Any Texas Hold’em player that has been playing for any length of time has seen this hand, and likely won and lost a great deal with it. Ace-king can be your best friend,or it can completely bust you out.
One of the most important things to remember is that Ace-King (AK) is a drawing hand. This hand is not complete until you hit something with it. If you don’t at least pair up, then you simply have ace-high and will lose to any pair. Thus, you must play it as such and be ready to fold it if necessary. Having said that, AK is regarded as the best “draw” hand you can get. It’s not as subtle as a 67 suited, but offers more drawing power and the ability to win even without hitting. Playing qq online is a good way to practice.
Pre-flop, the value of your hand greatly depends on the other action already in the pot, and whether or not you are suited. A suited AK has an additional drawing point that should be taken into consideration pre-flop, giving you more ways to win if called. AK is the kind of hand you want to raise with, and even re-raise an initial raise. Be aware though, that if you get raised back or pushed all-in, you could potentially be up against aces or kings, which is unlikely since you have one of each, but either hand will cripple your chances to win.
You will usually want to call just about anything before the flop, provided you have the chips to cover it. As long as you aren’t up against AA or KK, you are at worst a coin-flip against any pocket pair, and a good favorite against any other hand, especially AQ, KQ and other hands people like to play. You want to put yourself in position to beat these lesser hands, because those are exactly what you want your opponent to have.
Once the flop comes out, if the board looks good for you, do whatever you think will work to get your opponent all-in. If he is a loose player, bet low and hope he raises you back. Against a tight player, check the flop and observe his reaction. If he believes you have nothing, he might bet with a mediocre hand, or if he checks back, you’ll have to try to milk any money out of him that you can. Always keep in the back of your mind, though, that someone may be trying to out-draw you, or might have already hit 3-of-a-kind. When an ace or king hits the board on the flop, typically players will carry on playing assuming that somebody has that, and since you do, you have to be ready to fold if you are sensing that they have you beaten.
If you completely miss the flop, swallow your pride and realize that you are on a draw. This is one of the biggest mistakes made with AK. Players love to hold onto it all the way to the river, which can end up costing them all their chips if something doesn’t hit. If you miss the flop, make one more strong bet if you were the one that raised pre-flop. If you get called, be prepared to check and fold the turn if you still haven’t hit. If someone else was the pre-flop raiser and you just called, be ready to fold if they bet at you again. You only have 6 outs to hit a pair, and your pair may not be good enough. You never want to be drawing dead; if the board comes up looking bad, you likely are in a lot of trouble if you fall for someone’s trap.
Even when you do hit a pair, there is a good chance that it’s not the best hand. Do your best to bet out all but one other player; AK is not typically a hand you want in a multi-way pot, due to everyone trying to form a hand specifically to beat a high pair. If you get caught in a multi-way pot, you should assume that any draws on the board are live and likely to be hit, and be ready to fold your pair of aces/kings to strong betting.
The hardest part about playing ace-king is being willing to fold it. Play it strong and fast, and you’re likely to win many decent-sized pots with it. Play it slowly and you’re setting yourself up to lose all your chips. Always be willing to fold; pride can cost you everything. Remember this advice the next time you play AK, and hopefully you will find yourself looking forward to drawing it, rather than dreading it!