Extracting the Most
Value with A-K (Big Slick) Preflop
Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive
Many poker players have a difficult time playing A-K
(also known as ďBig SlickĒ) properly. Obviously, it is a
premium starting hand that you should raise at every
opportunity. Or is it? Many beginner and intermediate
players feel lost when that Ace or King doesnít flop.
Should they call a bet with just overcards? Should they
bet out or raise and try to pick up the pot on a bluff?
In this article, Iíll try to cover this powerful but
tricky hand and present you with a few options the next
time you pick it up at the table.
First of all, you should realize why you can raise with
A-K from any position. You raise for the same reason
that you raise any premium hand Ė to thin the field and
build a pot. Big hands like Big Slick play much better
against fewer opponents, so you should be happy to drive
out a few weak opponents who wouldíve called the minimum
bet with trash cards. If you do get called for your
raise from 1 or 2 other players, youíre building a nice
pot if you hit that A or K on the flop and your opponent
called with a weak kicker. Therefore, A-K is certainly
worthy of a raise from any position, especially if
youíre first into the pot.
I recommend raising 70-80% of the time with A-K from
early position. The other 20-30% of the time Iíll just
call the minimum in order mix up my game and keep my
opponents guessing as well as give myself a cheap way to
extricate myself from the hand if the flop comes with 3
rags. You should realize that youíll only hit a pair on
the flop with this hand about 33% of the time. When you
do raise, how much should you put into the pot? The
standard raise is 3-4 times the big blind, which is how
much Iíll usually bet.
What should you do in middle or late position? It
depends on what your opponents have already done. If
play gets to you and there are only 1 or 2 limpers in
the pot, I would again recommend raising most of the
time. I also recommend reraising half or more of the
time if the pot has already been raised. Youíll have
great position on the flop, and youíll take control of
the hand. However, what if youíre in late position and
there are 4 or 5 limpers already in the pot? At this
point, I will just call a lot of the time. One of the
main reasons to raise with A-K is to thin the field.
With that many callers in the pot, you most likely wonít
drive them away since theyíll be getting great pot odds
to make the call. At this point, youíd just be
encouraging gambling if you tossed in a raise. Against
several opponents, I prefer to just call and see flop.
Finally, if Iím a bit low on chips an donít mind
gambling, Iíll consider shoving in my entire stack with
A-K regardless of position or pot size. This is
certainly reasonable in tournament play, but I will do
the same in a cash game from time to time. While this
isnít a textbook move, it can be very effective.
Consider the hands that would realistically consider
calling your all-in move: pocket Aces, pocket Kings, a
middle (or low depending upon your opponent) pocket
pair, or a worse Ace.
Statistically, you wonít run into Aces or Kings very
often and even if an opponent with Kings calls you, you
still have the Ace as a draw. Youíre basically in a coin
flip against lower pocket pairs, and you should consider
taking that chance for a quick double-up. Finally,
against a worse Ace youíre a big favorite. Most of the
time, youíll just pick up a small pot preflop and
aggravate your opponents (which is always a plus). Going
all-in preflop allows you to avoid making any further
decisions in the hand.
The next time youíre dealt Big Slick, donít freeze up
and donít get overexcited. Remember, it is still a
drawing hand that will miss most of the time on the
flop. To summarize, youíll mostly want to raise the hand
to thin the field and build the pot. Occasionally, you
should consider just calling if youíre already up
against a number of opponents. Once in a while, you
might even go all-in to put pressure on your opponents
and go for a quick double-up. Donít be disappointed if
you pick up the pot uncalled before the flop, since
every win builds your stack. Winning poker players
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