Ace King (AK) vs. Pocket Kings (KK): How bad is it? Odds Explained


If you are not entirely new to poker, then for sure you have experienced it. You looked down at your cards and got excited to see Ace-King (AK). An opponent gave you a lot of action, and you decided to get it all in preflop. The opponent was happy to call and showed you Pocket Kings (KK).

ace king vs pocket kings cards
AK is 31% to 69% underdog against KK. But both hands are big winners.

Maybe it feels like you should have won, after all, any ace gives you the higher pair. But is that really the case? How often should you win with AK, and more importantly, how well does each of the hands perform at different scenarios? Read more to get answers to your questions.

To any experienced player, it is no surprise that pocket kings (KK) are favorite against Ace-King(AK). Even if you are up against AKs (suited), you are still a big favorite to win with KK.

In terms of raw preflop equity KK is almost 69% favorite over 31% when you have AK.

This means that a little bit more than 2 out of 3 times, you will win when holding KK and are up against AK.

Preflop: Ace King vs. Pocket Kings

Like I said above, ace-king odds to win are only around 31% against pocket kings. So the odds aren’t in your favor. Getting it all-in preflop with AK usually isn’t a mistake if playing at a 6max table. But if you are playing live, or are up against a very tight opponent in an online cash game, then it makes sense not to stack off pre-flop with AK.

With KK, on the other hand, it is tough to fold to any bet preflop. Postflop, there can definitely be scenarios where you fold, but finding any preflop is hard. Even famous poker pros struggle folding it. But sometimes they do, and of course, they stir quite the buzz when they do. I collected the best folds when holding KK in my other post (with youtube videos included).

How to play ace-king (AK) preflop

ace king winrate graph
AK is a good money-making hand. The graph goes up consistently.

Ace King is open from any position. It is also a 3bet from any position. Against looser opponents in 6max games, it is a 4bet and ‘get it in’ hand. Overall, AK is a great hand. You can see it from my winrate, that it is a consistent winner. The graph goes smoothly up all the time. Sure sometimes you are up against AA or KK, and you will lose a good amount of money. But there are so many more poker hand combinations, that are worse than AK.

Only AA and KK really crush ace-king. All the other pocket pairs are a small favorite, yes, even pocket deuces (22). But where AK shines is postflop, that is where it makes the majority of the money. And part of that is done by building the pot preflop by open raising, 3betting, or even 4betting preflop.

Winrate with AK

AK is a highly profitable hand. I win at 156bb/100 hands with it. This means I make 1.5 big blinds for every time I get AK, and I make a profit with it from every position. 1.5 big blinds might not sound much, but this is a great result. A person who is absolutely destroying online games at small stakes probably has at max 10bb, maybe 15/100 winrate (and around 30 for lowest limits at microstakes). And AK makes many times more than that. 

How to play pocket kings (KK) preflop

KK winrate grap by position
KK is second best hand in Texas Holdem. Winrate is very smooth and only AA performs better than pocket kings.

KK is a second-best hand in Texas Holdem preflop. It destroys all the hands, except pocket aces

You can confidently open it preflop. I 3bet pocket kings every single time, and most of the time, I am excited to get it all-in preflop.

Against very tight players in live games, you can actually find an argument not to stack off preflop, and instead, just call tight player’s open, or maybe just call their 3bet. But the vast majority of the time, I am happy to stack off.

Winrate with KK

If AK is already doing good in terms of winrate, then KK is from another planet. My winrate is 3.5x to 4 times higher than with AK. If we were talking about making 1.5 big blinds every time we get AK, I make more than 5.5 big blinds every time I have pocket kings. The graph is really smooth and goes straight up. Getting KK is everyone’s dream (if nobody has pocket aces of course :D)

How to Play Ace-King and Pocket Kings Postflop

It does often happen that both hands are willing to go all-in preflop. But often there is also postflop play involved, and which of the two hands does better?

Ace king (AK) vs pocket kings (KK) equity
In terms of raw preflop equity, KK is a big favorite. But still, you will win almost 1 out of 3 times when you have AK and are up against kings.

Ace-King(AK) postflop

It does make a bit of difference if we have AKs (suited) or AKo (offsuit).

AKs preflop already has 34% to win against KK, while AKo only has 30%.

