Playing AK in MTTs

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Some Tips for About Playing AK in MTTs:

A-K – also known as the “big slick”, tends to get a lot of action in tournaments.  Most players will get involved in alot of pots with this hand which is why I’ve decided to write an article about the principles of playing A-K in poker tournaments.  

1st Tip:  AK is Great in Short-Stack

Being short-stacked in an MTT is the best time to be dealt AK.  Why?  Because your tournament strategy is dead simple and the pot odds you’ll get are fantastic.  When your dealt AK as a short stack, regardless of the MTT stage you should shove your stack all in.  And because you’re all in, it means you’re guaranteed to see all five community cards which give you a 60% chance of making a pair – which will most likely be top pair with top kicker at showdown.  The reason this is such good odds, other than the 60% chance of hitting top pair, is that your all in play will get you called by many opponents with weak hands such as A8 or medium pairs.  This is because these players see your all in as a sign of weakness and desperation, so they’ll happily risk calling you with a lesser hand than normal.

2nd Tip: AK is Great When Big Stack Too

Making an opening bet and calling against a short-stack who moves all in preflop is great for two reasons.  Number one, because he is short-stacked you likely have his hand range beat – assuming his hand range includes any Ace, pocket pair or suited connectors.  Thus you are beating 66% of the hands he could be holding.  The second reason is that even if he’s holding a pocket pair, calling his all-in will still be a coin flip – and coin flips always favour big stacks.   This is because if you win, you’ve knocked an extra player out of the tournament, and if you lose it’s only a small dent in your stack.

3rd Tip: AK is a Drawing Hand

This is important to remember because too many players will happily commit their entire tournament stack during the early or middle stages on AK.  The reality is that every pocket pair has a better chance of winning preflop because AK is not a made hand.  It’s actually funny how many intermediate and new players will happily ride all the way with AK regardless of dangerous draws on the flop.

For instance, imagine a hand where a player raises preflop 3xBB with AK offsuit, gets 2 callers and the flop comes 5h10h8d.  Now a lot of players will simply assume they have the best hand with AK (because they weren’t re-raised) and call any raise from then forward hoping to catch an Ace or King.  They wrongly presume they’ll be up against QJ or AJ most the time.  The truth is, you could easily be up against a flush draw with two overcards, a pocket pair, a straight draw or even a set.  If you do your tournament maths, you’ll see each of these hands has better odds than you of winning the pot, and all are likely to call any min raise you make (possibly even an all in) as well as raising in first position themselves. 

What’s we’ve seen from this hand then is that playing AK preflop and missing the flop arguably puts you in the worst position with 2 or more players in the hand.  It’s a very dangerous hand in this sense, in that even if you go all in preflop a player with 22 can call and get better odds.  I just think this is a careful point to make to stop players being over aggressive with AK.

4th Tip: Fold AK on the Flop with a Medium Stack if you Miss

Most players who opened the raising preflop with AK will be happy to lead out on a board they missed or call a min raise.  When you do this as a medium stack though, for instance middle position, and miss the flop, what are you meant to do?  Calling someone else’s continuation bet will cost you another 6 big bets at least.  For good players, this is an easy fold situation in the early and middle stages of a tournament when there are 2 or more players in the hand.  Being a good tournament player is about being able to read situations like this objectively and the ability to let hands like this go.

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