Suggested Head: Big Slick can be a big hand or big trouble
The hand is ace-king, often called Big Slick in poker speak, and knowing how to play it will go a long way in your quest to becoming a successful player.
It's a great hand in limit or no-limit Texas Hold 'Em, and whenever you look down at your hole cards and see it, the sirens should be going off in your head.
Of the top-tier starting hands, you will be dealt Big Slick more often than any other. On average, it'll show up once every 110 hands, while pocket aces or kings will come just once every 220.
Let's start with the good things that can happen, and you have hit either an ace or a king on the flop ..... it doesn't really matter which one it is.
You hold top pair with the top kicker. This will give you the best hand most of the time without further improvement, and provides the chance to cripple your opponents who may also feel they have the best of it.
There are many quality starting hands that are in a lot of trouble and in a dominated position against you: A-Q, A-J, K-Q, K-J, A-10, K-10 and any pocket pair queens on down. These are hands that your opponents may call a raise with or even re-raise you, and if they do, they will be drawing to three outs or less unless a straight or flush draw comes into play. These hands will pay you off substantially.
It is important to note that Big Slick isn't a hand you want to get involved with against many opponents. Against multiple limpers or early in position, it is important to bet or raise with this hand to get as many players out as possible preflop.
Your goal should be to isolate an opponent, and if you do take the pot outright with your aggressive betting, consider it a success.
Always remember that Big Slick is a drawing hand, which means you need to hit either the ace or king to pair it up and make it good unless you hit a dream nut straight or flush. You will win few pots with ace high.
If you miss the flop entirely with something like J-5-9, you are left helpless with what is now a weak hand. It's time to throw the hand away if met with a lot of heat, because you are likely up against a pocket pair or that same player you had dominated earlier with K-J or J-9.
Or you could also be up against an opponent holding A-Q that also missed the flop. This is why, albeit risky, I love to fire one good bet into an opponent to see where I stand. If I'm called, I know I'm beat, but you can often win pots outright with this aggressive tactic.
Then there is the killer situation: running into pocket aces, kings or a set when you pair up your ace or king for top pair. You're going to lose money here. My best advice is to know your opponents, and if you think something is fishy with a lot of aggressive betting, dump it.
Remember that top pair will only win you the pot most of the time. It won't win it all of the time. Continue to be smart with your reads, and don't get married to it despite the euphoria.
Kicker: The second hole card not used to make a hand that could be used to break a tie via the higher card
Limpers: Players who simply call the big blind hoping to see a flop for the minimum price
Set: Three of a kind
Got a poker question or comment? E-mail Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org