The Pre-flop Perils of Big Slick

Posted January 2, 2013


big slick

Since the poker boom of 2003, seemingly everyone and their grandmother has entered poker tournaments online or at a casino in an attempt to have their own Chris Moneymaker moment. Yet, while all it takes to stand a chance in one of these games is a chip and a chair, most players are doomed to bust out before they even break the cash bubble. The best way to stay alive in a tournament situation is to adopt a tighter playing style - but even if you hit hand after hand, if you don't know how to play your cards, you're doomed to hit the rails well before the final table.

One hand that has left many a player chipless is Ace King, also known as Big Slick. This deceptively strong hand has provided many players with a false sense of confidence that has led them to shove all their chips into the pot without as much as a flop. While Ace King is certainly not the worst hand to get your chips in with, sometimes it's wise to heed the words of Kenny Rogers and "know when to fold 'em."


Assess the situation

As with any hand you'll ever play in either a tournament or cash game, you'll need to figure out where you stand - or more accurately sit - at the table. As you play the game keep an eye on the players around you and keep track of their playing style. Where are the aggressive players? Where are the tighter ones? Where is the dealer sitting? All of these factors should affect your decision, as Ace King is effectively a drawing hand, and how the other players act should let you know the strength of your draw.


Bet off the bat

Your natural inclination with a hand like Ace King will probably be to bet big off the bat, and there are several reasons why this is a smart play. First and foremost, you want to chase out all of the weaker draws in the hand. Many a Big Slick has gone down in defeat to that 2-4 off suit that managed to river a boat, so it's wise to avoid the risk before they make a hand. The same can be said of other marginal pairs such as suited connectors or low pockets - it may take a stronger bet to get these players out, but if you miss the flop entirely, you'll be glad you did.


Coming in for a raise

Ace King is also a good hand to play position from. Since it's a drawing hand, a solid bet late in the rotation could scare out any stragglers hoping to see a cheap flop. You may be concerned that a late bet will just scare away the action, but remember, this is not a made hand, and stealing blinds is an important part of tournament play.


When facing a raise

The strength of an Ace King diminishes considerably when facing a pre-flop raise, but you'll have to read a lot into the person making the raise. Always stay conscious of how big/small your stack and your opponents' stacks are when facing a raise. Committing more than 30 percent of a stack pre-flop with a drawing hand is a power play when you're the raiser, but calling a bet that size with one borders on foolish. Mind you there will definitely be times where you go against this logic, but most experienced players would be extremely cautious of that call.

That being said, poker is just as much about the players as it is about the cards, and a loose-aggressive player making wild bets pre-flop is often just posturing. Of course there are no physical tells in online poker, but an attentive player will be able to notice betting patterns among their table mates over time. Tight players coming in with a big raise should be a red flag, as should those of anyone holding a short stack.

At the same time, remember your position. If you decide to call, or re-raise for that matter, who is left behind you? What you don't want to happen with a drawing hand is to be priced into a call of a pocket pair. You aren't dead in the water by any means, but the law of averages may not be in your favor.


Right into the muck

It may be hard to hear, but there are times when it's best to simply cut your losses and fold an Ace King. Let's say someone doubles the pot before it gets to you, and you re-raise as a power play. Now let's say another player three-bets the pot and sees more than one call. This is a good indication that someone has a made hand, and the others are fishing with the face cards that you need to stand a chance. Scenarios like this aren't terribly common, but skilled players will be able to assess when a draw – even one as strong as Ace King – isn't worth the cost of a flop.


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