Depending on how you play ace-king (AK), you can be categorized into one of 3 groups.
The first group will be willing to stack off preflop every time with ace king, either because of your aggressive style or belief that AK is a powerful hand. Then the second group believes that every time you get 3bet, someone holds a very strong hand, and you don’t know how to play good with AK, so you fold. Lastly, there is the third group. Here are experienced players who know that correct answer how to play AK correctly depends on the opponent’s tendencies, your position, and stack size.
If you wonder, can you fold AK preflop, then the clear and short answer is yes, you definitely can fold Ace King (AK) preflop, no matter if you play live or online, tournaments or cash games. But you must be sure you are making the correct decision based on some criteria. In this article, I will show you what criteria exactly to look for.
Firstly to get things straight. Ace king is a strong hand. If your opponent has a weaker hand when you go all-in preflop, then you, more often than not, will win quite some chips.
But the times the opponent has a better hand you will often lose, and don’t stand much chance to win the hand. When you are up against a pair, then you are usually a 45% underdog to win the hand. Some people say it is a flip, but that is not entirely true. Even against pocket deuces, AK is a slight underdog.
Don’t worry; you will make a lot more money with AK than pocket deuces if you play it correctly. – read more about it in this article.
Should you fold Ace King (AK) preflop?
Whether or not you should fold AK preflop comes down to the following factors:
- Action in front of you
- Effective stack size
- Opponent’s and your play style
Action in front of you
- If nobody opened preflop in front of you, then every time you should raise with AK.
- If someone has already opened, then rarely you should fold. Most often, the correct play will be to 3bet the opponent, in very rare scenarios to call.
This depends on how wide the opponent raises preflop. If you know his open raise range is tighter than AK (which is rarely the case), then just call. Otherwise, go for a 3bet.
- If there were a raise and a reraise in front of you (3bet), then you need to know how often the reraiser is 3betting. If 3bettor only 3bets QQ, KK, and AA, then honestly, you should fold your hand.
- If his range is a lot wider, then you can either call or 4bet.
- If you are in a scenario where there was a raise, reraise, and a rereraise (4bet) in front of you, then almost never AK is the best hand, AK equity doesn’t do that great when ranges are really tight.
Let’s have a look at the table above. You can see that if an opponent is only 4betting QQ+, then we are getting crushed. Especially in live full ring games, 4bets will mean a very tight range. Until you don’t get further reads that someone is consistently 4betting light, then you should be folding AK.
Effective stack size
It changes your approach significantly if either you or the opponent have a low stack.
Generally, players are willing to go allin with a wider range when short stacked. In such a scenario, folding AK, I believe, is a mistake unless the opponent who you are up against is an absolute nit.
On the other hand, if you play with standard stacks sizes (100bb) and are faced with a 4bet, then folding it might very well be a correct decision. Your decision whether to call raise or fold depends largely on opponents and your play style.
Tight players will have a tight 4betting range against which you don’t do that well.
Opponent’s play style
If an opponent that 3bets or 4bets plays a very tight style, then stacking off preflop is a huge mistake. It would make sense to fold AK then.
We could still call a 3bet, in my opinion, but it depends on the position. If a tight player 3bets UTG opener and we are on blinds (out of position), then the best play might be to give up with AK preflop and fold. If we have the position and tight player 3bets in late position, then either we go for a call or a 4bet if we believe we still have the range advantage.
If there is a 4bet from a tight player we need to fold though.
All written above holds true for Full ring games.
6max and HU games play looser. Folding AK preflop in HU is something you should never do.
In 6max it gets close, if an opponent is super tight, then I guess you could make an argument for folding AK to a 4bet here and there. But once you 4bet with AK, then you can’t fold to a shove anymore. There is too much money already in the middle.
When to go all-in with AK preflop?
Now we had a look at a few scenarios when to fold preflop. Which aren’t that many in cash games at least, to be honest.
If there is a lot of action in front of you from very active players who keep 3betting and 4-betting, then getting it in preflop with AK is an easy decision.
We will dominate some of their stack-off range plus there is already decent sized pot in the middle. Picking that dead money is a significant win by itself. So if we have any fold equity, then even better for us.
Can you fold AK preflop in a tournament?
In the early stages of a tournament, you should be careful how you play AK. Definitely don’t go allin preflop when deep. You could be very well risking your tournament life on a flip or worse. Not many players are willing to stack off preflop when deep stacked in tournaments with a worse hand than AK.
Folding AK in late stages is an entirely different scenario. Now you won’t play as deep anymore, and stacking off is a fine decision unless you are still deep (more than 40 or 50bb). Many short stack players will now be going all-in with 20% even 30% of hands, and AK does well against them.
If you are playing in a satellite, then you might need to fold AK depending on the chips and how close to finishing the satellite you are. In some of the rare cases, you even need to fold pocket aces there. Read more about why and when to fold AA in this article.
How often did I fold AK preflop and my winrate with AK
My winrate with AK is very consistent. It is pretty much a straight-up line. I definitely don’t fold AK very often. But there are some cases where I fold AK preflop to 4bets, 5bets, and even some 3bets.
Please note that the graph with 3bets includes when I faced a three-bet or 4bet. Not when there was a 3bet in front of me when I still had to act. It is ⅔ of FUllring and roughly ⅓ of 6max.
I do fold AK preflop sometimes even to 3bets. And 20% of the time when I am faced with a 4bet. This doesn’t mean you need to get close to my stats. It depends a lot on how your games play and how aggressive are your opponents. It is more to just to show you that it is ok to fold with AK, and you will still have a nice winrate with it.
- Article: AK vs. pocket deuces – Which is better hand and why
- Best site to learn to beat micro stakes poker online: PokerStrategy (to not make preflop mistakes with your AK anymore) gives you free starting capital to play real money games with. Plus you can get access to completely free coaching videos.
- Best coaching poker site to learn to crush low buyin tournaments (and know when to fold AK preflop in tournaments accurately)