Known as “Big Slick”, Ace King is one of the strongest hands in Texas Holdem. This is a hand that many a player are unsure how to play, with most players prone to overplaying it. Whilst Ace King is unquestionably a premium starting hand, the context of the situation will determine its relative strength.
First of all, looking at the maths, you are far more likely to be dealt Ace King then any pocket aces or pocket kings as there are more combination of this hand than aces or kings. Ace King suited is clearly better than an off suit ace king and represents with suited usually achieving 5-7% better equity than its off suit counterparts. It’s also worth pointing out at that if your opponent has pocket aces or kings than you are a big underdog (unsurprisingly) with approximately 6% chance against aces and 30% against kings.
Context is Everything
The situation should guide the way you play A-K. If stacks are shallow, its an amazing hand and you want to get your chips in with it. Tournament players will rarely fold A-K late in a tournament as stack sizes are rarely deep enough to warrant a fold. They understand that they are only doing badly against aces or kings and will happily take a coin flip if necessary. Whilst this is a reasonable proposition when stacks are shallow or you are facing aggressive opponents, it’s not always the best mentality, particularly if you consider yourself the best player at the table. If you are in an expensive and slow structured tournament, ace king’s value for committing you’re your stack before the should drop significantly as you are likely to be up against kings or aces when strong players commit their tournament life. Obviously, this is player dependent but the reality is, strong tournament players are not committing their entire stacks very lightly early in deep stack events (there are exceptions). If it’s early in a tournament or you are facing a tight player opening from early position, consider a more prudent approach to playing. Most beginner players see A-K and want to re raise regardless of the situation. This is a foolish way to play, not only are you disregarding position, stack sizes, opponent and the value of deception, you are also giving away information to your opponents “I always re raise with ace king”. Flat calling raises with A-K, particularly in heads up pots can be no bad thing. In situations when your opponent is dominated before the flop and would otherwise fold, you can often extract a lot of value.
Ultimately your ability and confidence in playing post flop poker will guide how you intend to play A-K. A strong and experienced player can vary his style and adopt flat calls and 3 bets as he sees fit, whereas a novice should be more inclined to play straightforward poker, particularly at low stakes. If you have less than 75 BBs in a tournament and your opponent isn’t a nit, you can often safely commit your stack, providing you are getting the last bet in. If it’s more than 75b BBs and the player is tight or there are multiple raises, throw it away and move on to the next hand.
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A phrase given to a pre flop play in Texas Holdem where a player will re-raise over an initial raise and one or more pre-flop calls. It is usually with the intention of picking the pot up before the flop without showdown.
History of Squeeze Play Twenty years ago, the squeeze was not even a play as such, a few of the best players probably did it without giving it the name but it was seldom used. Then Dan Harrington brought out his tournament books and with it, a revolutionary concept. Tight aggressive players found a new weapon to use and exploit opposition with. However, poker is an evolving game with trends and once this strategy was being used all the time, winning players started taking note and with it, a shift in mentality. No longer could the squeeze play be used with impunity as you were likely to get 4 bet by a competent and thinking player. Or they would flat call an open with AA/KK from an aggressive player, hoping you would squeeze. The pendulum has swung back again though and it is not a move mentioned too often and it’s used less than the aftermath of its revelation to the poker world. It’s a brilliant move to use but only if the ingredients are there and you don’t over use it.
When is the Right Time to Squeeze? The squeeze play loosely rests on the assumption that the open raiser is unlikely to be holding a premium hand. The theory being that a flat caller is also unlikely to be super strong, otherwise, they surely would have re-raised themselves. Whilst the logic is reasonable, you need certain to ingredients to be on your side for the squeeze have a reasonable chance of success. Please consider the factors below before squeezing.
1) Stack Sizes There is no use squeezing and committing your chips and having to call an all in because you’ve priced yourself in. Have a close look at the stack sizes when you are considering a squeeze. It’s entirely plausible that a flat caller is setting a trap when short stacked or that either player will just go with their hand if they are short stacked at the start of the hand.
2) Your Table Image & Reputation If you have a reputation for pulling off a lot of 4 bets and tricky aggressive moves then it far less likely to work. It’s better to have a solid table image at the time of making a squeeze. Your squeeze has to be credible i.e. your opponents need to believe that you are likely holding a premium hand.
3) Calibre of Opponent If your opponent has shown no inclinations to fold before the flop, do not consider squeezing. Whilst your logic that they are weak pre flop is true, it does not mean they will fold. You can still squeeze if you wish but be prepared to play a big pot.
