AK might be considered a premium hand with all sorts of entertaining nicknames such as Big Slick and Anna Kournikova, but it can also be very difficult to know how to handle when we miss the Flop. And as I hope most of you will already know – we’ll miss (leaving us with A-high) a good two thirds of the time!
To compound the problem of finding ourselves essentially all dressed up with nowhere to go, we can even end up in this situation after there being a 3-bet – whether we’ve reraised or have called, it’s by no means an unlikely scenario.
Let’s say we have A♦ K♥ in the Big Blind and 3-bet a late position pre-flop raiser, who calls, with everyone else stepping aside. The Flop comes 8♣ 4♦ 3♠
This is one of those cases where being out of position gives the aggressor an opportunity to stamp their authority immediately with a Continuation Bet, although it’s not necessarily as automatic a choice as it might first seem. And nor should we make the mistake of acting automatically, either. It’s much better to at least consider the efficacy of both options. And better still to consider them now, away from the tables, when we have time to contemplate this or that implication so that we have a superior understanding of this dynamic when the time comes. Moreover, remember that the thinking time available to us in online poker can be measured in seconds, so it helps to arrive prepared.
An interesting point here is that we often see players putting their foot firmly on the brakes by checking and folding to a bet, the point being that they’ve missed the Flop and are out of position against someone who threw in a pre-flop raise and then came along for a ride after calling our 3-bet. But giving up the ghost automatically would be a mistake, with check-calling also serving to protect against ambitious steal attempts.
I should point out that the specific suits of the cards are featured for a reason. Note that the AK being offsuit means that there’ll be no flush draws in this specific example. If we change it to A♦ K♦ and add a Turn that brings 5♦ there’s suddenly a flush draw out there, which suggests that our chances of success in this case can have more potential in terms of equity when suited. With that in mind, if we’re more likely to C-bet AKs, which sets up for added aggression on the Turn should a flush draw manifest itself then, given there’d be a considerable difference in the comparative equity values, it follows that checking the Flop with AKo here can be seen as a sensible play.
Does this mean that, as a rule, with a rainbow Flop we should throw in a mix of C-bets and checks with AKo, but C-bet heavily with AKs with the intention of barreling the Turn when a flush card pops up? That would indeed seem to be a sound strategy: Check with offsuit, C-bet with suited thanks to potential backdoor flush draws. In other words, AKo lends itself to smaller pots, while AKs can be more useful with bigger pots.
Of course, much of the time, when the Turn doesn’t introduce a flush draw, there’ll be no disparity in equity, but the potential difference afforded by being suited should be kept in mind nevertheless.