Ahhhh the Big Slick.  We all like getting it, and it looks so good…especially when suited.  Starting a hand with AK is a lot like sitting at the very start of a tournament with a large, shiny, untouched chip stack…a veritable monument which brims with the potential for untold glory and riches.  However, much like a full tournament, this gem of a hand holds all the potential for triumph and tragedy, being just as likely to see us across the line and dragging in a huge pot as it is to see us take up permanent residence in felt city.  It all really depends on how we decide to play it…like chumps…or champions.

I have a friend who shuns the moniker ‘Big Slick’ in preference for the more derogatory ‘Anna Kournikova’…looks good…never wins.  Each time he trots out that particular mantra I resist telling him that his constantly getting ‘unlucky with AK’ might have something to do with the fact that nine times out of ten he plays it like a muppet.  As soon as he sticks in that 6xBB raise you know right where he’s at.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how I think you should play AK for two reasons.  Firstly, I’m not nearly good enough to dispense advice on poker as if preaching from a pulpit, and secondly…nah ok that’s the only reason.  But what I will do is tell you how I like to play it and why.

Pre-Flop

To start with, in most cases I always put in a standard opener in an unraised pot.  If in early position, my standard raise is usually 2.5 to 3 BB.  In middle to late I’ll vary that from 3-5BB.  I raise with a range of hands anyway so I’m not revealing my strength but I am building a pot and thinning the field.  I really want to discourage habitual limpers or players with speculative hands staying in the pot.  Very occasionally I will flat call in early position but understand I may have to lay the hand down if I can’t figure out where I am on subsequent streets.  In middle and late position, I’m more happy to flat call a larger raise if I don’t think a re-raise will take the pot down immediately.

Post Flop

If I pair an Ace or King on the flop, I’ll tend towards putting out a continuation bet in the hope that my hand strenth stays disguised, and also to see where I am at.  If I’ve hit and I’m re-raised, I’ll generally call and re-evaluate after the turn.  If I haven’t hit, and get a large raise or re-raise, I’ll usuall let it go there unless I’m against a very loose aggressive player, or someone tight enough that if I float I might be able to take the pot away on subsequent streets with a large bet.

Turn

If I’ve hit on the flop or turn, I quite like check – calling here provided the texture of the board isn’t too draw heavy.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, it helps make any flop bet look like a standard continuation bet on a missed flop, and can induce players who might have hit top pair with a weaker kicker or even middle pair take a shot at the pot.  Secondly, it keeps the pot size managable and avoids having the other player go over the top if we bet the turn.

River

Unless the board is particularly scary I’m happy to take the lead back here and bet for value, or if in later position simply calling a raise.  Again, the risk in raising an early position players bet is that they will come over the top, and I might be pot committed.  Better to call, and take down the pot. 

The above brief analysis doesn’t factor in other considerations which, for example in tournament poker, might effect the decision making process, such as blinds, stack sizes, playing styles etc.  But I’ve found it to be a solid and reliable way to play Big Slick without getting into too many difficult situations. 

Got any suggestions or ways to improve on the above suggestions?  We welcome your feedback, so feel free to make a comment below.

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