This is Why You Should Just Call With Ace King

This is Why You Should Just Call With Ace King
People often ask me if they should just flat call with Ace King, re-raise or even go all-in. And I usually reply that it depends on the situation.

Now I know that everybody hates that answer in poker but unfortunately with Ace King in particular, this is often the case.

The correct play to make with big slick usually depends on several factors such as:
  • Stack sizes
  • Full ring or 6max
  • Player types
  • Who raised from what position at the table
And so on.

So this is why it is important that you understand how to play Ace King optimally in all situations. Sometimes the best play will be to just call, other times it will be to re-raise or even go all-in.

How to Play Ace King Versus an Early Position Raise

However, let's narrow it down and discuss one key situation in this article. And that is when you have Ace King and you are facing an early position (Under the Gun) raise.

Now, as you may know, this is a very strong move in either a 6max poker game or full ring (9 people).

When somebody raises under the gun, which is the seat directly to the left of the big blind, this often means exactly one thing: Big hand.

I have found that even recreational poker players who do not understand the concept of positions at the poker table, will still instinctively play tighter in the early position seats.

Let's look at a specific hand to help illustrate this better:

You Should Flat Call With Ace King Versus an Under The Gun Raise

In this hand which was played at a full ring table online with 1c/2c blinds, we have Ace King on the cutoff and there was a raise from under the gun and a call in middle position.

So in this spot we have several options:
  • Flat call
  • Re-raise
  • Fold
Now I think you know already that folding is never going to be an option here when we have a hand as strong as Ace King. So let's just throw that option right out the window.

So we are left now with two options here: flat call or re-raise (also called a 3bet). Flat calling is definitely the superior option here.

I remember how surprising this was to me when I first discovered it in PokerTracker many years ago.

I found that my winnings were more than double what they were when flatting compared to re-raising with Ace King versus an early position open!

There are a number of reasons for this:

First off, we have position in the hand. There is a very good chance that we will get to act last on each street postflop and therefore this will be a very easy hand for us to play.

There is no guessing game when you have position. We will get to see what they do first and then make our decision on the flop, turn and river.

Secondly, in this hand we are up against two unknown opponents. In other words, we don't know anything about their tendencies, they're ranges in this situation and so on.

Versus players like this when I have no information, I also prefer to keep the pot smaller by just flat calling preflop.

And lastly, we have to remember that this is NL2 (1c/2c blinds). This means that we will have a large postflop advantage.

By the way, you can read my complete guide to crushing 1c/2c poker games online right here.

In NL2 we can choose to play a big pot when we hit the flop hard with our Ace King. And conversely, we can choose to simply fold and get out of the way when we completely whiff the flop.

And since this is NL2 we can expect them to make some big mistakes such as over-playing a top pair hand badly, chasing weak draws and so on.

So for all of these reasons, I much prefer to just flat call with Ace King in this situation.

Should You Go All In With Ace King Preflop?

But of course the hero in this hand did not choose to just flat call preflop. He decided instead to re-raise, which is actually a "squeeze" since there are two other players in the hand, not just one.

So what should you do when you 3-bet squeeze preflop with Ace King and then somebody else goes all in? Should you call or fold?

Well, I am going to say that in a full ring poker game at the lower stakes I would prefer to just fold in this situation.

I know that might sound a bit nitty but I just don't think we really have enough to gain by getting all of our chips in this middle here.

You have to remember that when we 3bet preflop we have only committed a very small portion of our stack. In this particular hand we have only committed 14% of chips so far.

And also, even though the players in this hand are both unknowns, people don't normally just go all in with hands that we crush with Ace King.

What Hands Do We Crush Preflop With Ace King?

  • Ace Queen
  • Ace Jack
  • King Queen
Most people are going to just call our re-raise preflop with these hands instead of going all in.

So what does that leave us with? Yup, you guessed it! Monster hands that crush us and hands that we in a coinflip against.

For example:
  • Pocket Aces
  • Pocket Kings
  • Pocket Queens
  • Pocket Jacks
  • Ace King
We actually lose money against this range by going all in preflop because in the best case scenarios we are a coinflip, 50/50. And in the worst case scenarios, we are crushed (30% or less equity).

By the way, I know Ace King can be a really difficult hand to play sometimes. This is why I have already written the complete guide to playing Ace King optimally at the lower stakes.

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Going All In With Ace King is High Variance

The final reason why I dislike going all in with Ace King preflop is because it is extremely high variance. By this I mean that we are going to lose almost as often as we win.

This means that we are going to be constantly up and down in terms of our results which takes a toll on us in many ways.

Not the least of which is psychologically. I think it is extremely important to try and lower your variance in poker if you have any sort of issues with tilt control at all.

"Variance" by the way is the technical term that we use in poker for the routine ups and downs that happen in the game.

