The Top 5 No-Limit Holdem Hands and How to Play Them -- #4 Ace-King

Ace-King, on of the top five best holdem starting hands

There are two ways to think about your hand when you look down and see an ace and a king. An optimist thinks, "This is an excellent hand, and additionally it is fun to play because of all the options available to me." A pessimist thinks, "Whether I play this hand fast or slow, I'm making a big mistake."

There is some truth to both views, but let's try to concentrate on the positive.

Playing Your Ace-King Fast

The beauty of Ace-King is that you are almost never far behind, and are often well ahead. Against all the pairs except aces and kings, you are just a slight dog, and if your ace-king is suited, you are even ahead of the smallest pairs. And you are more unlikely to face aces or kings than any of the other power hands that fear them because you hold some of their outs. Additionally, when you play the hand fast, you're going to fold out a lot of pairs that are actually ahead of you preflop. And folding out hands that are ahead of you is an excellent way to make money.

One of the interesting things about getting it all in preflop is that ace-king doesn't mind two opponents holding pairs as opposed to one. That's because you're going to need to hit your overcards anyway; might as well get paid twice as much. Their outs against you double from two to four if you do, but that's insignificant compared to the more important odds of hitting your overcard for the win.

Playing Your Ace-King Slow

The other view of ace-king is that you cannot beat even a pair of twos pre-flop. It is a drawing hand, though a big one. Statistically -- like all the top five hands -- it plays better against a smaller field, but especially in a deep-stacked tournament situation, you're not going to want to go broke on a coin flip.

If you can't manage to thin the field, or are deep-stacked against opponents who won't fold a pair, there are much better spots to get all your chips involved preflop. See a flop cheaply and see if you catch a piece.

Post Flop Play

You really need to hit the flop with ace-king, and if you don't, you really want to see the turn and river cheap. Position is so important in this that I tend to play my early position ace-kings faster so I can get all my money in preflop or on the flop so I can see all five cards. In position, you can make a continuation bet on the flop and check behind on the turn allowing yourself to see all five cards.

Even if you hit your top pair/top kicker hand, remember one pair usually doesn't win when all the money goes in. Try not to go broke if you've got a lot of money behind and only one pair. Wait for top two or a Broadway straight to make a stand with.

Interesting Odds

You can hit a lot of interesting draws with ace-king, especially when suited. Remember to count your overcards if you suspect you're up against a pair and you hold a nut flush draw. Nine outs for the nut flush plus three kings and three aces gives you fifteen outs and a slight advantage over one pair on a flop with two of your suit.

Spots like these are great for putting a lot of pressure on your opponents, especially if you raised preflop.

Don't Give Up On Ace-King

It's a great hand, but a very volatile one. Learn to love it and be excited by the myriad playing choices you have with it, and you will profit with it in the long run.

The Whole Top Five:

  1. Aces
  2. Kings
  3. Queens
  4. Ace-King
  5. Jacks
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Your Citation
Stemple, Adam. "The Top 5 No-Limit Holdem Hands and How to Play Them -- #4 Ace-King." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2016, Stemple, Adam. (2016, September 1). The Top 5 No-Limit Holdem Hands and How to Play Them -- #4 Ace-King. Retrieved from Stemple, Adam. "The Top 5 No-Limit Holdem Hands and How to Play Them -- #4 Ace-King." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).