Stop Calling Ace King Preflop

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The situation we have is in full-ring 16nl on PokerStars. A mid-stack with about $10 we’ll call Player 9 open limps from UTG+2, and Player 1 raises to isolate to $0.80, or five times the big blind. Both the HJ and BU are full-stacked players who call, and it’s to us in the small blind with AKs. The big blind is full-stacked. The question is whether we should 3-bet or call.

Range Consideration

First, we need to quickly consider the likely ranges of each of the players involved in the hand. Player 9 could be open-limping with a wide range, and Player 1 could be isolating from middle position with a lot of pairs, broadways and other playable hands depending on if he’s seen Player 9 limp/fold a lot. So far, we’re doing well.

The two players who call the raise most likely have capped ranges up to something like TT or JJ. We can say this because it’s very unlikely that anyone would call with stronger pairs after a limp and an isolation raise with multiple people left behind. This is important because it shows that we don’t have much to worry about if either of these players decide to 4-bet, and it also gives us a good idea of what they might have on flops.

Preflop Call Hands

What About Calling?

If we call with AKs, then we do get to see a multi-way pot with a strong suited ace. The size of the flop pot will be decent, and we could end up with some decent implied odds if we flop a strong draw, but being out of position will hurt us tremendously. Moreover, we’ll actually be more likely to flop top pair, and when we’re out of position against anywhere from three to five players with top pair and an SPR in the range of four to six, we’re going to consistently make mistakes.

Calling is tempting as a passive way to avoid the unknowns that come with aggression, but it’s just not going to lead to a favorable situation for us post-flop unless we flop some kind of absurdly strong draw or combination of pair and flush draw.

Is 3-Betting Any Better?

Know first that there’s a ton of dead money in the pot unless we see a flop five ways, and that rare situation will be very easy to play post-flop because the SPR will be absurdly low. If the big blind 4-bets, then we have a fairly easy play because we never expect him to get tricky here with over-the-top bluffs, and his range is likely to be pretty strong.

We noted before that the two cold callers had capped ranges, so we don’t really have a problem if they decide to 4-bet on the back end. Player 9 limp/4-betting is easy to play against since we’re calling all day. The only somewhat difficult situation we can find ourselves in is if the original raiser Player 1 decides to 4-bet.

In that situation, all of the dead money in the pot gives us good odds to get it in against a range that’s likely to be slightly looser than his usual open/4-bet range, so it’s not that difficult either. Overall, 3-betting is clearly the stronger play.

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney. I've been playing poker for over 10 years, made 300+ videos, and coached over 500 students. I love poker and want everyone to have a real chance of success in this game!
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