

You need to get very lucky to win a poker tournament. But if you don't play hands like AK aggressively, then you will never have a chance.


Final Thoughts


So, should you go all in with AK?

Well, it depends heavily on a lot of different factors such as the player type you are up against, how the action went preflop, the board texture postflop and so on.

You also need to be aware of the stack sizes and the game type you are playing though as well (6max or 9max). Also, it is a much different thing to go all in with AK, than to call an all in with AK.

Remember that AK is a very strong hand though. Some people still think it is just a "drawing hand."

Ace King is actually one of the strongest hands in poker and sometimes you absolutely should be willing to go all in with it. But you also need to know when to back off and apply the brakes as well.

Let me know in the comments below how you play your AK. When do you go all in with AK?

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Lastly, if you want to know the poker strategy that I personally use as a poker pro to make $1000+ per month in low stakes games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Should You Go All In With AK?

10 comments:

  1. After reading modern poker theory, I'm always 4 betting AK and stacking off. Can't risk calling a flop and missing. Unless villains 4bet is super small.
    Long term approach though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely not a bad approach to always play AK strong. When you get to mid or high stakes this is 100% the correct play because players are much better and ranges are wider.

      Delete
  2. Hello, how do you solve situation where you 3bet tag opponent from in-position (ex. Btn vs Co) And He 4bets you back in 100bb stacks? Is that ok spot fór 4bet fold call? How to continue on aggression? Or Is IT better to flat call first raise?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This spot is really player dependent. A good HUD can also really help here. For example, I will just refer to the 4Bet ratio stat in PokerTracker here to help me make my decision to shove all in, call or even fold. More on the HUD I use:

      https://www.blackrain79.com/2019/05/best-poker-hud.html

      Delete
  3. Went all in with AK good few times with different luck. Most of the times I did it in the tournament . Cash games as you know are different kettle of fish and I play lot more tighter in those. Last time I went all in was very frustrating as i flopped top two pairs and still lost the hand to a miracle broadway...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Pawel,

      It sounds like you are playing your AK right, just bad short term luck. Try to remember not to worry about the results of individual hands, because they don't matter in poker.

      Delete
  4. i played couple of 1cent winner take all SNG today, and 2 or 3 guys at the table know what they are doing

    yeah thats one cent buyin.

    cash table are same at 1-2cents. poker in end of 2019

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Cristian,

      I agree, it's still not hard to find pretty easy poker tables at the lower stakes these days.

      Delete
  5. Hi BlackRain79,

    I'm considering coming back to poker and want to invest a lot of time in it but I'm kinda outdated and not really sure what to pick up, I'm considering in purchasing your books and courses and just wanna know if they are up to date for 2019? what do you recommend starting with? Also I live in a country that would be easy to make a living off of it (cheap lifestyle, rent etc)Hope you can reply, Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey LF,

      My poker books are all digital so I regularly update them with changes in the way the games play. But since my books focus on the lower stakes only, this isn't even really all that necessary. This is because the strategies to beat the mostly bad players at these limits are basically evergreen. Or in other words, they do not change very much.

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