One of the premium starting hands in Texas Hold'em is A-K - otherwise known as 'big slick'. It's a hand which has immense scope to improve whilst at the same time offers significant temptation to get you into trouble. The term originally used to refer to a suited Ace King, however the term now includes any ace and king dealt together pre flop.
The hand is towards the top of the pecking order in terms of Hold'em starting hands however is arguably one of the most dangerous hands due to the potential it offers. The pre flop odds of hitting any A-K is 81.9 to 1 (0.9%). It's a hand that players love to get and when they get it, wildly overplay. The reason it presents so much danger is that it needs to hit when up against a lot of other hands. For instance, it's a small underdog against any pair.
Another attraction with the hand is that it dominates a number of popular hands to play, including AQ, AJ, A10, KQ, QJ and KJ. AK has all these hands dominated pre flop however on the flop, things can quickly change. A lot of players, good and bad, tend to get into particular trouble when they hit top pair or top 2 pairs. A lot of players dislike the hand for this very reason. Often it's easier to play a scrappy hand like 5-6s as you'll have a better idea where you are when the board is dealt.
There's no one way to play the hand. A lot depends who you're up against. The key with this hand is to treat it for what it is - two cards - and not yet a pair. That means that unless it improves, you'll likely have ace high, unless the board plays. It's always more of a challenge when you need to hit. It's this fact that gets so many people in trouble - they simply think the hand is bigger than it is - remember, AK is eclipsed by any pair, albeit only marginally. So the same technique should be adopted - find out where you are in the hand but when you think you're beat, dump the hand and move onto the next.
Pre flop you're quite right to post a raise but don't go overboard. Would you be as excited by a pair of 2's pre flop? You should be, it is a better starting hand than AK, why because it doesn't have to improve to win. In fact the 2's would come out on top 52% of the time - yes it's pretty marginal. All too often players go broke defending top pair - and this isn't the right play as more times than not, you're opponent will have more than a pair, especially when playing anything but low stakes. Understanding your opponents and what their range is will help.
So, play the hand carefully - ideally you want to get into a heads up situation. If your hand (AK) came up against a pair of 2's and lets say a third players JQ suited, you would only win 36% of the time. The more players the more dramatic the win percentages drop. As with any hand, bet enough to find where you are in the hand - when it feels like your behind - fold.
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