Tip 9
Raised with A-K

This tip is not an absolute.  There are situations in which a better play exists, and these are addressed here as well.

  The problem with “going to war” with A-K is that it generally must improve to a pair or better to win the pot.  There are times in which it is preferable to not  commit a lot of chips before the flop; rather, you can smooth call (just call, that is, specifically not raise) a raise with your A-K and wait to see what develops.  If you flop a pair, you can then kick into a more aggressive gear.  By doing this, you tend to lose the minimum amount when you miss the flop.  Also, you may win extra bets when you do hit your hand, as your lack of preflop aggression might cause your opponents to underrate your hand.

  Basically, calling a preflop raise with A-K is preferable when you feel your hand needs improvements to win, and reraising is preferable when you feel you might be able to win the pot with just ace high.  Let’s see how you can determine which condition is the case:

  • When you face an early-position raiser, this player likely has a good hand, probably a high pair or even A-K himself.  Typical players do not raise with A-x or hands like K-J from early position.  So, it is unlikely that your A-K is much of a favorite over most early-position raising hands.  However, it improves often enough to justify a call.
  • When one player has raised and a few players have called, you definitely have to improve to win the pot, since someone has either started with a pair or will make one.  Also, should you flop a pair, it is possible that the original raiser will bet into the flop a pair, it is possible that the original raiser will bet into the field, setting up an opportunity for your to trap the other players for a raise.

Factors favoring reraising with A-K:

  • When the only player in the pot is a middle- to late-position raiser, you should almost always reraise with A-K.  In this scenario, it is likely that the raiser has nothing more than high cards (or possibly a hand like A-x suited), and your A-K plays quite nicely against this type of hand heads up.  So, your reraise has two objectives.  You would like to get more money into the pot with the probable best hand.  You would also like to eliminate the rest of the field, enabling you to play the hand heads up and in position.  In this situation, you have two ways to win the pot:” either with a bet on the flop, or by showing down your ace-high on the river.
  • When the original raiser is a maniac*, you should probably reraise regardless of your position.  The reasons for this are the same as those in the preceding point, since you would prefer to get rid of the other players, plus you will have the best hand most of the time.