Here are my top 6 tips for improving your tilt control by the way, and handling variance better.

There is just no reason to put yourself through this never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs by going all in with Ace King preflop frequently.

When you just call preflop here with Ace King you allow your results to be much smoother. You only get all the money in when you hit a really strong hand (top pair at least).

And you just throw your hand away when you hit nothing. Easy game right?

This is extremely important especially if you are a newer poker player to make things as smooth as possible for yourself at the poker tables.

So many poker players end up completely ruining their results by going on tilt when they lose a bunch of coinflips in a row like this.

Or, this can just be the "straw that broke the camel's back" to set them on tilt after a bunch of bad beats. It is just not worth putting yourself through this!

I always suggest playing as low variance of a game as possible especially at the micro stakes. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by just flat calling with Ace King in a spot like this.

Avoid the high variance re-raise ego war. Believe me, you won't win this game. Just flat call, especially when you are in position like this, and the game will be so much easier for you.

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When Should You Go All In With Ace King?

Alright, so when should you actually go all in with Ace King then in a low stakes poker game in particular? Well, there are a number of scenarios where it makes sense:
  • Effective stack size is 50bb or less
  • Recreational players involved
  • Short handed game (3 people or less)
  • Short stacked in a tournament
In these 4 situations in particular it does often make sense to simply go all-in preflop with AK.

Versus short stacks where the effective stack size might be 50 big blinds or less, it is often perfectly fine to just go all in preflop with Ace King.

This is Why You Should Just Call With Ace King

And this is because you can only lose a small amount and many short stacks will be willing to get all the money in with a wider range as well (i.e. with hands that you crush like AQ, AJ and so on).

Secondly, any time there are recreational players involved in the hand, it is fine to get a hand like Ace King all in before the flop.

And this is because these kind of players will often make a big mistake especially if they are on tilt and go all in with much weaker hands like:
  • AQ
  • AJ
  • AT
  • KQ
And so on.

Here is my complete guide by the way on how to spot the recreational players at the poker table.

Thirdly, when you are playing super short-handed, for example heads up, 3 players or 4 players, it can often be ok to go all in with Ace King as well.

And this is because it is just so much less likely that somebody can have a really strong hand. Also, people are often more willing to gamble it up in short handed games like this.

Lastly, it is definitely fine to go all in preflop with Ace King when you are short stacked in a poker tournament (20 big blinds or less). In fact, this is pretty much the default play nowadays.

And this is because in a poker tournament you simply do not have time to wait around for pocket AA all day, as the blinds are always increasing. You simply have to build your stack if you want to win.

The other very important factor with poker tournaments is that the fear of being eliminated is very real and ever-present.

As Daniel Negreanu discusses in his recent MasterClass poker training program, most people are very hesitant in a poker tournament to stick all of their chips in the middle without a very, very strong hand.

So you can use this fear of being eliminated to your advantage by shoving all your chips in the middle with AK and forcing them to call off their tournament life.

Most of the time they will simply lay it down and "look for a better spot." This is why you have excellent fold equity by shoving Ace King preflop when short stacked in the middle to late stages of a tournament.

So these are a few scenarios where I think the re-raise or all-in option with AK should be strongly considered.

However, I will say that in the large majority of situations with Ace King in small stakes poker games the best option will usually be to just flat call.

Final Thoughts

Let's face it, Ace King can be a really tricky hand to play. Sometimes you should re-raise with it, sometimes you should go all in, but sometimes you should only just flat call.

And when you are in position facing an early position raise in either 6max or full ring, this is one of the most no brainer, just flat call, spots for me.

The reasons why are numerous.

Firstly, it is important to remember that an early position raise means strength for the vast majority of poker players, even the recreational players.

Secondly, when you already have position in the hand there is absolutely no reason to re-raise here at low stakes. Just call and outplay them on the flop, turn and river when you get to act last.

Lastly, it is really important at the lower stakes from a psychological perspective to lower your variance.

There is just no reason to play the rollercoaster high variance all-in preflop game here with Ace King here if you have any kind of issues with tilt at all.

And in my experience playing at the micro stakes, most people have huge problems with tilt control!

Make things easy on yourself instead. Just flat call here and only choose to commit a large amount of your chips to the pot when you nail the flop hard.

The other times, you can simply toss your hand away with a minimal loss, and move on to the next hand. Easy game right? :)

If you want to know the complete strategy I have used to consistently crush the lower stakes poker games as a 10+ year pro, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.


Let me know in the comments below if you flat call with Ace King preflop or re-raise? Which option do you think is better?

This is Why You Should Just Call With Ace King


  1. Tnx Nathan, interesting and educative as always 👍🏻

    1. Thanks for reading Goran, glad this one helped!

    2. Clear and clever as usual. Thanks for the tips!!