Friday, March 28, 2008

Putting AK to bed...

First off, thanks for a lot of comments regarding my two AK posts. I can tell that a lot of people had a lot of different thoughts on playing AK in a cash game. Even though I personally disagree with most of you, there were some interesting points that were brought up. But let me make one thing clear.

When I see myself get dealt AK in a cash game, my thought is not, how do I get my entire stack into the middle with this hand? If that's your thought, I am curious to know how many of you are actually winning players. And if you are, I am curious as to why I don't see you at the levels I play... I'm not trying to berate you. Just curious to see if anyone who is advocating getting as much money in the middle is actually doing as well as they theoretically sound.

Having said that, there were some good questions that came my way on comments and also offline from some players I respect (including nonbloggers). The biggest question that initially was thrown around was this:

"If you are not 4 betting with AK, what do you 4 bet with?"

My initial response was, I don't.

And that's not a lie. Up until that point, I didn't 4 bet. Personally, I see it one of two ways. Either you 4 bet with a wider range, or you don't 4 bet. The reason to me is that I like to disguise hands. I also like to see the flop and the turn. Basically, I enjoy playing post flop poker. I think the turn decisions are even harder than flop decisions and I think that is reflected in a lot of the comments from the past few days where a lot of players are eager to get their money in pre and on the flop. The reason is that the further in the hand you go, the more difficult your decisions become. So, why not get the decision process out of the way early on when things are simpler. Anyways, my thought is, if I play AA, the same way I play AK, or 77 at least preflop, then post flop, I can still analyze the hand in a way that would be hard for opponents to play also. But for this post, that's besides the point. Because I think AK is a hand that the debate will go on forever.

One thing I do want to make clear is this though. I wonder for all the people who advocated getting as much money with AK in the middle, how many of you are cash game players? How many of you are MTTers? The reason I ask is this. AK is a great hand to see all 5 cards with. I think a lot of people responded that I should 4 bet because they think AK is ahead of A LOT of hands that would 3 bet. Depending on the opponent, this could be true. But keep in mind, at 2-4NL 6 max, things aren't out of control. Sure, there are players that are capable of making moves but it's not like there's a 3 bet every hand... because there isn't. Sure, people 3 bet lighter and sure, AK is ahead of quite a few but it's also behind quite a few hands that would 3 bet. And for those of you that thought, well, if the guy is 3 betting with QQ or JJ, you're in a coinflip situation, you do realize that you are mistaken right?

You are in a coinflip (slight dog, might I add) if and ONLY IF you can see all 5 cards. I think that's a very important concept that is lost on a lot of people. So, in a MTT situation where it's important to accumulate chips, I agree with trying to get your chips in the middle with AK later in the tournament when it's important to get those chips and also, maybe a key spot to try to win a race or possibly be way ahead. At least if you get it all in the middle, then you are flipping. But, in a cash game where the stacks are deep, really, what's the hurry of trying to get the money in?

However, having said all that, Gnome said something that was very interesting. He mentioned that 4 bets will very rarely get called. I can't argue this point because I honestly don't know. But this made me think about it for a while. As a matter of fact, I couldn't stop thinking about the concept of 4 bet from that point on. So, I decided that I will start trying to incorporate 4 bet into my cash games to see how things go.

One guy mentioned to me that once on the flop, I hit TPTK, you have to figure you are committed to the hand. This part, I pretty much agree. With AK in 6 max, if you hit TPTK on a fairly raggy board, I'm not sure I can get away from the hand. Well, sort of. This is where this player and I totally disagree. This player (if you don't mind me mentioning who you are, say so in comment and I'll link you, otherwise, I'll protect your privacy) mentioned that from the moment you hit TPTK, you are going to war so he wants to get all his money in and just shove on the flop or maybe he said bet flop with the intent of gladly calling off the rest of your chips. Ok, maybe he didn't say gladly but I believe it was implied. I'm not gonna recap the hand history since we already went over this but I flopped top pair, I was first to act, we both had about $300 behind and the pot was $100ish. His comment was, I want all my money to go in the middle, what's the material difference on how to get there (compared to my checkraise)? Why not bet out with the intent of calling an all in raise?

I was shocked with this comment. I was shocked that this guy did not see the inherent flaw that I can't seem to shut my eyes to. If I bet out pot sized, indicating I am strong, the way I see it, the ONLY hands that will shove on top would be a hand that beats me or a bluff. Now this player tends to give bluffing a higher percentage than I do so maybe that's where the difference is. But in general, amongst a 3 bet range, when you hit the K instead of your A, then if you bet out, most of the hands that were ahead of you preflop would fold because there aren't too many hands that include a K that would 3 bet (AK, KK, KQ are the only ones I can think of and KQ is a light 3 bet). So, by betting out, you minimize value because a hand like QQ or JJ or AQ will fold (assuming the guy knows what he's doing). Even worse, the hands that have you dominated would shove and you are calling off your stack in a situation where you are very likely to be behind. Which is why I went with the checkraise. I was ok with going to war when I hit my K. I got a K and A kicker. At that point, the only hands I am behind are AA or KK. But at the very least, if the guy has QQ or JJ, I'll give him the chance to take a stab by cbetting (K seems a lot more harmless than an A). Hence, I checkraised. I think the only thing that others had some problem was when I said I felt sick when the guy came over the top. What I don't understand is at that point, what do you think the guy is doing that with? QQ? JJ? Generally, it's probably a hand that beats you. I checkraise, basically announcing that I hit that K and the guy comes over the top. Again, fortunately for me, there was very little fold equity so I called and it turns out the guy just had a flush draw (I did consider AK as a possibility as well as AK/AQ flush draw). But to say that I should have bet out with the intention of calling an all in sounds about as fishy as it gets. Again, to me, that's an indication of not thinking about what the guy would shove all in with and I personally think that you minimize value and maximize your loss potential.

