Big Slick: a love-hate relationship

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By Natasha Barbour

Whether you just call a three-bet preflop, put in 100 big blinds preflop, call two all-ins in front of you, fold it to a shove, fold it not to flip or fold it on the bubble of a tournament, you often will find yourself in a questionable spot with A-K and that’s only the preflop dilemma.

A lot of amateurs hate the hand while others will never fold it. It’s a love-hate relationship. So, what is the proper play?

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before making the correct decision with A-K. How you play A-K with four players in strong position is different than how you play it in early position at a full ring game. It also depends on you, the player.

Let’s look at your options:

In the event you find yourself playing this hand out of position, you will need to adjust to that disadvantage. Playing huge pots out of position is asking for trouble. Though you most likely have the best hand preflop, it’s extremely hard to play it postflop. It doesn’t matter how early in position you are; limping should never be an option. Also, if facing a raise from a player that has position on you, flat-calling is the best way to just hand him your money. Raise and reraise when you can.

You get called and you’re out of position going to the flop?

A few years ago, it would have been perfect to just continuation-bet after the flop so we could get an idea of where our opponent is. It’s not the case nowadays since the field is getting better and more aggressive. This is why I would advise notc-betting in a multiway pot if you miss. More often your hand is going to turn into a bluff vs. a TAG player and you’re going to lose if you miss. I strongly encourage a check-raise bluff out of position. If you just don’t want to let it go on a missed flop, it could be your strongest option.

Decide how comfortable you are playing postflop. Avoiding bad spots is important. Why play a huge pot with that hand postflop when you know you’re only going to continue if you hit it, which is about a third of the time? Also, look at your spot in the tournament: You can’t wait around for hands and A-K is a top-five hand, so if you’re not too deep, just try to play it fast preflop and get it in if you can.

And don’t be results oriented! A lot of players call preflop and fold if they miss because the last time they got it in preflop they lost a flip. Don’t change your game over a past unlucky hand history.