Folding Top Pair With AK?

It really seems that Ace King creates more nightmares for players than any other hand. Today, we’ll explore a hand where AK flops top pair/top kicker that needs to decide whether or not to put it all-in. This spot was played in a live $1/$2 cash game and exemplifies how a results-oriented thought process can really lead players to second-guess SUPER +EV plays. Let’s check out the hand…

We open to $15 UTG with A♦K♣. If you’re an online poker player that will look like a huge raise, but in many live $1/2 games it’s fairly standard. We get called by a fishy LAG in the cut-off and an aggro maniac on the button and go three ways to the flop.

Breadfish gives us these important reads on the two villains:

The fishy LAG was a station at times but would show and muck top pair decent kicker if value bet on the river by a villain. He was in around 50% of hands.

The aggro maniac has been showing down some top pair good kicker hands, but also had a broken flush draw on the river and lost a $200+ pot earlier. He was in 100% of the hands dealt.

The flop comes K♦8♣6♣. With a medium SPR of 5 against these specific player types – a fishy LAG who plays a lot of second-best hands and gives action, and a maniac who will put in a lot of money with a lot of different hand strengths – then if a big pot gets created here, we are going to be pretty comfortable with top pair top kicker.

Hero leads for pot, gets called, and then faces a raise. He decides to shove and says this about the action and his thought processes:

I thought I was ahead on the pot bet, but knew I was way behind when reraised even though I still shoved. I think the decision to shove was incorrect and is there any other advice you can provide in these loose low limit games?

I don’t think there’s any reason to view the shove as incorrect. First let’s think about the fishy LAG who calls the flop lead. What kind of hands is this player going to have? They’ll probably call your lead pretty wide and they don’t have a lot of combos that beat you. They have a lot more KQ and KJ that you’re crushing than K8s. Plus they can also have flush draws that you’re beating.

So we’re feeling pretty comfortable against the fishy LAG, and honestly the same kinds of arguments apply to the aggro maniac. Sure the maniac can turn up with strong hands, but they simply don’t do so very often. Further they’ll have hands that we’re beating with which they’ll happily call a shove. They’re an aggro maniac.

As to more general advice about these games: First, have a plan before the flop. With AK your most likely made hand will be top pair top kicker, so know ahead of time how you’re going to play it against these opponents. Second, don’t overthink this spot. Top pair top kicker is a powerful hand against players with these profiles, particularly at a relatively low SPR around 5. Finally, don’t be results-oriented. It turns out in this exact situation we lost the pot; we actually came third because the LAG made their flush, but that doesn’t mean we played the hand wrong.

See how often Ace King hits vs. misses in The Science Of AK video.

We’ve all been here. It sucks when you commit a lot of money to the pot against players who you deem are fishy or maniacs, and they table hands at the absolute top of their range. But this definitely does not mean that we made a mistake. On this occasion, it turns out the aggro maniac crushed the flop with a set, but they’re also going to get to this spot with a range of hands that we have destroyed. This point is so important it needs repeating. Do not be results-oriented!

Against these players’ ranges, getting away from our hand on the flop would have been a sub-optimal decision. I love the way Breadfish played this hand. Don’t second guess it just because you lost it. It’s important to analyze hands like this after a session, but in this one you should conclude you played it great and just suffered some runbad.

If you want to take the next step in improving your game in spots like these, I’m going to recommend my live workbook. It’s ideal for live $1/2 and $2/5 and it’s going to force you to develop your hand-reading and your ability to analyze hands from a technical point of view.

The reason that this is important is that developing these technical skills allows you to analyze spots like the hand above in an objective manner. So you’ll be able to determine if your play was good or not so good irrespective of the actual outcome of the hand. It makes it much easier to move on from a hand like this if you can objectively assess your play, but you only become able to do that by off-table work such as that in my workbook. It covers all kinds of situations including raised pots, three-bet pots, heads-up and multiway situations – pretty much everything you need.

Fundamentally the workbook will allow you to develop the knowledge and confidence to determine if your play was good or bad. That’s central to winning poker.

Live Poker Workbook

What part of your game are you working on? Whether it's increasing your aggression, light 3betting, or getting more value from your strong hands - a solid hand reading skillset is vital to make it happen.

So I created this workbook to help you practice hand reading in between sessions. Complete with 40 exercises you'll work to understand exactly what your opponents are playing - which then allows you to find more bluffs and thinner value at every step of the way.

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