But we can agree to disagree. There are many different ways to play and my way has clearly been working for me. There's no one way to play a hand but I think the discussions definitely opened my eyes to how differently some people thought. However, one good thing that came out of posting these AK hands were the idea of 4 betting. I hope these discussions helped some of you or at least got you to thinking how you may play AK in different situations. But I swear. I am done for now. I have already beaten AK to death.


Shrike said...

I have no problem being outed in this instance.

I think there are some nuances to my argument that leading out on the flop is a valid line to take here that haven't been captured in the post above, but I'll save those thoughts for a strategy post over at my own blog.

I *do* agree that the C/R line is probably a superior one, but once I C/R I am not agonizing at all about calling a shove like you did, it's fair to say.

This has been a very interesting series of posts, and I'm glad you wrote them.

WillWonka said...

agreed.. nice set of posts.

Klopzi said...

With a $100 pot and only $300 behind, you're looking to get all-in on the flop against all but the tightest of opponents.

You don't need to bet pot to get this to happen. Just know that you are committed to this hand unless you're playing against a true nit or unless you have X-ray vision.

I've read through the whole AK saga and your problem is exactly why the concepts of SPR exist. If you're willing to call a 3-bet pre-flop with AK, you can't fold if you hit your hand. You don't need to lead the betting, but there's no way you can fold and expect to win in the long run.

Myself, I wouldn't call a 3-bet with AK OOP. Raise or fold. If you find yourself needing to "hit the flop" after building the pot to $100 pre-flop with only $300 more behind, you've made a mistake.

I realize that I may not be deemed trustworthy given my recent string of poor play, but I know enough to say that AK is a sweet hand and good enough to push pre-flop. Just remember that even if your opponent will only call your push with AA or KK, your pre-flop push is a +EV move if there's already money in the pot.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Hey Klopzi,
Honestly, you think MY thinking is flawed?

Good luck shortstack ratholing at the low limit tables. I sure hope at some point you take a shot at the higher limits so you can get stacked and wonder how you went wrong.

It's not your "recent string of poor play" that makes your comment trustworthy or not. And you think I can't expect to win in the long run? Are you kidding? How long does a "long run" have to go? A year? Done. 2 years? Not quite there. What about you? A week? Two weeks? Before you tell me my thinking is flawed and that I should monkey shove TPTK, maybe you should check yourself.

It's one thing if you're only buying in for 10BBs or 20BBs or whatever you buy in for. Try putting some successful results with a full buyin and learn to play post flop poker before you tell me that my thinking is flawed.

Holy sh*t... did waffles just take over my keyboard?

Fuel55 said...


Klopzi said...

Alan -

I should have qualified the winning in the long run. Of course, you can win in the long run with AK if you fold whenever you get a lot of heat in a small pot. But you can win quite a bit more with AK if you know when the pot-size dictates that folding is no longer an option. And if you can identify those spots pre-flop where a push is a solid +EV move, you'll increase your winnings as well. Where does AK rank in your BB/hand when compared to the big pairs?

As for flawed thinking, all poker players are quite capable of making mistakes. It's happens to bad players and it happens to good players. The concepts of effective stack sizes, pre-flop pot-sizes, and hand commitment have nothing to do with "thinking". It's all math and numbers don't lie.

When I play a short-stack, it's far easier for me to get in a similar situation with AK as the one that you have. I don't need a Villain to 3-bet me in order to get the pot big enough to warrant getting all my money in as soon as possible.. All I need is a pre-flop raise with a caller or two to commit me to the pot.

Let's take a look at your problem in a different way. You call a 3-bet OOP with AK. Pot size is $20. Same villain has $60 behind. You have $400 behind. Flop gives you TPTK - how do you play it?

This situation is the same as your AK hand, just with different dollar figures. Unless you have a rock-solid read on a player to know that he's only got AA or KK here, I don't see how you can fold with so many chips already in the pot.

One last thing: when it comes to post-flop poker, there is no doubt in my mind (or anyone else's) that you have an insurmountable edge over me. But this AK hand had nothing to do with post-flop poker. If you both had $600+ behind, we'd be looking at a whole different story. Then you'd have to think about your opponent's range, tendencies, and how best to maximize your win (or minimize your loss) with your play on the turn and river.

In the meantime, I'd recommend reading some of the stuff by Ed Miller, if only to understand how some of your opponents are approaching their hands. If anything, you'd no longer have questions regarding playing AK after the flop with an SPR of 3.

Schaubs said...


I think it's time for another blogger cash game! Deep stacks style!!!

AK is a rag hand preflop.

Fuel told me so.

Anonymous said...

AK = Anna Kournakova

Looks good but never wins

RaisingCayne said...

Nice set of posts Alan. It has lead me to an even stronger confirmation that I'm a cash game donkey, and should stick to tournament structure poker only!

kurokitty said...

My general feeling is that Cardrunners videos will help you sort out the 4-betting issue.

SubZero said...

I'd like to weigh in with my 2 cents but I don't think there is anything left for me to add!AK is tricky, and TPTK trickier still.
You can check-raise TPTK on the flop if you want greater certainty that your opponent is ahead when he shoves allin. If you do this, you should use careful bet-sizing of the raise to avoid being forced to call an allin.
Betting the flop seems a tougher line. If you face a raise, you either:
fold which is a bit weak,
call which is very weak,
or push allin which is usually lunacy with just TPTK.
Afraid I'm in the Alan camp when I don't 4-bet AK oop preflop: I will usually go with the check-raise option (and then calling the allin - pot-odds or not!).

Good posts.