A cold call with AK preflop is the best poker strategy (sometimes)
Did I just suggest calling preflop with Ace King? No, I merely reminded you that you can also cold call preflop with big slick as an alternative to raising. Folding is obviously out of the question, but what about calling for a change, instead of raising the pot automatically every time you look down at AK? Besides confusing your opponents at the online poker tables, you can also lead them to make more mistakes. Like folding Top Pair/Top Kicker!
Of course raising with this premium poker hand is almost always the correct play. After all, it’s a premium hand, right? We are supposed to raise for value with premium hands, such as Aces, Kings and Queens. Yet, if we always raise with AK, suited or not, we don’t mix up our game. Other players at the table will easily read our hand when firing 2 or 3 barrels at an Ace high board. Even worse, if we cold called preflop, AK is certainly out of our range if they have never seen us do that! Thus, they wouldn’t have to worry about the nut straight on a QJT board! And that is a small giveaway of our hand that can cost us money from time to time.
The opposition will have trouble reading our hand if we occasionally cold call their preflop raise with a premium hand. Note that I am not talking about slow playing our premium hand here. Against bad players we must raise Ace King every time we hold such a monster hand, since bad players are expected to call our raises out of position ridiculously often! Therefore, we should begin building up the pot and extract value from the very first round of betting. But what about regulars and competent players?
Let’s see the following hand (shared via the BoomPlayer).
A good regular player open-raises preflop from Under-the-Gun position. His range includes mostly premium hands and he hasn’t yet shown some kind of fancy play from that position, like opening small suited connectors or Axs. Against his tight range the Big Slick beats only Ace Queen, which he will fold in case we 3bet. So, by raising there we stand the risk of confronting with a 4bet and possibly risking our stack against a range that beats us about 80% of the time (20% we hold the same hand).
We cold call and flop comes a dry Ace high board. Not surprisingly UTG bets, which he would do with any Ace and sometimes with KK/QQ or any bluff hand, taking advantage of the scare card (the Ace). We could have called and let him bluff, in case he is the super-aggressive type of player who 3-barrels with air. But he is not and we elect to raise, as we would have done with A5/A2/34/22/55 trying to get value from his AK/AQ or with air, trying to force him to fold Queens, Kings, Jacks or even Ace Jack. Villain knows that our range includes those hands, so we can represent them easily and let them guessing of our hand.
He calls and we only have to worry about Aces having hit a set, although the chances of that are really slim, given we hold the 4th Ace in that case (22 or 55 are more likely). Turn is a relatively safe card, since we would expect him to have folded AJ and Jacks by now. If our turn bet is raised, we are done with the hand and have an easy fold right there. Remember, villain should have put us on a set or two-pair hand by now, thus his turn raise would be made strictly for value. If he wants to catch us bluffing, he should just call and let us bluff all the way to the river.
Villain folds showing Ace King. Is that really a mistake (the fold, not the show)?
Consider playing with hands face-up. We know each other’s hand, so we would go to the river no matter what (unless someone hits a flush). Our turn bet would not drive him away since he holds the same hand.
Are you nuts? Why are you betting into me with the same hand? I’m not going anywhere! Call!
Instead by folding he makes a mistake and we take a pot that would not go to our side if we had chosen to raise/3bet preflop (split pot and having hard time calling down his preflop shove).
What do you think of cold calling with AK in position? Should it be avoided? Have you ever folded top pair/top kicker in the villain’s spot? Let me know in the comments below!