4) Position As always, position is important. It’s better to be squeezing in position than out of position as you will get to play the hand in position for the rest of the hand. It’s not 100% essential to be in position when squeezing as the intention is to pick it up pre flop, however, it is another factor to consider.
5) Hand Strength There’s no use turning very playable hands and positive scenarios into wasteful ones by squeezing. If you are holding a suited connector or a little pair in position, multi-way, then it’s best to play the pot and try to get value. A squeeze is usually better to do with a hand of little value or good blockers, e.g. Ace Three.
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Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.
Why do I need to play tighter from Under the Gun?
It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting and by playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or sandwiched between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish. Let’s take an example, you have A (clubs) 10 (diamonds) and decide to raise from under the gun, you are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks. The flop is Jc 10c 6s. The big blind checks, what do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity. In short, unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun, unless you play post flop excellently and have a weak table.
Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position as they have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position but a word of caution of to you. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. By playing a wide range of hands from under the gun, you are going to find yourself in a lot of tricky scenarios that can cost you a lot of chips.
Next time you play and find a King Ten or Ace 8 suited under the gun, think twice before you enter the pot!
People don’t talk about blind battles much and I don’t know why? Every round you have a decision to play from these positions and a reasonable amount of the time it’s just the two of you.
How many times does it fold to the small blind and you pray he will give you a walk or you’re in the small blind and dreading raising but do it anyway?
Let’s start with some facts and reasonable assumptions about how our opponents will be playing in the blinds.
People always assume you are stealing in blind battles
People try to bluff more in the blinds both pre and post flop
People don’t like to fold a pair heads up in blind battles
Now we have some basic facts and assumptions, we can adjust our strategy accordingly.
Playing from the Small Blind As people often think we will be stealing; we need to be more straightforward. Our strategy for playing in the small blind will be to win the pot, what is the best way to accomplish this? I suggest playing the strong hands for value and raising and betting for value and trying to show down our weak showdown hands like Ace or King high by checking and bluff catching. As weak as it sounds, with our weak hands, to win these pots, we should consider completing and making probe bets after flop hoping the opponent has missed. This is a realistic way of winning the pot as the big blind will respect the fact we have not just tried to steal pre flop and often just fold post flop. It is not in our interest to raise and inflate the pot from the small blind pre flop with junk hands unless the opponent is very tight or disinterested and likely to fold. The majority of players will defend wide from the big blind so we need to be more careful particularly as they suspect we are stealing.
Playing from the Big Blind We will be in position throughout the hand so we should defend wide either by calling pre-flop raises or re raising pre-flop ourselves. Both strategies work very well as we have 2 main ingredients on our side before the flop is even deal. We are the pre-flop aggressor and we have position. When we have strong hands, we also have the mathematical ingredient on our side too. If you are in the big blind, you should intend on playing as many hands against the small blind as possible as they will often be raising pre-flop just to steal with no consideration on how they will play post flop. In fact, many of these pre-flop raisers will give up on the flop and an even greater give up when called with a continuation bet. This is an effective strategy to countering both strong and weak players.
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Ace Queen offsuit
This is a hand even professionals often get into trouble. When was the last time you watched poker after dark or WSOP and you saw someone fold this pre-flop? What TV doesn’t show is the hours of patience some players will employ. In position or first in it’s a great hand but if you’re up against a tight player who’s raised under the gun or re raised your early position open then this is usually an easy fold, contrary to what you often see. Even those who profess to say this is an easy fold in the above scenario end up stubbornly calling down.
Mid pocket pairs
These pesky middle pairs often get players into trouble. Players often call re raises pretending in their heads they will “get away” when they don’t flop a set then hang on to the river when there’s one or two overcards.
Ace Rag An obvious one here, the old ace rag. If you’re in the blinds and you flop top pair, remember what is with that top pair and who you’re facing. Likewise, if you’re in a position and calling a raise with this just because your opponent is active then you’re overplaying. What do you hope to hit or are you just trying to take away later? If so, why does it matter that you have an ace?
Small suited connectors The number of players who see Phil Ivey play these hands profitably and think they can too is staggering. Use common sense, these “numbers” are the lowest in the deck, a single pair is rarely enough to win and hard to get shown down so you’re hoping for three of a kind/two pairs and straights etc which the higher cards have just as good a chance of making.
Queen Jack This is a trappy hand, you hit top pair and you have a reasonable kicker but if you’ve called it to a raise or opened and caught your top pair, how good is it when facing resistance? Neither kicker is great in a raised pot, are they?
Texas Holdem Questions