All too often when I play no limit hold’em poker online, lately at UWinPoker, I see players shoving all-in pre-flop holding AK or even worse re-raising all-in after a substantial raise.
My problem with this play is that it wrong, at the end of the day the player only has AK and more often than not needs to hit either an Ace or a King to even stand a chance of taking down the pot.
Surely the best scenario when holding those two potentially good starting cards is to at least see the flop then plan your course of action once more cards are laid out on the board.
How I think it's best to play AK in No Limit Hold'em
My best advice on playing AK is to raise pre-flop and call a reraise and see what texture the board holds before deciding on how to continue the hand, I would personally almost always fire out with a continuation bet when given the first chance to bet after the flop regardless of what lands in order to improve my odds of getting my opponent to fold and with the added advantage of one of the Ace’s or King’s hitting on the turn.
My major issue with going allin pre-flop holding AK is that you are about 50/50 heads up vs. any pair e.g. AK vs. 22 is a 50/50 gamble another issue with going allin with AK is that opponents calling your allin raise are probably also holding good cards possibly AA or KK, you may also have more than one caller which will drastically reduce your chances of winning the hand.
It may also prove to be beneficial to you having more players active in the hand when you do hit, so by not raising allin, you are more likely to entice more players into the hand with weaker hands, that way when you do hit chances are you will take down a much larger pot, for example a player holding a largish pocket pair may find it very difficult to lay down his pair with a K 2 6 flop and you would reap more reward by having him continue playing the hand.
In conclusion I believe that the strength of AK lies in the fact that they are both high cards that can hit to make a big hand but the real strength lies in your ability to fold them post flop should you find yourself in a bad position.
Of course like always there are exceptions to the above advice in that you may be short stacked in a NLHE tournament and you need to get your chips in, in this scenario it is well accepted to shove. Another time shoving with AK may be permissible is if a player at your table constantly plays really weak hands and you really feel like you have him topped with your AK in this scenario you can occasionally take a shot, just be sure no other players will call your shove and realize that even 7-2 off could turn over to win if he connects any of his cards and you don’t hit either an Ace or a King.
Probability Percentages and Statistics about playing AK:
AK hitting at least one A or K in showdown: Even
AK hitting Trips: 32 to 1
AK hitting 2 Pair: 17 to 1
AK hitting at least one A or K on the flop: 2.1 to 1
AK flopping Trips on the flop: 70 to 1
AK hitting 2 Pair on the flop: 47 to 1
AK Suited vs. any pocket pair below AK: 1.1 to 1
AK Suited vs. AA: 1 to 7 (underdog)
AK Suited vs. KK: 1.9 to 1 (underdog)