Both hands play the same postflop, for the most part, at least. Let us have a look at how AK does against other hands.

AK generally plays fine postflop. If we don’t have a pair preflop, then we have a 50% chance to hit a pair by the river. It is good news for AK, any pair we hit it will be a top pair with a top kicker (if the board doesn’t pair).

On the boards where we miss, we can apply pressure on dry flops like Q82 rainbow, as we have two overcards to hit on turn and river. So this is a good spot to bluff. On wet boards, with many draws like 789 with 2 spades, it is best to give up if we don’t have the flush draw. The times when we hit top pair on the flop, we can usually go for 2, sometimes even 3 streets of value.

When we have AKs, we have a few more options. On many flops, we have at least a backdoor flush draw as extra outs, which adds us a few percent of equity. At times we even flop a nut flush draw, and that is another scenario to be aggressive. All the lower flush draws will be prepared to pay off our semi-bluff bets.

Pocket Kings (KK) postflop

Our chances to win against:Broadways (TT+, JT+, QT+, KT+, AT+)9987sAA
AK (suited and offsuit)63.4%45.5%59.5%8.16%
Pocket kings (KK)77%80.8%78%18.05%

In the table above, you can see how much better KK is than AK against other hands. But is it that much better also postflop? Yes, but it depends on the flop. Naturally, if A hits, that is an action killer for our kings. We need to play it very carefully from then on.

But when there is no A present, then we can go for multiple streets of value. On dry boards, it is very common to go for all 3 streets of value. If we are in a 3bet pot, we most often stack off.

On very wet boards, full of draws like 789 with 2 spades, it makes sense to pot control and not be too thrilled about cbetting. It would be a disaster to bet and get raises by some draw, against which we are still the favorite on the flop. There are also some spots where we need to bet bigger to protect our hand as we don’t want to give a free hand – boards that are dry but have a flush draw, for example. But generally, the majority of flops will be good for our KK.

Ace King and Pocket Kings in Multiway Scenarios

Pocket Kings is a better hand to have multiway. On some flops, we can value bet, but on some flops, we need to be careful about getting raised.

A general rule of thumb is, if you get reraised, our naked overpair is probably not strong enough.

On ace high boards, we give up anyway, and we don’t turn our hand into a bluff. But at times, it makes sense to pot control to get to showdown without building the pot.

With AK, you shouldn’t be bluffing when there are more opponents postflop. Check and hope for a free card, otherwise, give up. There is one exception to this. It might be good to build the pot when you have a nut flush draw. Then bet as a semi-bluff, if everyone folds, great. You just picked up a nice small pot.

If not, then we have good odds of hitting the nuts, and if someone else has a lower flush draw, it will cost them significantly. When you hit the top pair, you need to be careful, just like with KK. Someone raising your bet means you are beaten. So it often makes sense to pot control and to get our hand to showdown.

Ace-King (AK) vs. Pocket Kings (KK) in tournaments

In later stages of the tournament, when you often have less than 40bb, it is fine to stack off with either AK or KK preflop. At such shallow stacks, there isn’t much postflop play involved. In the early stages, though stacking off with AK can be a disaster. Especially if you have a big skill advantage over others.

It would be terrible to get it in preflop for 100 big blinds and be worse than flipping against pocket jacks. Even pocket deuces are a small favorite against AK preflop.

With KK, on the other hand, you will again be fine stacking off at a bigger stack size, but be cautious. If the player is very tight, then you might be making a mistake by getting it in preflop.

Conclusion

Now you know how much better pocket kings are compared to ace-king.

Pocket kings are

  • Better hand preflop. Willing to stack off preflop in the majority of situations.
  • Better hand postflop. Having an overpair means we can go for several streets of value betting. When an ace hits, we slow down and give up if the opponent shows aggression.
  • Better hand to have a multiway. Chance to hit higher sets, having strong showdown value, and having overpair, it all means KK does better multiway than AK.
  • Better to have KK than AK at a tournament. A no surprise, especially when stacks are shallow. Head to head Kk is almost 69% favorite. 
  • Second best hand preflop in Texas Holdem.

But AK still does well against many other hands; it is a good hand that will make you consistent profits. It just comes short when up against KK.

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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