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How to Play AK When You Miss the Flop

Introduction

A lot of players, especially newbies, get confused on what to do when their AK misses the flop. This is especially true in 3-bet pots where you aren’t really sure just what you’re supposed to be doing. A lot of players will blindly c-bet, but that can seem wrong. At the same time, checking can feel pretty dumb since it feels like your opponent is just going to pick off your hand since it’s obvious you missed the flop. We’re going to look at some things you can do to make these types of situations less mysterious while boosting your understanding of poker as a whole.

The Nature of These Situations

There are a few key characteristics of the type of situation that we’re talking about here. If you understand these characteristics and what they mean for the types of strategies you can use, then it can really change your outlook on the situation.

Pot Size Considerations

First, you need to realize that in 100bb games, you’re probably going to have an SPR of about 4 or so in a 3-bet pot. This means that you’re essentially only going to need two streets of betting to get all of the money in without having to overbet the pot in any serious way if you bet the pot twice. If you’re looking to do it over three streets, then you’ll be able to bet fairly small on the flop. The point here is that you don’t have to pot it, and bet sizes in the range of 55-60 percent of the pot are perfectly acceptable as a default bet size as long as the board isn’t atypically wet.

Range Considerations

Something that’s really cool and really instructive about 3-bet pots is that the ranges are smaller on the flop than average, and this means that the situations themselves are much easier to analyze in depth and with a higher degree of accuracy than usual. This means that having a good idea of what your opponent could hold is important, but it also means that knowing your own range and thinking about playing your range as a whole is critical.

Playing Your Range

Most players, especially new players, are focused on playing one hand at a time. They’re dealt a hand and at each point in it they think, “How can I maximize the value of this individual hand?” A stronger approach to poker involves thinking about how to maximize the value of your range as a whole, and that isn’t necessarily the same thing as maximizing the value of each individual hand.

Even if you don’t approach all of your play along these lines, doing it for 3-bet pots is a good place to start since your range is usually small and easy to think about as a whole. It’s a good stepping stone for getting more comfortable with this type of thinking, but it’s also a key idea in making your play in situations where you miss the flop with AK easier in 3-bet pots.

A Simple Example

You have 100bb stacks. It folds to the BU who is 21/16 in 6-max with a 35% steal percentage over 100 hands. He opens to 3bb, you 3-bet to 11bb from the SB, the BB folds and the BU calls.

The flop pot is 22.5bb with 89bb left in your stacks for an SPR of 3.96. The flop comes Q64r, and you hold AKo. The first thing you need to think about is your opponent’s range. In this particular spot, you should be considering how often your opponent would flat call {QQ+, AK} along with any Queen like AQ/KQ/QJ/QT. You should also consider if he would call pre-flop with JJ-77 and if he would call with those hands on the flop.

Villains Who Call With Premiums

If Villain would flat call with premium hands, it means you should curb the flop bluffing a bit. However, most Villains won’t do this with any considerable frequency. Along these lines, it’s not really something to worry about too much, but if you see an opponent do it, then you should make a note about it because it’s an important piece of information.

Villains Who Could Have Some Qx

If Villain calls with a lot of miscellaneous broadway hands like AQ/KQ/QJ, then that seems like a bad thing right off the bat. However, also consider that if these hands are in his range, then so are plenty of other hands that could have missed like AJ/AT/KJ/KT. When Villain can hold these hands, it’s a big indicator that you should lean towards checking with a hand like AK.

There are two reasons why. First, the chances of him having top pair and snapping you off increase drastically. Second, if you check through and see a turn (and possibly river) against these lesser broadway hands, then you have great implied odds. If an ace or king comes on the turn, there are plenty of situations where you both have top pair while you have him out-kicked, and you’ll make a good deal of money.

Villain Who Could Have Second Pair

If Villain could have something like 99 here and call down with it, then your range as a whole is going to do great if you lean it towards being very heavily in the direction of value. However, AK is going to be your best bluffing hand and should be included even if you think he’ll call down a bit with mid pocket pairs.

The reason for this is that you need some amount of bluffs on the flop, but AK gives you a chance to really take over on the turn. You have six outs to catch a better pair, but you also have great opportunities to double barrel on a J or T if you think it’s a good way to go. This means that your turn bets are also going to have some balance to them, and it won’t be so easy to put you on a range on the turn if you put in a second barrel.

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