If you read the books on Texas Hold’Em poker, AK is always touted as a strong opening hand. Which it is….but it is also a hand to lose a lot of chips because it is nothing more than an Ace high. I believe, with one exception, AK is likely to be the most destructive hand in Hold’Em. Even 22 will beat it. If you are playing a nine-handed table the odds of an opponent hitting a pair, or better, on the flop are very good so I’d say AK is a hand to be played with caution.
A lot of conventional advice is if you get dealt AK then you should raise and re-raise to isolate other hands by causing a lot of folds. My experience is the opposite. I’ve found a flat call, or match a raise, is the safest option and then see the flop. Then discretion kicks in.
If you hit a flop that gives you a AKK its worth pursuing. Likewise a flop that gives you AAK. Provided you bear in mind it is possible an opponent could have AA or KK pre-flop. Not likely, but possible. Either way, you are in trouble with just a pair. So “reading” and thinking is essential even in a, very probably, safe zone.
But what to do if the AK misses the flop? I’ve found it better to check and, hopefully, see the turn and evaluate then. I’ll also watch the other players like a hawk for “tells”. If another player raises I will seriously consider folding, especially if other players call. I’m willing to believe at least one of them has a hand. There is, at the very best, roughly a 24% chance of hitting an A or a K on the turn and roughly 18% on the river. I don’t think they are good odds and there is always another hand.
If everyone has flat-called and you hit, there is a good chance you are in front. But if a low flop happens and a pre-flop raiser follows it up with another raise then beware. Likewise if there is flop that shows a pair. Tread carefully if another player calls or re-raises. Sod’s law dictates Trips are likely.
In this post I’ve not even considered the possibility of other players betting on straights or flushes but they can be out there too.
Anyhow, I’ve lost too many hands with AK now other than to play it with extreme caution in “sit’n’go” in the early stages. When there are three or four players left then AK becomes stronger and worth playing more aggressively depending on position, earlier bets and instinct.
All my experience and intuition tell me to be careful with AK. What about you?