How to Play AK on a Missed Flop?

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Playing AK on a Missed Flop

AK is a really tricky hand to play after you miss the flop. A big proportion of players will overplay and over value these hands, or even start building pots and bluffing in the wrong tables positions which is extremely dangerous. However, most of the time the failure comes from players mid-reading their opponent’s hands and strength post-flop. In this article I’m going to analyse a number of scenarios and provide tips for playing AK correctly on a missed flop – both in and out of position.

Situation 1: In Position

In position against one or two opponents who called your pre-flop raise, a continuation bet is the best play on a dry flop like 6h-8h-2s. It’s very unlikely anyone will have hit with their calling range. We’re probably putting our opponents on broadway cards, high suited connectors or mid-pocket pairs.

A continuation bet ½ pot only has to work once in three times to break even, and each opponent only has a 30% chance of hitting the flop. Against a single opponent in a cash game I’m always continuation betting here, against 2 opponents I’ll need to know my table image better and the cards my opponents will be playing. Either way, with 2 checks ahead of me it’s extremely likely I’m still ahead so I’ll bet half-pot (e.g. $40 into a $75 pot).

If a player hits back at you it’s an easy fold, as he must have top pair or a set minimum – and he definitely won’t be on a draw.

If he flat-calls your raise then you’re still most likely ahead. If he’s checking the turn then again you should bet out a ½ pot bet. If his hand hasn’t improve by the turn (for instance if he’s holding QJ and still misses) then he’s folding to more action.

Barrelling the river

Let’s say your opponent calls you to the river and it brings another blank card. This is a really difficult situation because whether or not you 3-barrel the turn is all about your read. For instance, ask yourself whether a player of this quality will be calling you on the flop and turn with a flush draw. A lot of weak opponents will however against good opponents this is unlikely.

So, on a board like6h-8h-3s-10d-2d it’s very likely you’re AK has showdown value against a bad opponent. In either case I’m probably checking the river. If he’s missed his draw he’s unlikely to check-raise you, and if even if you raise the river it’s negative chip equity because you’re only going to get called by hands that beat you.

If you believe youre opponent was on a draw but might have caught a small pair with a hand like Ah3h, you can 3barrel the river. Your bet needs to be carefully weighted here and I suggest a 2/3 pot-bet is enough to fold a marginal hand, yet not too much that it looks bluffy.

Situation 2 – out of position

Playing AK out of position in is alot tougher in cash games as you only have a 30% chance of hitting a pair on the flop – and if you miss and someone else raises you there isn’t a lot of flops you can afford to call with.  So against multiple opponents I’m often going to check-fold my AK out of position.

However if you fancy playing aggressively there are multiple ways to play AK on a missed flop. Depending on the texture you can raise AK first-to-act on rainbow flops like 3d-Js-7h because it’s extremely unlikely anyway will have hit. Mid to late position players calling your pre-flop raise with suited connectors or JQ/KQ type hands have no chance. Thus, on certain flops you can raise AK out of position and take it down. A bad flop to do this though would be Qh-7h-10s.

If you get your AK called on a 3d-Js-7h flop you need to be bold and either check-fold the turn, or be prepared to 3-barrel as mentioned above.

Lastly, on a missed flop with AK out of position you can bluff check-raise. The player in position will likely be cbetting all flops anyway and if you check-raise here he’s almost always folding. This play is very straight forward because you’re folding to a call too!

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