I wrote this article in March 2007. It takes a look at what I personally consider to be the most overplayed hand in tournament poker. I was as guilty as the next person of overplaying this hand myself until I learned my lesson as my game improved.
Oh yes – I got burned a few time by the hand in question. It’s cost me plenty of chips and sent me crashing and buring our of tournaments before now. Don’t let it happen to you! Read on to see what I’m talking about……….
The hand I’m going to talk about in this article is AK, the Big Slick. Sure, it’s a premium starting hand and you don’t get dealt it too often. But when you do I bet you find it hard not to get carried away and think you now are a huge favourite to win the hand, take down the pot, watch your chip stack grow and give you a boost towards winning the poker tournament.
Though I advise caution my friend. Being dealt that Big Slick can just as easily lose you a tournament as it can help you to win it. They key is how you play your AK. And that’s certainly not an all-in push with abandon. Sure, if you’re short stacked and want to make a stand then it doesn’t come much better than AK for making a stand. However, would you automatically stick all your chips in the middle each time the Big Slick comes your way. Of course not.
If you look down at your hole cards and see AK, take a brief moment and think about it before rushing to part with your stack quicker than an F1 car away from the start line. Review a few things. Are you in early, middle or late table position. What’s your chip stack size in relation to your opponents are a couple of questions you may wish to ponder before acting.
If in early position, or there have been no callers or raisers before it’s your turn to act, then there can be no doubt that you must raise, and raise well, in an attempt to drive opponents holding lessor hands from the pot. A nice raise of three or four times the big blind is usually enough. It says you are strong and should force those with marginal hands or rags to muck their cards instantly.
If in middle to late position or the small or big blind position and there have been raises before you or perhaps even a re-raise then folding your AK could be the right thing to do in the context of the tournament. Those raisers ands re-raisers before you could holding big pairs AA, KK for example. If they do then you’re behind pre-flop even with your Big Slick.
The consider folding argument also applies if you have raised the pot from early position and are subsequently re-raised. Remember at all times that although your AK looks huge it is only ace high and unless that improves on the flop then you are in trouble. When the flop comes down study it carefully. It is about a two to one chance that the flop will throw you an A or a K to give you a pair. If you get no help from the flop then think very hard about committing any more chips to the pot. A continuation bet is probably the thing to do if you are first to act post-flop to represent to your opponents that your pre-flop raise was no joke and the flop has improved your hand even if it hasn’t.
The flip side to that of course is that if the flop has not improved your hand then your AK is beaten by any player left in who has hit a pair on the flop or was holding a pair pre-flop. If anyone comes out firing with a tasty bet post-flop then get out of there and live to fight another hand. You’re still in the tournament. Don’t keep throwing in chips hoping to hit something on the turn or river. You will most likely lose them and possibly even the chance of an in the money finish if your stack is damaged badly by your rush of recklessness.
In summary, when the Big Slick comes along don’t get dazzled by it. Play it sensibly. Again, remember that it is only ace high unless improved on the flop. And even if it is improved by the flop you can still be behind and beaten. Do not overplay AK. If you think you are behind then fold and get out. A good idea is to use a poker odds calculator to give you an additional source of information about the strength of your hand. You will still be alive in the tournament to play some poker and wait for another opportunity to build your chip stack and finish in the money.