Poker wouldn’t be poker without our having to face a dilemma of some sort here and there, and AK – despite being a premium holding – has a habit of making our lives particularly difficult. One such predicament in which we can find ourselves is when we have AK and a gutshot draw. For those of you not sure what this is, a gutshot is basically a draw that requires four cards, as opposed to, for example, an open-ended straight draw that has twice as many outs because there four at each end of the sequence. For example, we have an inside straight draw with 7 8 on a flop of 6 Q 10 because a 9 would make a straight. With the same flop and AK there’s another gutshot as a J would fill an A-high straight.
Hardly an ideal draw in which to invest, a gutshot is made slightly more attractive with AK because the prospect of two overcards is a worthy one. As such, the additional helpful cards mean that we have some flexibility in our approach compared to, say, a standard gutshot with undercards.
Another advantage of flopping a gutshot with AK is that in the majority of cases we’ll be drawing to the nuts, and this superior equity in turn allows us to open up the gears a little and adopt more aggressive lines than is usually justified with a gutshot. We’re also more likely to anyway be in a position to fight for the pot after raising pre-flop with our AK because a continuation bet is the natural next move. Moreover, due to our retaining equity in this scenario there’s often a justification in maintaining the pressure with another bet on the Turn. As semi-bluffs go, this can be a particularly effective one, especially on a rainbow board.
If we temporarily take the gutshot out of the equation and look at the situation just from the point of view of having AK, in which – on a simplistic, general level – continuation betting is a simple, effective and probably profitable policy, then the gutshot element can be seen as a welcome bonus. As well as the usual outs we have overcards that could furnish us with the top pair (and kicker) over the next two streets. In the (lower) limits, which are populated by so many recreational and inexperienced players, our opponents on the Q 10 6 flop are going to call our bets on both the Turn and River should we hit an Ace and they have a Queen; they might even oblige when they flop second pair.
An interesting irony here is that many opponents will call our flop bet because they believe – quite correctly – that we could be on a gutshot, and therefore they are happy to continue letting us bet. This sets up a juicy spot for us when we’ve hit our overpair and the River ‘confirms’ that we’ve missed our draw, as then we can represent a standard River bluff and bet for value to induce a call from ‘thinking’ opponents who opt to call our ‘bluff’ with their made hand. This kind of double-bluffing is what makes poker such a fascinating and rewarding game – steering an opponent’s thought process down a track of our choosing by getting them to believe they’ve worked out what the final destination will be, but taking them somewhere quite different (where we get to separate them from their chips!) is satisfying indeed. Playing gutshots with AK is one of many ways that present us with this kind of opportunity…