Playing AA and AK

What should you do if you land a starting hand of pocket Aces or a suited/unsuited Ace and King?  AA and AK are two of the strongest starting hands there are (in fact, a pocket pair of Aces is the best possible starting hand there is), but playing AA and AK still require a certain amount of skill.  A poker player will always get great odds with a pocket pair of Aces or an A-K starting hand.  However, a player can still fail to maximize such pocket cards’ potential and, in fact, lose the hand entirely if they don’t know the proper way of playing an AA or an AK.

Playing AA and AK:  Play Slowly or Play Aggressively Pre-Flop?

Slow playing your AA and AK:  This is the textbook rule when playing pocket Aces or a very strong starting hand like AK.  It is said that if you want to get as much money into the pot and as many players to see the flop, then you would slow play so you will get a good-size pot when you do win.

This strategy makes great sense.  It makes so much great sense that your opponents are much more likely to sense that you have a pocket pair of Aces or an AK when you slow play pre-flop – especially if you are, as a rule, an aggressive raiser.

Aggressive play pre-flop:  This strategy makes better sense in practice.  Through aggressive pre-flop play, you can reduce the number of players, penalize speculative players and increase the size of the pot at one broad stroke (if there are plenty of fish at the table).

Of course, this will be more effective if you are an aggressive player to start with.  If you are a play-safe player most of the time and you are suddenly raising and re-raising pre-flop, that’s a clear indication that you have a pocket pair of aces or an AK.

Rule of Thumb When Playing AA and AK

If you are, for the most part, an unpredictable player and you hit an AA or AK starting hand, it’s best to raise and re-raise pre-flop especially if you are in a no-limit game.  Limping in is the typical strategy of players with AA and AK starting hands and the last thing you want is to be stereotypical – i.e. easy to read – because you’ll lose the chance to win as much money as you can.  Furthermore, you do want to protect your pocket cards from drawing hands; aggressive play (but not all-out play) pre-flop is a good way to achieve this and to reel enough players in for a bigger pot.